The Let's Play Archive

The Banner Saga Trilogy

by FairGame

Part 8: 4-1: The Long Road to Einartoft


This game really likes cliffhangers. Remember how last time, Hakon's party reached Grofheim, the varl capital, only to find it a fiery ruin?

Well, we don't get any immediate closure on that.

Instead, we're back to Rook. Who previously had bashed his way into Frostvellr, seen that it was fucked up, and then left after kinda murdering the gatekeepers.

: Is this really necessary?
Stuck outside the city walls, you've been fighting against the dredge when you have to and moving between hiding spots when you can.

: If we do nothing, the people in there are going to die.
You crouch near a building you know has survivors hiding inside. Dredge are making quick work of the walls.

: We can't keep throwing ourselves at any dredge that wander near these damn refugees!
: We're already here!

: What choice do we have?
: Leave. Get the caravan and go, right now.
: Not yet. We need to help here.
Iver growls, but leads the charge, bowling over the nearest dredge and taunting the rest.
: Come on, you stony bastards! Nothing else I'd rather be doing right now! basically, Iver was 100% right: if you stay outside the walls of Frostvellr, you're gonna get clobbered by dredge. Iver and Oddleif are kind of playing devil/angel on Rook's shoulders here. Except it's more pragmatic/benevolent, in a game where playing the hero gets you killed more often than not.
Still, we're already here, and Rook's team with its archers tend to do really well against dredge.

It'll be nice to get ourselves some more renown, anyway. Too many level 1s in this group.

That 13/19 dredge is a major threat. The 11/16 in the far corner not so much; he'll be picked apart by archers before he can get close to our spawn point.

We start the battle by running away from the major threat. Oddleif traps a tile so that when the 11/16 dredge comes to poke Iver, he instead takes an injury and loses his turn.
The axe brother can still do damage with bloody flail even if he takes a nasty strength hit, so he's gonna deal with the 2 big guys up top.

Enemy AI is utterly predictable when you give them only 1 target. Oddleif's trap works like a charm.

Alette doesn't like fighting humans, but she's really damn good against dredge. She scores enough kills in this fight to jump straight from level 1 to level 3.

Rook's "mark prey" ability is devastating when you've got archers in range. Puncture procs on their attack.

I get a little sloppy on the cleanup, and both Hogun and Rook take injuries. Hogun's is worse--4 days. Rook counts as an archer even though he can fight in melee, and it's just a 2 day injury.

All told though, a solid effort.

I know I said we were done with endless battles on snowfields. And, in fact, we are: these fight backgrounds have houses!
And we could always listen to Iver and bug off immediately. But helping people is THE RIGHT THING TO DO, DAMMIT.
You hurry to follow her. Sure enough, a boy has stranded himself on a rooftop. Dredge mill around below. As you approach, they spot you.

We bench our injured unit in favor of his brother. Rook can stick around. Mark Prey and armor break don't require high strength.

Largely the same enemy composition as before. Much easier fight, though, since all those 2x2 guys will just get in one another's way, and I can armor break plus use splinter to wear things down to the point that a good puncture will end them.

Hell, I don't even need to use stone wall on Egil yet.

Egil is built SUPER defensively, so it's important to get him kills when you can.

Alette's "thread the needle" active is difficult to make work, but when it lines up it's pretty handy!

2 maims, 1 kill.

I let Rook go down again. Injuries don't compound, so he has another 2 day injury instead of a...2 day injury.

Piece of cake.

In the distance, you think you hear shouts. From further up on the hill a group of people saw you fighting the dredge and are calling to you. Nobody else seems to have noticed.
Look at our clansmen count here as compared with the end of the last Rook chapter, by the way. We're growing our caravan (and the number of useless mouths to feed) by being heroic!

This is actually difficult, you see, because...
: You can do this, Iver.
If you didn't know Iver so well, you'd find him quite terrifying right now. He looks like he's about to lose it. Still, he bends and behinds to hoist the crumbling wall on his shoulders. Grunting under the exertion, you hear a shriek behind you and see approaching dredge!

Only Iver can lift the wall, so we have to protect him this battle. Which means our biggest weapon is out and we have to field a wounded Hogun.

Ugh, slingers. They got a special introduction in Hakon's last chapter. Here they just kinda appear, and they can immediately start doing strength damage to our archers--our biggest weapon.

So instead I sent Egil out to draw fire. Let the slingers expend their willpower on him while I deal with the easier units down below.

That kid tanks like a goddamn champ.

Mogun gets the benefit of +2 armor from this shield wall as well as some extra damage from bloody flail. He chops the stoneguard down a bit.

This is why I hate slingers. At some point they're gonna get past your front line and start raining nasty damage on your archers.

Which costs Alette an injury.

I misjudge enemy movement and waste a trap. Egil also gets maimed in the bargain.

Still, it's well in hand and Egil finishes it off.

Finally, the refugees are able to pull the body out of the rubble and Iver lets the heavy wall crash to the ground unceremoniously around him. The man has been long dead, and they look on solemnly. "For your trouble," an old woman tells you. She puts an odd gold medallion in your hand.

Well, now we have the Calabilla, which is the real reason we do that series of fights. It's a rank 5 artifact that gives +1 willpower and +1 armor per turn. It's awesome.
: Thought there were a lot more of us than this.
Surveying the rest house you're struck by how many wounded and missing clansmen there are.
: Only going to be less over time. We can't keep fighting off dredge and hope they'll pass.
: We're not getting in that gods-forsaken city, I know that.
: The dredge have all been heading south, that's not an option either. Wyrmtoe's the only thing that makes sense. They won't follow us across the wastes.
: If there's really no other choice. Why are you so insistent about Wyrmtoe?
: I know someone there who can help us...if we're lucky.
: OK, get everyone up. We're going to make a run for it.
Within a short time, you're ready to leave.

This is also something I wasn't expecting. In earlier versions of the game, you started this chapter with 3 days of supplies, wholly independent of what you ended the previous chapter with. Now, it seems like your supplies from the end of the previous chapter roll over. Which is great, had I known that. Because, uh...

The rate of exchange in Frostvellr SUCKS.

I can't have my caravan starve, though, so I burn a hefty 36 renown on enough supplies to get us across the wastes. I hope.
I also spend 6 renown on that Svalinn Dust, which gives a flat +2 armor. Handy.

Someone else shows interest, though. From the gates of Frostvellr, a group of fighters are rushing toward you, a cart stacked high with supplies at their rear. You ready yourselves for trouble when one of them shouts "Hold!"

So...this is Onef. He's a playable character, and probably the most hated character in The Banner Saga (well, part 1 anyway).


Ekkill (the twitchy redbeard guy in charge of Frostvellr) and Onef have a history--Onef's his brother-in-law. Onef acts like the reasonable one and says Ekkill's crazy and evil, and will always give you a chance to fuck over Ekkill. The supplies he has here are stolen from Ekkill. Ekkill will now starve to death without them, along with the rest of Frostvellr.

Had we stayed in Frostvellr at the end of the last chapter, Ekkill would attack us at the start of this chapter. Onef is in the group of attackers, and if you spare his life he takes you to Ekkill's secret stash--which basically puts us right back to where we are here. Onef offering to join with some fighting men, and some supplies.

If you take Onef along, you get a bunch of fighters and enough supplies to cross the wastes without having to spend all your renown at a terrible exchange rate.

Ekkill, realizing he's going to starve to death, gives chase. You have the option to kill him, take him captive, or have him and his men join you. The whole time it seems like Ekkill's the bad guy and Onef's the reasonable one.

Then, in the penultimate chapter, Onef decides he wants to be leader and stabs Rook and drags Alette into the woods, where Alette kills Onef in self defense. Onef kills Egil who's trying to defend Alette, though. Ekkill kills a shitload of the mutineers and reveals that Onef was calling the shots all along. Ekkill was just kind of beaten down after Onef murdered Ekkill's sister.

Basically, Ekkill and Egil are mutually exclusive, and Onef is a dickhead who will ALWAYS betray you. You'd have no way of knowing this the first time you play, and I'm only going to refuse Onef (and his valuable supplies and fighters) because the previous LP of this game took Onef in.

Anyways, fuck Onef he's a dickhead and now he's gonna die.

Read the spoiler above if you're curious as to why I'm not listening to Alette and refusing what seems to be perfectly good fighting men and desperately-needed supplies.

Having just spent the last little while fighting dredge, this is far more dangerous. Onef (11/11 backbiter) is the most dangerous unit on the board, though the shieldmaster in the far corner is no slouch.)

Sorry, Alette. You're not getting the "Innocent" achievement. But hey, had we taken Onef in you'd have killed him offscreen...

The rest of the fight is uneventful. This poor bastard gets to -32 HP as he gets hit with 0 armor by everyone in the crew thanks to Mark Prey.

And that's that. Anybody who wanted to talk about their own gameplay experience in Frostvellr is now free to do so.

Of course, we do still only have 10 days of supplies as we cross the aptly name wastes. There's...nothing out here.

Nothing at all.

And we also have the misfortune of getting the blizzard random event. It'll cost us time we don't have to look for survivors, but I built a couple days' buffer into my supplies. We can do it. Barely.

Still, not everyone makes it back, and morale goes to negative (-1 willpower) for the first time in the campaign.

In the middle of the wastes, there's a godstone.

They welcome the caravan, mingling and swapping stories with the others while you rest. They have almost nothing of value to trade, but their leader approaches and offers to let you join in their tribute.

Rook indulges in their weird ritual and gets some Gullenfryi for his trouble.

After some rest you continue on. The sun god worshippers are keen to stay, so you pack your things and return to the road.

In the middle of the wastes, dwindling food supplies...morale drops to the lowest possible.

As if on cue, some vultures begin circling us.

We join her in shooting.

Morale improves somewhat, but it's not a 5-point scale. It's I think a 100 point scale with 5 bands. Our morale improvement isn't enough to get us out of the lowest band.

Without Onef's men, we really need more fighters. And if they're half as badass as Oddleif, we're in good shape.
We can always use more fighters,' you tell Oddleif. "If Alette is any proof, you know how to train someone with a bow." Oddleif gives you a smile. She heads off to some of the women in the caravan, showing them the vulture she shot down.

I just have horrible luck with random events out here in the wastes.
One of the strangers approaches, saying, "We've run out of food. Any help would be welcome." His hard eyes reveal nothing of his intentions.

I really can't spare it (and they are, in fact, bandits, who will steal your shit if you let them in.) So I just give them a meal and move on.

Nobody should have to starve to death.

Of course, now we're at 2 days of supplies and we're about 2.5 days outside of Wyrmtoe. Have I doomed us to starvation deaths?

Thankfully, no! Don't care what this is, we'll eat it!
Many clansmen follow your lead, gathering as much as you can, while others continue eating and collecting. Later that day, a few fruit-stained peasants stumble around with drunken grins. Apparently the fruit was fermented, not poisonous.

The fermented fruit gives us a modest boost to our supplies. It's enough to get us to Wyrmtoe. Barely. Like...hours to spare.

I was looking at the day clock as Rook narrated this. Would we get into town before supplies hit 0?

Seriously, that's like 6-7 hours before we take starvation deaths.

Welcome to Wyrmtoe.

: Well, I'll be damned.
: Krumr. It's been a long time.
: Yeah, it has. So what brings Yngvar to Wyrmtoe with his very own village of humans?
: Bad news. Dredge are coming down from the north. We barely made it this far.
: That is dire news. Come on, we have food. We'll discuss more in the mead house.
As you follow the old varl into their meager town you catch him quietly saying "If it were anyone else..."

: I've talked with the warriors here. I'll be honest with you. Half want to go north and find out what happened at Blotsbalkr. Some think we should go to Grofheim instead. And none of them are happy you're here.
: What do you think?
: If I had it my way, I'd stay here and let the dredge come. But you made this a problem, didn't you? We can't feed this many people for long, even if they don't eat much. This is a varl town, most of us take care of ourselves. You've got women, children...
: We could pitch in...make this place liveable.
: It doesn't work like that. These varl are here to get away from civilization, not make one.
: It's Krumr's call. It won't be long before dredge are here, too.
: No, it won't. If there's one thing we should do it's tell Jorundr what's going on.
: Who's Jorundr?
: Varl king. Well, as close to one as we have. Yngvar, where'd you find these people? Stay here and rest, but once yours are ready to go, we do. I'm going to see off those who want to head north. But I'll join you to Grofheim.
: More travel? No...we've already come so far.
: Stop the pouting, girlie. Even if Jorundr won't listen to a tired old varl like me I have a feeling they'll pay attention to your friend Yngvar, here.
: They'll listen to Iver?
: Hah, he hasn't told you? Of course he hasn't. Do what you need to, but don't be long.

Our caravan is in a sorry state. No food, little renown, and desperately poor morale. We need to rest, but we can't really afford to do so. So let's talk to Hogun and Mogun instead.

: Just take it easy for a while! People are noticing.

: Oh, they've noticed, have they? We're on the edge of dying daily and you want me to take it easy? Gods, I should be plowing twice as many fields! You understand?
: Don't get us thrown out of this caravan, Mogun. It's not just you who suffers!
: Right, so you get married? Have kids? Now I'm supposed to settle down too, yeah? What happened to...
The two brothers clam up as you approach.
: That's right. I've got a kid to take care of. Cool your head, Mogun.
Hogun departs, leaving Mogun looking awkward.
: Rook, what brings you around?

: Just heard yelling. Came to check it out.

: You come running every time you hear yelling? Must be why you look so tired. Look, it's not secret. I like women, Rook. They like me. They like the scar. Feh, forget it. Listen, all this? All this death? Every night, half the caravan cries itself to sleep. Pathetic. Come on, Rook. Be honest. This is good living. Half the world just tilling soil 'til they keel over. What kind of life is that? We're lucky. You could go your whole life with no goals, no purpose, nothing to fight against but boredom and hunger. I'm glad for all of this.

: I'm not sure I agree.

: Look at it like this. We're fighting to the death almost every day, yeah? You can curl up in a little ball of fear. You can go hide in the woods eating nuts and appreciating leaves or some nonsense. Or you can enjoy the struggle. Know which one I pick. Anyway, just so you know, I'd never go for Alette. Promise you that. Or Oddleif. All yours.
: Uh, appreciated, Mogun.
You depart, unsure whether your opinion of Mogun changed for the better or worse.

Let's go talk to Krumr next. He's been calling Iver "Yngvar" and surely there's a story there. Also note that Krumr is one of the varl that Ubin mentioned who might be older than Ubin.

: Krumr, can you spare a moment?

: Mostly no. But I'll try.
: I never had a moment to thank you for your hospitality.
: Consider it done, then.
: So...who is Yngvar?
: Hah! I'm not surprised he never told you. I'm just surprised he can stand being around anyone at all. Your friend was one of us, long ago. I mean, the dredge-bashing type. He was called Yngvar then. And if you want to know why he changed his name, best ask him yourself. I'm too old to peddle in gossip.
: How did you get all these varl to follow you?
: Respect, young one. After the second great war, wasn't much left for me to do, so I started training other varl to fight. Got tired of that, made a place in Wyrmtoe. They still come calling, even with no wars to speak of. Seems like that might be changing though, don't it?
: Any wisdom on fighting dredge?
: Depends how much you know. They're all armor. Tap 'em hard enough though and it'll shatter. Line up a whole row of slag and they'll explode on each other all the way down. You get in a big brawl, half your time is spent setting them up for it. And if you see one bang his axe like a tuning fork, try to kill him quick. Sometimes the slag he's calling won't even show up.
: I bet you have some incredible stories.
: I might. I might. Or I could be the most boring varl you ever met. Depends how much you like killing dredge. Ask me again someday, might tell you about the time we filled a dead yox with whale teeth. And why.
: I'd best leave you to your business.
: I suppose you should. Take care, friend of Yngvar.

I'd love to buy that worldhook (+2 armor break), but I really can't afford not to spend all my renown on supplies. Which is what I do.

We rest a couple of days. Not enough to heal up everyone, but enough to get the archers back to full strength, and perhaps more importantly get our morale out of the gutter. For now.

Krumr joins along with some varl and 20 supplies. It's enough to stretch our stores to 10 days' worth.

This is a bad random event even if you don't rob him. People are mad because you don't rob the farmer and consign him to death. People are mad if you do rob him. At least that way you get some supplies. But we don't seem to need supplies too badly right now and Rook's not a monster.

I'm just full of bad random events. I think maybe they're tied to morale? We post some extra guards.
To deter any further theft, you discretely place some trusted guards by the caravans. You hear a few people casually point out the extra manpower, but nobody seems to raise an alarm for now.

As day 95 winds down, we approach another godstone.

"A blessing!" shouts one of the men in your caravan, holding up what looks like a silver coin. "It's a fish scale," he says, pointing out the rainbow pattern that shows in the sunlight. Soon, a curious child has found another hiding in the snow, and then a third is discovered. "Perhaps they'll bring us luck," you overhear, and before long the caravan has become obsessed with gathering the shining scales.
We can let them take their time or cut them off. Taking their time takes...a while. Like 3 days of sitting at the damn godstone, eating supplies and gathering scales. However...
By the end of the second day, the scavenger hunt still continues unabated, and even you are starting to feel something in the back of your mind, like you need to have one of the scales. You shake it off, uncertain to let this continue. It's another day before the fervor calms down, and you think there must have been something unnatural about it, because when the last scale was found the obsession suddenly stopped.

I'm really not sure if this was worth it. We get the Godscale, a rank 5 artifact that gives +1 aggro and +3 armor. Great for Egil who you want drawing aggro. But that assumes we can get him to rank 5 and actually use it. In the meantime, we eat up almost all our remaining supplies and morale plummets as everyone gets demoralized looking at our dwindling stores.
: Rook, come here.
Oddleif motions for you to join her, where she shows you a small group of women bearing bows and arrows--those women she has trained to fight.

A group of men from the caravan approach. "Listen here," says one. "Practice all you want, my wife isn't fighting dredge!" The other men agree in chorus. "We don't want to see a battlefield full of dead wives and daughters!"
Yeah, guys? Well tough shit; I need the fighters.
: Train more archers.
"To be honest," says Oddleif, "this was already harder than I expected. I don't know how many more would really take to it. But the more people who can hold their own, the better." The men continue to complain. The women return to camp not just as clansmen, but as fighters.
We lose 25 clansmen and gain 25 fighters. I think it's a great trade.

OK yeah, at this point I'm convinced you get more negative events when morale is poor. I've never had this bad of luck before, but I almost always have Onef and Ekkill, their soldiers, and their supplies with me.
: Explain yourselves.
"Ragni chooses my daughter on his own," the insulted mother says. "But this one thinks I have something to do with it." Launching herself forward, the first woman flails wildly, shouting, "Liar!" The women are separated and eventually calm down, but you worry this is far from over.

Day 100, almost out of supplies when we see a conflict in the distance. It takes almost a full day to close to it.

Oh hey, it's Fasolt.

Rook is ALSO good at counting! But he's not as reckless as Hakon.

We're going to take this easy.

The Gullinfryi, by the way, is just a crit chance item. Crits are nice, but in a game where kililng an enemy isn't always a good thing, I tend not to use items with it.
This battle will be Krumr's debut.
Krumr has the same "heavy impact" passive as Hakon and the warhawks from the other caravan.
His active, rules. But he has to be leveled up.
His skill is called "Forge Ahead" and he can target a unit and make it act next in the turn order. Meaning in this instance, if I wanted 2 straight turns for Alette, I could make that happen.
At rank 1, Krumr can only do it to adjacent units. At rank 2 he gets a decent range. At rank 3, he gets infinite range.
He's an extremely good unit with great stats and we need to do our best to get him leveled up.

Rook's caravan really needs a warhawk. Bersi or Gunnulf in the upper portion could just walk forward and tempest those slingers into uselessness.

Instead, what we end up with is an enormously bloody battle in which we take shitloads of injuries. Alette, Egil, and Krumr get most of the kills, though, which is good--we need them to level up.

Yeah, no way. If you try this and fail, by the way, one of the axe brothers dies. I think Hogun. If you didn't recruit them, then I'm guessing it's another opportunity to kill Egil.

I really wish we could have done the extra wave. We don't really have 20 fighters to spare.

: Isn't this a damn curiosity. This is the second time I've been sent to find a varl who is headed in my direction with humans in tow.
: What are dredge doing up here?
: Gods, does nobody know what's going on around here? They leveled Grofheim to the ground. We've been losing ground for days. Jorundr's in Einartoft now. They sent me to gather Krumr and the rest from Wyrmtoe, when we ran across this bunch of slag. And there's a lot more where they came from. Is this all the varl you've got, Krumr? What've you been doing, eating each other?

: Many went to Blotsbalkr. Are you tellng me Grofheim is completely gone?
: And Vognir's dead. Slag on our heels. The varl you sent off north are probably dead. The world's ending. Come on, this is old news. We're gathering in Einartoft. That's where we need to go right now. Wait.
Fasolt takes a long moment to look out over the caravan of men, women and children behind you.
: Not them.

: We just saved your ass!
: Little one, you have no idea how many slag I've butchered in the last few weeks. I don't get in fights I can't win. That includes men who invite themselves into Einartoft.
: Dammit Fasolt, who cares about that? What in the depths happened at Grofheim?
Before Fasolt can reply, a low rumble grabs your attention, growing louder by the moment.

: GO! Don't stop until you reach Hadrborg!

The mountain in the background splits in two.

And behind it, we see...something enormous sliter through the split mountain.

It's there only a split second, and then obscured by the crumbling mountain and snowfall. The caravan continues its mad dash to godstone Hadrborg.

Our caravan, terrified out of its mind by whatever it was it just saw, arrives at the godstone to see varl building fortifications.

: Hold up. We're going to have a talk.

: You're still standing. Well, most of you. Rest up. Then move on.
: A mountain just sank into the earth, and some...something is out there! And you're just going to send us away?
: I don't know who you are, but you're not going to Einartoft. There's a couple hundred varl here who will back that up.
: Where are we supposed to go? Back the way we came? We're stuck between two mountain ranges. In one direction, a few thousand varl. In the other, an army of dredge and whatever caused that quake!
: Einartoft is a varl city. This shouldn't be news to a varl.

: Give it a rest, Fasolt. Don't you recognize who you're talking to?
Surprise suddenly flashes across Fasolt's face. The other varl are starting to come closer, now. You hear "Yngvar" being whispered between them.
: I think this might be the one person you want to let into Einartoft.
: You're...

: The humans come with me. All of them.
Fasolt glances between Iver and Krumr before stalking away, pushing past the mob of curious onlookers.
: Iver...who are you?
: Some other time, Rook.

Suddenly there's a lot of activity. Word comes from below to retreat to the next village over, and you soon see why. A black shadow is sweeping down the valley from the direction of Grofheim, where the quake, or whatever caused it, has obliterated the mountainside.
On closer inspection it's a veritable ocean of dredge, more than you imagined possible. In their midst is a towering giant of a dredge, blood red from head to toe. You gather your things in short order and join a good many varl, leaving the godstone behind.

We get Iver's old belt, the Farthingjord. It's awesome. Rank 4 artifact with +3 armor break.

Another not-great random event that I think can only get an outcome that isn't actively bad, rather than give you a positive effect.

We hit a small village before reaching Einartoft. Iver helpfully lets us know we'll need 3 days worth of supplies to get there.
"Dad," says Alette, appearing at your side. "I liked old Iver." Somewhere in the back of your mind you feel the same way. You focus on preparations instead, realizing that you may be one of the first humans about to set foot in Einartoft.

The exchange rate here is incredibly good. But...dammit, with only 10 renown we have to buy supplies only and I have to ignore that worldhook. Again. Gotta keep moving. Not enough supplies to putter around.

Next time: Einartoft, the last varl city.