In 2014, The Banner Saga debuted on PC, giving players yearning for a true Viking epic the chance at finally playing one. The game didn’t disappoint, going on the sell extremely well and be considered one of the best surprises of 2014. Since then, The Banner Saga has been ported to phones and tablet OS’ and a sequel, The Banner Saga 2, which The Inquisitr lists as one of the more anticipated releases of 2016, has been announced. Yet one section of the gaming audience had been left out of being able to play The Banner Saga: console players. Many console players own gaming PCs, but there is a large section of the gaming public that pretty much just sticks to one platform. So when The Banner Saga was announced to be coming to Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One, a lot of players were eager to get their hands on this much lauded strategy RPG game. However, the question of how a primarily mouse-heavy game would work on a console gamepad.
Great news: it doesn’t disappoint. The Banner Saga feels great on both the Dual Shock 4 and the Xbox One gamepad, almost as if it was always meant to be on console to begin with. While you can still tell The Banner Saga was initially imagined with mouse being the main way to interface with the screen, the controller mapping doesn’t feel clunky or unbalanced. The analog sticks control both moving around the screen and moving an onscreen cursor, allowing players to select with a level of mouse-like precision on what they want to interact with on screen. In certain situations, players can use the RT/R2 LT/L2 buttons to navigate intractable objects on the beautifully hand-drawn backgrounds, leaving the cursor to rot in the corner. In battle, the controls do tend to feel a bit more clumsy, however. Moving your character to the designated square on the field can be a pain sometimes, and overly sensitive sticks may pose more an issue here. With not discernible way to turn down the control sensitivity, The Banner Saga can prove to be a bit bothersome during these moments. However, the opening act of the game does a great job in explaining not only some of the basic tactical combat mechanics, but also how battle is laid out on your gamepad. Sprite navigation aside, everything works well and naturally, flowing from one action to the next.
As someone who has played both the PC and mobile releases extensively, playing Banner Saga on PlayStation 4 has been quite the refreshing take on the game. The entire game is intact as it is on the other platforms. The same jaw-dropping presentation is in play: hand-drawn backgrounds hearkening back to Eyvind Earle’s work in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (whose influence is so heavy on the game, there is a Mender named Eyvind you can caravan with) are vividly displayed the big screen. The screen is a delight to behold as my caravan inches across the tundra Oregon Trail style, Varl and human alike outrunning the Dredge menace. Gameplay of The Banner Saga, including the exquisite consequences to your choices are also still in play, lending actual weight to whatever you decide. Leif Johnson put it best in his review for IGN concerning how The Banner Saga handles your choice.
The choices and consequences start off simple: let a plucky young clansman join up with a skirmish, and the dialog boxes that pop up afterwards may report his death at the hands of a vicious foe. Deftly, The Banner Saga eases you into far tougher choices, such as whether to destroy an ancient Varl-built bridge and risk shattering the entire Varl alliance with humans. The lack of any saving features (aside from a frequent autosave) forces you to live with your choices and lends them weight, even if it means finding once-beloved allies facing you down as enemies.
With The Banner Saga finally coming to console, players can finally experience one of the great, pure experiences PC players have had for a while. For anyone who loves great strategy games and only owns a console for gaming, The Banner Saga is a great package. It’s ported well, which is always scary when taking games and fitting them with new control schemes. Additionally, The Banner Saga is the gives players more choice over their game than any other to date, and forces the player to live with them. It’s incredibly powerful storytelling, and one reason why those looking for a great value game early 2016, The Banner Saga should be it. [Images via Stoic Studio]