App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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The best place for me to start this The Banner Saga 2 review is to say that I didn't particularly enjoy what I played of the first Banner Saga. I picked the original game up last year and wasn't drawn to much of it beyond the art and world, so I went into this new game with low expectations. Little did I know that Banner Saga 2 provides a strategy experience that is leaps and bounds better than the first game, while also still retaining all of the good stuff from the original.
Charging straight ahead
If you've never played Banner Saga, going into Banner Saga 2 can be daunting because it spends little time explaining how it works. These are strategy role playing games that use familiar grid-based combat, but the mechanics and narrative hooks that are built around it are many and unique.
So, despite the offered recap and brief tutorial present in Banner Saga 2, it's advisable that you have played at least some of the first game to get a grasp on what you're doing.
Fight for your world
As a strategy rpg, Banner Saga 2 devotes a lot of time to turn-based combat, which is all solidly built and provides a lot more variety than the first game. Between bouts of strategic positioning and using abilities though, you can find yourself trying to communicate with a group of exotic centaurs, choosing to learn the mysterious and magical intricacies of mending, or just plain trying to keep your people from starving.
To be sure, Banner Saga 2--much like its predecessor--moves along a fairly linear path, but the lore, characters, and options for slight narrative deviations really open up in this game to make it one of the most compelling experiences I've come across in recent memory.
As much fun as the combat and management in Banner Saga 2 are, the heart of it really lies in its character. Although its predecessor did a decent job of world-building, the Banner Saga 2 seizes on practically every opportunity to create interesting interactions and character moments in its apocalyptic and dour setting.
Banner Saga 2 manages to be so narratively rich because the story splits relatively early in the game, with you taking control of two separate caravans that are led by very different people who go to equally different places. This sounds like a small addition to the game, but Banner Saga 2 takes full advantage of these two stories to craft completely different environments, enemies, and scenarios, making bouncing back and forth between them a nonstop delight.
The bottom line
Banner Saga 2 is one of the finest combinations of character, gameplay, and narrative that you can find. It's a game that spends as much time on being a fun and varied strategy game as it does on making you care about its world and the reasons why its characters are in the situation they are in. It's really hard to ask much more than that.