2. Game Mechanics
At first glance, The Banner Saga seems like a fairly simple game; however, there is a reasonable amount of depth to the combat and choices you make throughout the game. Strategy will be necessary to be successful though as you make your way through the game. You should get used to the different mechanics quickly.
Battles take place on a grid where you and the enemy take turns moving and attacking. The order of turns can be found at the bottom of the screen. It can sometimes be a pain figuring out which enemy will move next as the portraits are the same for units of the same kind (i.e. all Dredge Grunts have the same portrait regardless of the enemy variant).
When the cursor is on your unit you can see that units stats on the left side of the screen. The stats represented from top to bottom are -
- Break Power
Characters can move over the grid wherever tiles are shaded blue. If the character has enough Willpower, they can move extra spaces by consuming their Willpower.
In combat, both you and your enemies have two primary stats that determine the outcome - Armour & Strength. Your Strength works as both your HP and your damage output potential while Armour is exactly how it sounds. When attacking, the amount of damage you can deal is your Strength minus the enemy's Armour. So for example, your unit has 12 Strength and your enemy has 8 Armour. You would be able to do a minimum of 4 damage to that enemy's HP/Strength pool. Damage can be increased by using up Willpower through Exertion, but this will be explained a bit more down below and is covered fairly well in game.
When an enemy is defeated, you will earn 1 renown as well as earn bonus renown once the battle is over. Renown can be used to promote characters or spent in markets for supplies and/or items.
While travelling, there isn't a great deal you can do besides keep an eye on your group's morale. It is shown in the center of the HUD. After battles, if your troops are injured or if you have been travelling for more than a few days straight, press to be able to interact with the HUD then press to set up camp to rest and keep morale at normal or better.
The camp/village screen is pretty basic. In camp, you have the option of using the training tent for practice battles, a resting house to heal any injured characters, and the heroes tent/building where you can upgrade your characters. If you are in a village, you will also have the option of visiting the market to purchase supplies for the caravan or items to equip your characters with.
Renown is essentially both the games form of XP and currency. You spend renown to purchase supplies and items in markets when available as well as ranking up your characters after they get enough kills for a promotion. How much each rank costs depends on the level they are. In The Banner Saga majority of your characters will start from rank 1 with a possible max rank of 5. Each rank, its kill count and renown cost are as follows -
- Rank 2 - 2 Kills - 5 Renown
- Rank 3 - 5 Kills - 10 Renown
- Rank 4 - 9 Kills - 15 Renown
- Rank 5 - 14 Kills - 20 Renown
In the Heroes tent or as you prepare for battle, you can view and/or promote your characters to boost their abilities. Below is a picture with the functions of each stat and other information.
- Name/Class - Shows the name of your hero and what class they are
- Renown - Displays how much Renown you have available to spend
- Ability Level - Shows what level a character's abilty is. This can't be done manually and will go up as they're promoted
- Armour - Characters armour value
- Strength - Characters strength/HP value
- Willpower - Willpower is spent to use abilities, walk extra spaces, or spent as exertion to increase damage dealt
- Exertion - Optional damage increase that can only be used if character has enough Willpower banked
- Armour Break - Shows how much damage can be dealt to an enemy's armour before exertion is added
- Kill Count - Shows Kills/Kills needed to be eligible for promotion
- Equipped Item - If the hero has an item equipped, it will be displayed here. Press to equip one
The main use of morale is that it affects the Willpower values your units start with for each battle. Morale is influenced by multiple factors and can be seen at the top of your screen both when travelling and while in battle. Below is an image showing the colour coding for the different stages of morale from poor to great.
As mentioned before, your level of morale will determine how much Willpower your characters go into battle with. Each level has the following affect
- Poor - All units start with -2 Willpower
- Weak - All units start with -1 Willpower
- Normal - No changes negative or positive to Willpower
- Good - All units start with +1 Willpower
- Great - All units start with +2 Willpower
The state of your morale at any given time is decided by an unseen value. The value of your morale will determine what your caravan's morale level is at.
- Poor - 0-10
- Weak - 11-30
- Normal - 31-69
- Good - 70-89
- Great 90-100
Keeping your morale between Normal and Good is the best way to go as staying at Great is realistically not manageable in the long run. As you make your way through the game, a great deal of things will either grant or deduct morale from your value total. Things that will change your morale are:
- Wars - When in a war battle, you gain morale for staying to fight and defeating the second wave
- Story Events - Some unavoidable events will change your morale for worse or better depending on the choices you make
- Random Events - Some random events will either increase or decrease your morale. One or two events will lower your morale no matter what you do
- Travelling - For every day your caravan is on the road, you will lose 10 morale points
- Resting - Visiting villages or choosing to set up camp and using the rest tent will increase morale by 10 for each day rested (as long as you have sufficient supplies)
- Starvation - When travelling or resting with supplies at zero, people in your caravan will begin to die of starvation. This will significantly and rapidly lower your morale. Avoid at all costs.
Wars between your caravan and the Dredge will begin popping up often after the first couple of chapters of the game. When you enter into a war, the game will tell you how many units the enemy has compared to your army. The difference between army sizes is usually not significant and rarely should you be outnumbered. Once a war has begun, you will get a bunch of options on how to proceed. Three options lead to battle while the other two offer ways out. All options will have an impact on the members of your caravan.
- Charge - Battle difficulty +1 but least amount of caravan casualties
- Formations - Standard difficulty, moderate amount of casualties
- Hold them off - Battle difficulty -1 but caravan will take heavy losses
- Retreat - Flee with no battle with heavy losses to caravan
- Oversee - Battle is automatically done for you (can result in a loss). Caravan casualties are moderate to heavy
For the most part, Charge and Formations are the best options. Once you have won the battle in a war, you will be asked if you want to pull back and regroup or continue fighting. The first option will simply end the battle with no negative consequences while the second option will see a second wave of enemies (usually much smaller than the first) appear without a break in between. If your characters are weak, it is best to skip this. Should you fight a second round and win you will get more renown and have the chance of finding a random item.
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