The Banner Saga

skogr

Making a game less user-friendly in order to alter how it is perceived is a difficult thing to do, but more and more people are realizing how restrictions change player behavior. Papers, Please is perhaps the best and most obvious recent example in this regard, but I would argue that the difference between Dragon Age and Mass Effect is another, albeit more subtle way of doing it – offering the player choices with little to no hint of how it will play out. The Banner Saga does this a lot, for great effect.

The Banner Saga tells a story about reluctant leaders. It is a grim tale and the uncertainty of the outcome of your decisions really exemplify why the protagonists lead not because they want to, but because someone has to. There are very few unambiguously good or bad decisions – abandon the villagers and they will likely be slaughtered by the armies scouring the land. Bring them along and everyone is likely to starve as you run out of resources. A multitude of  factors make it hard to optimize your results, further using gameplay to establish the protagonists as barely hanging on, making choices they hope will be good in the long run.

It is a dark story with uncertain endings, possibly not one that would do well in a AAA environment. As such, the Banner Saga is a fine example of how the diversification of game development into different-sized projects help the industry mature.

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Posted on Jan 26/14 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »