Part 15: 8-1: I'm on a BoatUPDATE 15: I'M ON A BOAT
Two years after the original was released, The Banner Saga 2 came out. It is my favorite game in the series. It corrects a lot of the mechanical flaws of the first game, still has choices that matter, a beautiful soundtrack, and does an antihero really damn well.
It also features a "Watch Recap" functionality which summarizes the events of the previous installment. It's a well-put together video and I recommend you watch it.
Click here for a video summary of The Banner Saga 1. Spoilers, obviously.
Alette gets a hood if Rook dies. Rook gets...severe depression...if Alette dies. Anyway, I don't know what happens if you start from scratch. I've never tried it. We're importing, of course.
Upon importing, we get an intro video that's lightly tailored based on who fell in the Battle of Boersgard. Just watch it. It's better than a series of screenshots.
Seriously, watch that video. But if for some reason you can't, it's Ubin voicing things over:
: Time continues washing over us. Moment after moment. Like waves on a coast. Some more fierce, more violent than others. So few of my kind - the giant varl - remain alive. Even so, I find myself wondering if humans, while able to bear children, suffer more for the loss of their loved ones.
Several weeks have passed since we slew the Sundr known as Bellower. But the chaos of the world did not wither as we hoped. The world...is breaking.
We sail aboard hastily crafted ships for the safety of Arberrang, the human capital. But the river curses us with a clear view of the dredge assaulting another hopeless village.
Enter...the hopeless village.
Hey, combat backgrounds are a bit more interesting looking now!
The hopeless villagers meet a slinger.
This guy knows what's up.
This guy doesn't.
And both he and his friend pay the price for their ignorance.
The smarter fighers goes over and takes out the slinger, promoting from it. Guess he's a hero unit. Maybe he won't die?
Indeed, Alette rushes onto the scene, draws back her bow, and...
Slays the giant stoneguard in a single blow.
Hakon and Iver arrive. This is a tutorial battle. The Iver and Hakon (and Alette) in this battle are NOT the ones we'll be controlling in our game. They have fixed stats and all the moves here are scripted.
We already know how combat works in The Banner Saga series so we're gonna skip a lot of that.
The only thing really worth noting: there are now barracades that have health bars. Destroy them, and you can move past them.
That's roughly the extent of the in-combat innovation in this game. There are some new moves for characters, and everything is a lot prettier. And a ton of new items. But in general, there's only so much polishing you can do to the combat system. It is what it is.
: Your timing makes me think the gods have returned! Please, I--"
He stops when Iver nods his head towards you. The man peers under your hood.
: A girl leads those who saved us from...those things?
: Between losing so many clansmen and this, I feel...I'm not myself. I thank you, child.
He whips back his cloak with a flourish.
: I am Aleo, the skald. And your name?
: Alette, and this is Iver.
: Ah, names destined for history.
: Sounds like the brave poet is going to use us in a few proper verses.
: I'll even make them rhyme, given the time.
His smile seems genuine - as much as the concern that follows.
: Do you have any idea what might be causing the deep rumbling underfoot?
: Deep rumbling?
: Could be that giant Serpent again.
: I don't think the Sun Serpent would break mountains and try to swallow us all.
: Who could say with the sun stopped in the sky like it is?
Aleo looks skeptical.
: Tell me: did you just come from Boersgard? We heard rumor the Sundr Bellower was sacking the town.
: We killed Bellower.
Aleo pauses and looks to Iver who confirms your statement with a nod.
: History indeed! Sundr-Slayers here among us. Depths! There's so many questions to ask.
The skald nods his understanding but another question creases his brow.
: Leave? Not to sound ungrateful, but this place...it's all we have. It's our home.
: I felt the same when Skogr was overrun.
: But my children...you don't understa--
Aleo takes a step back before lowering his head.
: Packing and tending to our dead will take some time. I'll have everyone on the ships soon.
You watch Aleo rejoin his family.
You smile but say nothing.
: People thinking we're heroes now? The world is breaking in more ways than one.
: It's not the first time you've been called a hero, Yngvar.
Iver, your father's closest friend, looks unamused. He is one of the giants known as varl and has fought dredge in the northern winters, personally killed one of their generals - the Sundr Raze - and lost an arm to the Sundr Bellower.
: I just keep hoping I'll wake up and see my dad again.
: Yeah. I keep thinking this is one of Rook's pranks like when he made your mother think he had the plague.
Iver's smile fades when he sees your face.
: I like hearing how they were together.
: "Happy Humans" I used to call them. She made him smile. He made her laugh. You look so much like her when you smile. The entire caravan seems to enjoy it, too.
He walks towards the village, leaving you alone with your thoughts.
The better title card for this game.
Also, Alette handles the death of her father FAR better than Rook the death of his daughter. After the tutorial fight in Rook's path, he decides to charge headlong into about 12 dredge stoneguards (and 1 slinger and 1 grunt). It starts a battle with them where you're not in PILLAGE! mode--Rook gets 1 move per each enemy despite being the only hero unit on the map.
Because stoneguards are so damn big and can block one another, it's a winnable fight. There's an achievement for it. But it takes a while and I'm pretty sure the game expects you to lose it.
Point being, Alette doesn't have the "I'll never forgive Klingons for the death of my son" suicidal hate streak that Rook starts The Banner Saga 2 with.
Chapters 1-7 were in the first game. We start on Chapter 8.
We're still in tutorial-land. We don't really need to know how this stuff works, but I guess if we were new?
The game also forces us to buy supplies we don't need.
More importantly, new items!
The Banner Saga 2 raises the level cap from 5 to 10. Items scale accordingly. It also introduces "talents" which we'll get to as soon as someone hits level 6. Which they will very shortly.
For now, none of these items are worth buying.
Lots of talking available in Aleo's village. Let's go check on Egil first.
: I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask. I didn't know there were rules on how to ask.
Ludin: still a dick, now with facial hair.
: Oh, out here where we earn a name for ourselves instead of being born with a title?
Egil: Still awesome, though still without facial hair.
Ludin, surprised by the comment, sees you standing nearby. He straightens his posture.
: Your words are getting the better of you. I'll attempt to forget what you've just said.
The prince nods to you and walks away.
Gil looks shocked to see you.
: Uh, nothing. Just...becoming a king's guard requires more than skill - you need a name.
: King's guard? You're looking forward to Arberrang, aren't you?
: Just thinking. About the future, you know?
He suddenly looks concerned.
: Alette. Listen, I'm sorry for not fighting by you during the attack.
: You don't need--
: Then why weren't you by my side?
A flush brightens his cheeks.
: My shiled. I jumped from the ship, and...well...it doesn't float. At all.
You smile. His face reddens further.
: I feel like such an idiot.
: Quit beating yourself up, Gil. And let's keep the shield thing just between us.
Gil relaxes a bit and nods.
: Yeah. Good idea. Thanks.
Poor kid tanks an immortal Sundr, but can't talk to girls. Let's see what Oddleif's up to.
: Give us a moment, will you?
The group walks away as Oddleif stands and wipes loose feathers from her tunic.
: Those people owe you their lives. Your decision to stop here saved every one of them.
: Don't be naive. Saving people is what you do. What your father did. Those under this banner agreed because they follow you.
Her tone is forceful and you almost smile to break the tension. Almost.
: Alette, they respected Rook and that respect has passed to you, but give them any reason to doubt you and it'll vanish.
: Then I won't give them reason to doubt me.
She stares at you for a drawn out moment before nodding. Her demeanor softens.
: I wanted to discuss the clansmen. They're good at scavenging for food and the more we have, the more food they'll find.
: Training some of them to fight will help keep the others safe, but it takes time and I'm not sure we have much of that to spare.
: As our leader, you're expected to decide how many fight and how many look for food.
: I'll keep that in mind. Thanks, Odd.
You turn to leave but Oddleif stops you. She grabs you in a tight hug.
: Rook had a way of making it easy for all of us to be stronger.
Her words seem to be as much for her as they are for you.
Oddleif is well aware that trying to get people to follow a woman is a daunting task. She's trying to get Alette to harden the fuck up even while recognizing she's a grieving orphan.
Anyway, let's go see Bolverk.
: There is no haggling on this. You already accepted the offer in Boersgard.
: Get this one to do it.
If Juno is surprised by your presence, it doesn't show. She continues to stare straight at the varl.
: Alette is seeing to the survival of this caravan - something I doubt you care to do.
: And you're big for your small role.
The woman looks wounded for a brief moment before readying an insult.
: This will help nothing. What we were discussing is private.
Her look at Bolverk says she expects him to keep it private.
: Eyvind needs my help with healing the wounded, but we should leave soon. See Hakon at the dock when you're ready.
Juno leaves without another word.
: Fang and Claw?
: His axes.
The large axe heads are polished, the blades sharp, and the cheeks scared from plenty of use. But it's the grey handles that stand out. They're unlike anything you've seen before.
: So, you're leading this rabble now?
: Only to Arberrang. Then it's King Meinolf's job.
: Like he's got the answer to any of this. He'd royally piss himself if he ever saw a dredge.
The pig tailed fighter laughs.
: What's your name?
Bolverk gives her a stern look, but she doesn't back down.
: I already know who you are, Chieftain.
: I'm not the chieftain.
: You say where to go and the rest follow. Where I'm from, that's the chieftain.
: Wouldn't matter if you were Hadrborg reborn. I never joined the Raven banner to yours. That clear?
: As long as you feed yourselves, you can follow or leave when you want. But your help in a fight would be welcome.
Bolverk snorts and turns his attention to a large, sealed cart behind him. His bear-cloaked back indicates the conversation is over.
Alright, no more talking. Can we go now?
: You seem to be handling it just fine.
: I'm not looking for praise. I just want to know what we're expecting when this is all over. There's so few varl left. How do I keep my people alive?
: I'm not looking for an answer from you either. It's something a varl king should be able to figure out. Let's sail.
And we do.
After lighting the funeral pyre, the last villagers find seats on your rickety longships built of scrap wood scavenged in Boersgard. The Ravens find space around a large cart on their black-sailed vessel. Oars slowly move all the boats into the river's current.
Welcome to the Ormsa river. We're gonna sail halfway to Arberrang before we have to hoof it, if all goes well. Also, the game somehow got even prettier. I'm gonna have to buy the art book, I think.
Not long after we start, though, this bullshit happens. Oddleif was right: it's gonna be tough for Alette to maintain leadership.
: My father was great. I hope to be remembered as fondly.
You thought we were done with tutorial shit? Tough luck. Aleo has to puke.
: The Valka, Juno, says the menders there can protect us.
"Dredge," says Aleo, almost in awe. "Man and varl's storied foe from oh so ever long ago. But they're real, and here. How have they made it so far south?" His glance at the varl is met with both anger and shame.
The longship rocks gently and the skald grabs a rope to steady himself. "If only we had the fabled horses to ride upon, we'd outpace the dredge and be on sound footing." His dramatized misery is almost as amusing as his thanks when he steps back onto land.
So...here's the goal of The Banner Saga 2. Or at least the goal for now. As we saw in the first installment, plans can change. We're trying to sail down the Ormsa river to Ormsdalr, at which point we'll disembark and travel the Eastway Road to Arberrang, the human capital.
But first, more tutorial stuff. Including "how to rest." We're forced to rest even though everyone's fine and we're in good spirits. And what's this?
Remember when I said we failed to get Tryggvi, the kickstarter-backer reward character from The Banner Saga? Well now everyone gets him. He's functionally identical to Ludin in combat and stats. But a lot nicer and funnier. And if we manage to keep him alive into the next chapter, has some really good character development.
: You wouldn't be confused by Tryggvi's presence if you'd supported this journey long ago.
The man's eyes glaze over for a moment before clearing. He now acts like you're old friends.
: It's hard to push a spear through a tree. Easier to turn the tree into another spear.
: What? That's it. Shoo, now! Haha! Shoo!
Tryggvi starts laughing. It's disturbing and as you walk away, you hear him singing.
: Yellow and blue will lie to you, lie to you, lie to you...
So here's the thing about Tryggvi. He's sorta psychic and can break the 4th wall at times. In The Banner Saga, he tells Rook "not to trust people who look at you through their helmets."
Who is the only character in the whole game who can look at you through a helmet?
Onef, who we never saw this scene for because we killed him in Frostvellr (thus keeping Ekil alive).
Meaning that there's a high probability of someone in yellow and blue lying to us. Oh, and we should watch out for people who look at us through their helmets.
Anyway, we're not done talking to people.
: Is there something you need?
: Seems I should be asking you that. I'm Rugga, the governor of Boersgard.
: It's a pleasure to meet you.
: I'm glad you feel that way. I've been watching you command from a distance. Not bad so far.
This is Dagr. Unless something is different on Alette's path, he's not playable in the campaign. He is playable in the "Survival Mode" minigame that was released with the game. It's nothing but endless combat with permadeath. It gets hilariously hard--like "Bellower is not the most dangerous enemy on this map" levels of hard. I might show it off at some point but the whole point of the LP is to not have to deal with the combat...
: So far? Should I be expecting trouble?
: I'm hoping you already know the answer to that. I'm simply here to offer my help before the trouble arrives.
: What help can you provide?
: You've never been to Arberrang before, right?
: I'd never left Skogr before all of this.
: A pretty girl rarely needs to leave her village. I'm sure men were already offering to provide for you. But I'm from Arberrang. It's different from anything you can imagine.
: Different how?
: I'm not easily frightened.
: Really? I heard you've made it this far without killing anyone. I hope that's not out of fear.
Editor's Note: Not sure if this is something he always said because Alette had an aversion to killing people, or if the "Innocent" flag tripped by mistake in the import. Let's hope it doesn't matter.
: I can do what's necessary.
: Remind yourself of that so that you're always prepared to act. I'll teach you what I can along the way. We'll try to shore up the fact you're a young girl, but it'll take work.
He smiles and with a motion, he and his guard depart.
So there you go. Oddleif says we're gonna struggle to maintain leadership of the caravan. Rugga says it's only gonna get worse when we hit Arberrang. Alette needs to solidify her leadership pronto.
Anyway, before we set sail again, let's look at our party.
Checks out. All items imported, all heroes who should be alive are alive.
Note that Hakon is only level 4 despite ending The Banner Saga 1 at level 5. The import file apparently is created after you make the Silver Arrow choice but before you fight Bellower. Meaning I get that renown back, but also Hakon is a lower level. We'll get him back to 5 eventually, no worries.
Dundr's Hand burned up on Rook's funeral boat, though--he was wearing them before the Silver Arrow choice was made.
Anyway, the level cap is raised to 10 in this game. And Alette (and Iver, Egil, Bersi, and maybe Hakon) all have 30 kills--which is what you need to hit level 10. Renown will be the chokepoint here, not kills.
All units get a 2nd ability when they promote to level 6.
In the case of most units, you can just select an ability from your base class (i.e., the axe brothers can select stone wall a la Egil, and vice versa. They're not as good at it as he is though because of Egil's naturally high armor.)
Oh, and any warrior varl can get tempest now. EVERYONE is getting tempest holy shit.
In the case of special unique characters like Alette and Eyvind and a few others, though, you get a skill that's unique to the character rather than a choice of abilities.
I've been told Overwatch is crazy overpowered, but we'll see. I was not that impressed when I used it in the upcoming fight, but maybe she needs to be level 10. It also might be the case that it got nerfed since the game was released.
The Banner Saga 2 also introduces "talents."
When you hit the stat cap for a given score (armor, strength, etc) instead of being unable to put more points in, you can select 1 of 2 talents (mutually exclusive). You can naturally attain 3 ranks in that talent, with items bringing you to +6 total.
Some talents are REALLY good.
Some are shit.
Plus in general I don't like them because they rely on % chance in a game where a series of XCOM-esque unlucky rolls can completely fuck up your perfect play. And lead to permadeath and campaign failure. Combat in 1, as odd as it was, was balanced pretty well.
Things get a little weird when you start adding powerful things in like "30% chance to completely avoid a strength attack."
Anyway, here are all the talents. Alette should never see close range fighting so she invests in Artery Strike for higher crit chance.
Aleo's a class we've not seen before, though there's another bard in the game we'll see later.
The bard active is "tale worth telling." Basically you only use it if you fucked up very badly.
The bard passive is "skald's song." This is very handy if you park Aleo next to some ranged units. He'll constantly keep your willpower topped off.
Tryggvi is literally "what if Ludin, but not an asshole."
His necklace gives critical hit chance and he wore it in The Banner Saga 1. It's pretty outclassed by now.
Finally, we get moving again, but we need to chop through this driftwood to keep going.
And, naturally, this doesn't go to plan.
The gimmick to this fight is that every axe wielder in the party is chopping driftwood. So they can't be in your battle party.
Let's take Aleo out for a spin, shall we? And we can try out Alette's new Overwatch skill.
All these guys are busy chopping. We'll keep them safe.
There's only 1 ranged unit in the entire dredge party. And with that gnarled tree root providing blocking for us, the old "tank with Egil" trick should do nicely. Krumr has decent armor and can take care of the rest of the gap.
Alette's overwatch works as stated: she gets a free strength attack against anything moving into or out of her attack range. But a strength attack against an 18 dredge stoneguard just bounces off the armor. Kinda lame.
Yrsa's break is absurd.
Alette gets a kill on the armorless stoneguard.
And Aleo does a little animation where he chants something and everyone gains +1 willpower. Nice!
I eventually move Alette over to the wint to take care of that annoying slinger who won't fall into my tanking trap.
And one of the stoneguards summons a grunt who spawns beneath the chokepoint, but otherwise the whole battle is just Egil and Krmur clogging things up while the archers pick everyone apart.
I want Aleo to hit level 6 if at all possible; the other bard skill is very good. So I'll feed him kills whenever possible.
Also this game gives renown for achievements. Neat.
Eventually, Egil gets bored of tanking and kills the last enemy.
Literally no one is injured and we have good willpower. We're absolutely doing wave 2.
Wave 2 is a bit more dangerous but shouldn't be too hard.
However, despite being similar enemy composition, they are smart enough to go around the chokepoint. Which forces me to break formation and I start taking damage. Aleo gets smoked by a couple dredge slinger bombs.
As pictured here. He's alive, but is having a bad time.
Still, with Eyvind available to top off armor and then arc lightning-ing a few more threatening units, everything is fine.
And a badly wounded Aleo brings down the last enemy.
0 injuries. 0 causalities in the caravan. 28 renown. A resounding victory.
And so with the way cleared, we set sail again.
The next few events are kind of tied together but I want to do a vote on them.
We want to get to Arberrang, but some of the villages around the banks of the river have people in need of help. As we saw in the first Banner Saga, not everyone is trustworthy. How should we handle encounters?
1.) Everyone is invited to join the caravan, no questions asked.
2.) We'll be cautious. If people seem like they might be trouble, we'll leave them out.
3.) Fuck everyone; they're not under our banner, we can't save the world, and it's not like these boats are all that sturdy.
How should we structure the formation of our boats and handle obstacles?
1.) Every boat is equipped with an even mix of fighters, varl, and clansmen. We'll put civilians in danger on every boat, but every boat will be able to defend itself, too.
2.) Make some fighter boats and some civilian boats. The fighters can protect the civilians, provided something doesn't go wrong.
If boats are in need of repair, what do we do?
1.) Dock the boats. If dredge come we can murder the shit out of them. Unless they have cutscene powers.
2.) Move everyone from the boats in need of repair to the functional boats. Saves time, but these rickety ships are barely holding together as is.