The Let's Play Archive

The Banner Saga Trilogy

by FairGame

Part 9: 4-2 (and also early chapter 5): Lending a Helping Hand


Our caravan arrives in Einartoft, which is brimming with varl armies ready for battle.
BGM: Walls No Man Has Seen

: All these warriors...another great war is upon us. It is the third time I have seen such a thing. There are far fewer of us now than there once were.
Krumr heads up the stairs to the great hall, and returns shortly after speaking to some varl.
: What did they tell you?
: By all accounts the dredge are coming here. Looks like they plan to end the varl for good this time. This place will become a killing field soon. They say the prince of men is here. They've got a mender, too.
: Prince Ludin is here? From Arberrang?
: In any case, we'll be given no audience today. You remember the last time you were here, Yngvar?

: It's Iver. Yeah. I remember it.
: What now?
: We find somewhere to rest. I'd recommend keeping your people out of trouble while you're here, Rook.
: In fact, keep them invisible. Jorundr won't be happy you're here.
You're shown to quarters, but could wander the city while you wait for an audience. You feel like you could sleep for a week straight. we are in Einartoft. 2 days of supplies left. Which is about to be 1 since we have to rest.

Rook inexplicably is invited to the council meeting.

Hey, it's all the dudes from Hakon's caravan! ...except Griss.
: Enough, Eyvind. The bridge stands. Find some other way.
: Greetings from Wyrmtoe, Jorundr. I've brought an ally.
: Who are these people? We don't have time for games.
: Wait...I recognize you.

: Yngvar among us again? Is this what the end of the world looks like?
Jorundr steps down from his throne to get a closer look. In the light you spy deep wounds on the varl king.
: It was my last option. You look like death, Jorundr.
: The Sundr came through Grofheim. All of them. Or we would still be there.
Editor's Note: It'll be explained in a moment, but Sundr are essentially superelite dredge. Instead of names like "grunt" and "stoneguard" they have actual names.

: A few thousand varl remain. Bellower has been following us since Grofheim.
: That is what he does. What will you do?
: Remain. There is no better place for us than here. We make our stand in Einartoft. But even if Einartoft falls, the varl won't be wiped out. Hakon is taking our best warriors to Arberrand, as we were discussing.
: I'm not going, Jorundr. We're needed here.
: This is not a debate...
A messenger bursts through the doors, cutting the tension. He says a Stonesinger has been cutting a path across the bridge.
: Gods, can we not have a moment's respite? They should not be here already!

: A Stonesinger is with them? Let me bring down the bridge as I said, it will buy us...
: I said the bridge stands, mender! I say it again to you, and the prince of men, and the whole mender council, were they here! I will not say it again! Hakon, you go to Arberrang! Eyvind! Do not even touch that bridge! Am I understood?
: You are. Then I'll confront the singer myself.
Nobody tries to stop Eyvind, but many follow as he leaves the great hall.

: What is that thing?
: A stonesinger. As clsoe as the dredge come to menders of they're own. I've only seen one before. It didn't go well.
: Can Eyvind win this?
: I don't know. Think we'll find out.
: We should help him.
: Listen to me, Rook. You will probably die here. And so will everyone else who steps on that bridge. Look at your daughter. Are you prepared for that?
: You're not doing this alone, Iver.
: I won't stop you. Fight like it's your last.
Editor's Note: You can decide not to fight here, and instead you'll play the next battle with Hakon's crew. Hakon's crew is...not great given the enemy composition, and Rook's party is at 0 renown. We're going to starve to death if we don't get renown to buy supplies. Pragmatism, as much as heroism, puts us on that bridge.

The good news! Eyvind's playable! And also he's level 5 and you can allocate his stats however you see fit. He also can use the Calabila and get +1 armor and +1 willpower per turn.
The bad news! This fight fucking SUCKS and I don't have the renown to promote Krumr, who teams VERY well with Eyvind at higher levels.

We max out Eyvind's willpower and armor. He's 1 point shy on strength, but he's a wizard. He's not gonna be fighting anything. Or be anywhere near the front lines.

Eyvind is the only character of his type in The Banner Saga. He has TWO separate active abilities:
1.) Mend: He can select ANY allied unit on the board (regardless of distance) and immediately heal its armor for 1/2 of Eyvind's currenet willpower, rounded down. So with a max 12 willpower, he can heal 6 armor. Extremely handy.
2.) Arc Lightning: This is a ranged attack that requires him to be within 6 tiles of his target. He does damage to THAT target, and then lightning jumps in a diagonal. If any unit--allied or enemy--is immediatetely diagonal to the struck unit (meaning it has to be corner-to-corner), it will ALSO take lightning damage, at +1 whatever the previous target took.
Lightning can jump as many times as there are diagonals.

Get a good group of diagonals and you can neuter and entire board with Eyvind. Stuck Krumr behind him in the turn order and you can have Eyvind strike 2 times in 3 turns and absolutely just rain destruction on people.

It's awesome.

BGM: Strewn Across a Bridge

This fight is either easy or AWFUL depending on what the stonesinger (the 11/14 guy in the yellow scarf) does early on. Sometimes he wastes his time. Sometimes he makes your life miserable. He...did the latter in this battle.

The 23 strength dredge scourge is also a problem, and needs to have his armor whittled down before we can make him manageable. Had we brought Oddleif we could've made this easier.

So...Stonesingers have 3 abilities: 2 actives and a passive.
The passive, "disease strike," poisons any unit that gets hit by the stonesinger, causing it to take 1 strength damage per turn until it dies or the fight ends. Worse still, any allied unit that is adjacent to the diseased unit ALSO gets the disease. It's awful.
Active 1 is called "Rupture," and it turns dredge into bombs. Any dredge with < 8 strength will EXPLODE, doing its remaining armor damage as strength to adjacent units. Very dangerous but I've never actually seen a stonesinger use it in this game.
Active 2 is EXTREME bullshit and incredibly dangerous. It's called "umbrage," and takes 2 turns--1 to start casting, and 1 to finish. But if it's cast, ALL units allied to the stonesinger take 2 armor penalty and gain a +3 strength bonus that can go over their max. Look at how many ranged units there are on this map. If he boosts them, they will be able to rain down melee-strength ranged attacks on our crew and it will decimate us.
Oh, and you can cast umbrage as many times as you want.
The boost does go away if you kill the stonesinger, and will also kill any unit who is only alive BECAUSE OF the strength boost. But your best bet is to kill the stonesinger.

Naturally, the stonesinger immediately starts casting umbrage. Meanwhile, that monster dredge maims Egil through his stonewall.

I have to spend all my time working on the monster dredge to the extent that the stonesinger gets his cast off. This battle just got MUCH more dangerous.

Rook marks prey this guy who goes down HARD.

Alette basically one-shots him after Iver does decent strength damage.

Note this inferno slinger who now has 13 strength. If Egil weren't here this might well be a wipe. It still might be a wipe.

Archers with this much strength should be illegal. And the damned stonesinger keeps retreating out of harms's way.

Eyvind gets off an arc lightning to trivialize the 1 melee dude left and wound the slinger diagonal.

But, like...I can't do anything about this. Krumr gets maimed FROM DOWNTOWN BOOM SHAKA LAKA.

Hey, remember how much you hated umbrage! Well guess what he's casting it again! And it'll take less time to cast now that there are only 5 enemy units.

They've got like no armor left but who needs armor when you can one-shot me?

This archer has 11 strength left AFTER taking 4 damage from a lightning strike.

Umbrage doesn't work for the stonesinger himself, but he still puts Iver down.

And Rook.

Remember how I said that Eyvind would never melee? Well...this was the easiest way to hurt the stonesinger.

It's not enough, though--Krumr goes down like 1 turn before the fight would've ended.

Alette kills the stonesinger, and the flame singer dies due to only being alive thanks to the temporary strength bonus granted by umbrage.

Of course, now the dredge Sundr, Bellower, is here.

Iver tells a dumbfounded Rook to grab Eyvind and run. And then...

A wounded Iver squares off against a 21/21 Sundr in blood red. This isn't looking good.

Indeed, Iver agrees.

Bellower has too much armor to do damage against. Iver breaks him, but this is a lost cause.

Bellower also regenerates armor AND health each turn. He drops Iver to 1 hitpoint.

He then uses his special move, "quake and despair," which is the worst move in the whole game.
It does -1 armor and -1 strength to ALL units, and there's nothing you can do about it. Oh, and it chooses 1 allied unit to be stunned and miss its turn. Oh, and he can use it whenever he wants.
Oh, and since Iver's the only allied unit, he's by default stunned and loses a turn. Which means Bellower can strike him down easily next turn.

Which he does. Iver, our mighty varl and Rook's best friend, tries to block the strike, but instead his arm is torn clean off by the blow. He falls to the ground.

Well...yeah, that's one way of putting it.

I'll say this for Eyvind: he's incredibly brave.

Eyvind could barely handle a stonesinger; not sure what he's gonna try against Bellower, but then...

That giant thing we saw before? You all mostly guessed it was a serpent. But now we know for sure. And the dredge are apparently as afraid of it as we are. If nothing else, it gives us a chance to collect Iver and run like hell back to Einartoft.

We're brought back to Einartoft where we can talk to Eyvind. But before we do so...

OK game you clearly want to give me a worldhook and I'm buying this. I also spent the remaining 6 renown on 18 supplies. Enough to hold us over a couple more days.

: Can you save...

: Yes. Probably. Give me silence.
Nearly three hours pass silently as Eyvind plies his trade. Flesh slowly forms and closes across Iver's torn frame.
: as much as I can do. He should make it...
: Thank you.
The mender looks exhausted, leaning heavily against the bed.
: When was the last time you slept?
: A couple...days ago...I'm ok. Just need to sit.
Before you can catch him, the mender crumbles to the floor.

Cheerful, that. Iver's lost an arm and is at death's door, and our newfound wizard friend just passed out from exhaustion.

BGM: Weary the Weight of the Sun

The next chapter opens somewhere we've seen before: the ruined tower of Ridgehorn. Except...the woman who was dead next to Eyvind is very much not dead.
Oh, and the serpent is there.

I don't know what this means. Anyone?

You also realize that a monumental serpent is speaking to you now. Your last certainty was that you died some time ago...and that it is about to happen again.

The serpent tries to exsanguinate Juno, but she...has a shield spell, I guess?

: Frustrating.
You are slow to understand the serpent. It speaks in a language that recalls very ancient memories of words you learned long ago.
: If you are not going to die, I suppose we must speak instead. Who are you?

: My name is Juno.

: You are a Juno? It means nothing to me. Maybe I have asked the wrong question. What are you? What is your purpose?

: I am a mender.
: Mender? Ah, Valka. Now the picture is forming. Do you not know me, Valka?
Though your memory is still fuzzy, you're certain you know nothing about an enormous serpent.
: What do your prophecies say? The gods gave you prophecy. Fate. Destiny. Is there no child coming to slay me with a magic sword? Are there no stars in the sky fortelling this disaster? Do you truly not know?
: The gods are dead.
: Dead? How is that...are you a god? No. The gods are silent and before me stands one who knows not what they have done. Listen carefully now, for I will give you a prophecy.
: I am the end. Do you understand? This world, and this tapestry, I would devour. It is my purpose. But I cannot. Instead, now comes a wall of night to consume your pitiful world.
: Wall of night? The dredge?
: Dredge? Stone men marching across a long bridge? No. It is darkness. The egg white that has turned black. I am meant to devour the tapestry itself, not idly witness the dusk smother this rock.
: I am incomplete! A worm crawling through a dung field! Because of you! Who are you to take my destiny? What are you?!! RETURN WHAT IS MINE!

He tries to kill her again, with similar success.

: Eyvind...
: Ju, Juno? You're're alive! How?! Where are you? Wait, where am I?
: Asleep, I presume. Or unconscious. I am in Ridgehorn, I think. A serpent was trying to kill me, now I'm talking to you. Time is moving strangely. I've lost swathes of memories. But I found you. For a short time, at least. The serpent said something about a long bridge. So I took a guess.
: It came after you? We saw it at Einartoft. Are you ok?
: It tried to turn me to ash after we spoke. I'd be surprised if that's the last we've seen of it.
: It could tear the land apart or crush cities if it wanted. What do we do?
: It gets worse. A prophecy of the gods that I've never heard of.
: There are still prophecies out there?
: It was vague. Sounded like that serpent was supposed to swallow the world. Instead, some kind of darkness or nothingness is seeping from the north. It devours whatever it touches.
: That would explain why the dredge are swarming on us like someone kicked an ant hill.
: Eyvind, are you in danger?
: You could say so. Bellower is here. The varl are holding him off, but not for much longer, I think. Of all the Sundr, why the immortal one?
: Bellower. That is the worst of luck. I would have you come to me, but...we will have to do this the hard way. Listen closely. I will return to Strand and find passage down the Red River. You must leave Einartoft and meet me in Sigrholm.
: Juno, we'll never make it to Sigrholm. Bellower is about to overtake us. The varl won't listen to a thing I...
: Find a way. Do whatever it takes. I will not be able to contact you again before Sigrholm. Go. And Eyvind?
: Yes?
: I love you.

So...I guess that's the next step in our journey, but we have to get out of here safely first.

: You've spent a lot of time next to him since he passed out.
: Just keeping an eye on him. It's not like that, dad. He saved Iver. He might save the rest of us.
: Can he hear us? He just moved...

: How long was I...?
: You were out for a couple days. How do you feel?
: Juno! She's alive! I need to meet her in Sigrholm.
: Hold on, slow down. Who's Juno?
: She's my mentor...on the mender council. She contacted me.
: Contacted you how?
: She's not like most menders. What happened here since I passed out?
: The varl are holding the dredge back, just barely. Bellower has disappeared. Iver is still out of it. Jorundr sent Hakon, Ludin, and a couple hundred varl away to Arberrang. I don't know how long we'll be able to hold out here.
: Rook, I need your help. Take me to Sigrholm. Juno is going to meet us there.
: Sigrholm? That's got to be a week away, at least. And just abandon Einartoft?
: Maybe, or...No, I could destroy that god forsaken bridge myself. That would delay the immediate threat, but...Jorundr will never agree to it.
: I need to understand a few things, Eyvind. What's going on around here? That serpent? Bellower?
: Look, I know things''s a long story. How well do you know history?
: We're from a very small town in the woods.
: I'll keep it short. You know how men and varl were made...the Loom-mother, the other gods. In the first great war, the armies of men and varl hated each other. They fought bitterly for land and dominance.
: Then one of the gods created the dredge, and they were such a threat that unless men and varl set aside their differences, they threatened to wipe out both races. So they did. They ended the war, pushed the dredge into the north, and formed an alliance that has held ever since.
: The second great war began generations later. The dredge rallied their forces, defeated the varl who watched the borders and laid wate to unsuspecting settlements throughout the world.
: They were led by Sundr, powerful dredge warlords and weavers, like Bellower. He was there in the second great war. Humanity was on the brink of extinction when the inner circle of menders went forth, and finally sent the Sundr and the dredge deep underground. For the most part, the dredge haven't tried to return since. Well...until now.
: Those menders were called "Valka." Juno wasn't there herself, but she's from their bloodline.

: So another great war has begun.
: If I didn't think the world was ending it would be incredible. Ancient history is playing out before us.
: What about the serpent?
: That's another story. I...there's nothing in the mender's libraries about that thing.
: It must have something to do with the dredge returning.
: That seems likely.
: What do we do about Bellower?
: I can't stop him. But I believe Juno can. That's why we need to go. We could just leave...

: And let the varl die to give us a head start?
: It's not my first choice. I've done everything I can on my own.
: Why won't Jorundr bring the bridge down?
: I can't completely understand it myself. The last time I mentioned it he made his mind very clear. He'll let the city, and the rest of the world, fall before that damned bridge.
: You said you could bring the bridge down yourself? How?
: Not by myself. I could blast it apart, but this bridge wasn't made to fall. It'll take time, and concentration. That's why I need your help. And the varl will try to stop me. It could mean holding off both the dredge and the varl.
: I need time to think about this.
: I understand. Be quick, Rook.
: There has to be some way to...I can't believe the varl would be so stubborn!
: Speak to Jorundr yourself. He's in the great hall. Maybe you'll have more luck. Or maybe he'll put your head on a spike. Rook, I hate to put this all on your shoulders but I've got few friends here. Come to a decision quickly. Either way, we can't stay. We have to make it to Sigrholm. Juno will know what to do.

So...there you go. We need to get to Sigrholm, but our current situation is pretty desperate. Do we:
1.) Abandon the varl to their fate and make a break for it?
2.) Try to hold out a while longer in hopes that Iver recovers and can offer guidance?
3.) Try and bring down the bridge RIGHT NOW
4.) Try and hold out, but if things get shittier try and bring down the bridge?