It’s not very often that a sequel to a game gets released so soon after the original. When The Banner Saga originally came out on PC, there was about a two-year gap between it and the second one. On the Switch, however, we just got the first game in May and now, not even a month later we have Banner Saga 2. Rounding out the trilogy will be part three, which will release at the end of July on the Switch. That’s three months of intense turn-based strategy to digest, and with its heavy and many times somber story beats, it can be a lot to take in. Then again, it’s pretty great that all three connect via the story and the choices you make have an impact on which characters live or die. It’s much easier to keep the story straight when playing all of them in short order.
As with most any sequel, gamers have come to expect some type of enhancements and improvements. Banner Saga 2 has received a new coat of paint, delivering more intricate animations and details, especially on the battlefields. The graphics still retain the solid colored ‘80s animation look to them, but they’re complemented with more foreground objects, such as tree branches hanging above, giving more depth to the screen. There are more diverse areas to explore this time around as well, including dark caverns, mystical swamps, and dense forests.
As far as sequels go, this one doesn’t make any hard left turns or upend any coffee tables, so to speak. Instead, it builds upon what was already in place in the original. A good example of this are the various obstacles placed into the combat scenarios. Now you can take cover behind different items, like barrels, which can add to your strategic moves. In addition, much like a Fire Emblem game, there are now environmental features that can impede your (or the enemy’s) progress, like fire pits or water. Again, this gives more variety throughout the adventure and I appreciated the new challenges these presented.
As with the original, you’ll have humans as well as Varl (giants) on your team. You’ll be able to select whom you want in your group throughout the adventure. There are some new classes to play around with, like the Tracker, which can deal some excessive damage to armor. You also meet the Horseborn, which are centaurs with their own set of special moves and tactics. These small additions help bring more variety to combat, and are a welcome addition especially for those of us who just played through the original game on Switch last month!
The story picks up directly where the original stopped. If you didn’t play the first game, I really suggest you do before diving in here. Not only is it a great game, but also the characters and plot points will make so much more sense. You do have the option of beginning this game with no save file from the first game, and if you do that you’ll get to choose between two starting characters from the last game. There is a short recap movie you can watch to see what took place, but it hardly does the story justice to play this way. However, maybe you beat the original and didn’t like the way it ended. You could just start a new game here and pick the other protagonist you want to play as instead.
This time around your caravan of refugees is still on the move. You’re on a quest to get to the human capitol city of Aberrang, the supposed last safe haven from the impending apocalypse. Once again you’ll be facing off against the Dredge, who are also fleeing the land in search of respite. Perhaps they should just all get along and ride out the end of the world together, but then that wouldn’t make for a very interesting story.
Throughout the game you’ll suffer losses and the choices you make will feel like a slap across the face. You’ll have plenty of time in battles, but you’ll also spend some time with resource management and making decisions via conversations that can have dramatic impacts on the story. The game reminded me of something like Game of Thrones mixed with Lord of the Rings where they don’t think twice about having a character get killed off and this installment felt like it had a lot of story to tell, but didn’t really tie up many of the loose ends, leaving them for the final game.
With an enchanting soundtrack and excellent plot, I enjoyed my time with Banner Saga 2. It’s greatly enhanced if you’ve played through the original, but if you for some reason want to jump in with this installment, you’re still bound to have a good time. Having played both so close to each other, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of innovation or new ideas in the sequel, and instead it feels more like a second chapter of a Telltale Game. Thankfully the first game was so good that this doesn’t present a problem for the sequel, but those looking for the sequel to be something dramatically different will be disappointed. I appreciated the consistently captivating storytelling and the slightly enhanced visuals and new character classes. I often hate writing this phrase, but here goes: If you liked the original then you’ll love the sequel.
Banner Saga 2 was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.