When I approached The Banner Saga 2, I wasn’t sure if indie developers Stoic could cause lightning to strike the same place twice. Somehow though, with a few hand-drawn images and clever prose, Stoic have crafted something special.
The Banner Saga 2 would be better described as Banner Saga: Season 2. Everything begins where the original ended with little time for explanations or context. An armour bound race, known as The Dredge, continue to spill across the world, a gargantuan serpent is ripping the world apart, and a vague darkness threatens to consume everything. The band of nomads are still desperately outrunning this one-sided war and the difficulty enjoys punishing over-confident players. Bloody cheery stuff.
Stoic continue to use their favourite trick – giving you just enough rope to hang yourself and magically turning it into a piece of string just as it begins to bite. In almost any other title this would come across as pure sadism, but here resonates with the tale of loss and fortunes fickle finger that the adventure pulls you through. It never lets you stand on one foot long enough to feel comfortable. My group was always starving, or low on morale, or a valued fighter was too injured to use when I needed them. And then it all flips over with a wrong (or right) choice of words. The random events giveth and the story taketh away in a dance of answered prayers and stupid decisions.
Breaking up the cavalcade of bleak desperation eventually you’re given the chance to be brutally evil. Handing you a band of mercenaries, Stoic flip the script, letting you experience the other side of the coin – killing and maiming for survival. The level of moustache-twirling evil varies, but the choices go from “how much do you help them” to “how hard to you want to start stabbing them”.