Words About Video Games

41 Games: The Banner Saga 2

I hope that I'm a better leader in real life than I was in the Banner Saga 2. At very least, I can take consolation in the fact that there are relatively few life-and-death decisions in game writing.

Mistakes were made. Lives were lost. I was doing what I thought was best every time, but as I went on, I started to doubt myself. I started to second-guess. I watched our numbers dwindle and I started to make sacrifices. These weren't redemptive sacrifices; they were mistakes to cover up my previous mistakes.

When I played the first Banner Saga, I noted that I often felt like I didn't really understand the choices I was making. It's not that I needed a clear map of what the consequences would be, but I needed to at least understand what was at stake. I needed enough information to be able to establish my goals and priorities.

I think about Huckleberry Finn, choosing between two things. He thinks he's choosing between heaven and hell, and with the limited knowledge he has, he makes the best choice he knows how to make. It's incredibly brave because he doesn't know the consequences. But it's powerful because he knows (or believes he knows) exactly what's at stake.

The Banner Saga 2 absolutely nails this. It's incredible how well it threads the needle of giving me enough information to make a choice, while ensuring that I always have to make that choice just a little faster, a little earlier than I want to. I was in charge, but I was never fully in control.

My critiques of the game come from having played the first installments so far apart; it does a poor job, in my opinion, of re-introducing me to the major players, so as invested as I was in the moment-to-moment decision-making, I felt like the main narrative kept me at arm's length.

Still, the world itself is captivating. The art is gorgeous. The tactics are satisfying (and much less punishing than the first game.) I won't wait to play the third game when it releases.