March 13, 2013 by Tim

I was going to talk a little bit more about SimCity today, but… honestly what is there to tell you? It’s SimCity. This one is prettier, and more detailed/complex… but if you know SimCity, you know what the game is.

Instead, let me talk to you about another game I’ve been playing recently that perhaps you haven’t heard of. It’s called The Banner Saga: Factions.

The Banner Saga was Kickstarted last spring (rather successfully), and is intended to be a turn-based RPG story. Factions is the multiplayer spinoff/component of the larger brand, and is currently available on Steam for the incredibly reasonable price of free.

Factions is a turn-based tactics game in which two teams of vikings go head to head until one team is defeated.

That’s right. Motherfuckin’ vikings.

The Banner Saga: Factions has a number of things going for it. The first that you’ll notice is the incredible art and animation in the game. The sprites are hand drawn and animated, and the style reminds me a bit of the old Rankin/Bass cartoons (their 2D stuff, not the claymation). It’s very attractive and sets the game apart from pretty much anything else.

However beneath the gorgeous appearance of the game is a deceptively fun and complex strategy game. Like most tactics games, each unit can only move a certain number of tiles each turn. Rather than having your whole team move at once, you alternate with your opponent. So there’s a lot of thinking to be done in terms of which units get to activate before which units in regards to planning a strategy.

Additionally, each unit has an armor stat, which helps mitigate damage, and a health stat which also double as their strength stat. So this means how much life they have, and how much damage they can do are directly connected.

This opens up a lot of options in how you approach your strategy. When you make an attack, do you try to chip away at their armor, which essentially makes them easier to damage on later turns, or do you directly attack for health, knowing you’ll do less damage (because of their armor) but that they won’t be able to hit you quite as hard.

Add in the limited expendable resource of Willpower for boosting attack and movement, and there’s a lot to consider.

As your vikings kill things in battle, and you complete matches, you’re rewarded with renown, which is the primary currency in the game. Renown is used to promote units (once they’ve met the prerequisite number of kills in battle), or to purchase new base units to customize your team loadout.

It’s a free-to-play game, which means they ask for money via an in-game marketplace. There isn’t much there currently… you can purchase boosts to earn renown a little faster, or alternate color schemes for your different units, but that’s about it. I didn’t Kickstart last spring, but I think the developers have something really cool here, so I’m going to send some of my money their way.

If you like turn-based strategy, and you like Vikings, I highly recommend checking out The Banner Saga. Factions is full of charm and fun, and I’m excited to see what else Stoic brings us when the full RPG comes out. I’ve heard that the single player and multiplayer game will be intwined, so I’m very much looking forward to it.

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