Stoic’s The Banner Saga was one of those standout role playing games in 2014 that somehow held its own among bigger names like Shadowrun: Dragonfall and Wasteland 2. This was achieved through an unorthodox setting based on Norse fantasy and a combat system that resembled a squad-focused, turn-based RPG with intriguing. It seems that The Banner Saga was only the surface that fans scratched at – The Banner Saga 2 aims to go even deeper and become potentially weirder in the process.
GamingBolt had a chance to speak to Stoic co-owner/art director Arnie Jorgensen and co-owner/technical director John Watson about the sequel and what fans can look forward to, whether players can transfer progress from the original to the new game and just what the heck is going on throughout.
"I guess one could look at the Banner Saga 1 as surface detail, the ripples on the top of the ocean and the next parts will take the experience deeper and into darker waters, as any good Norse saga should."
Rashid K. Sayed: There hasn’t been too much information on The Banner Saga 2 since its initial announcement in December 2014 and then a short teaser this past May. How has development been progressing thus far?
Arnie Jorgensen: We’re still on track to hitting our launch goals, which is saying a lot in game development and in particular for the Stoic team. We’re extremely happy with how it’s shaping up and the feedback from the first playable demo at E3 was overwhelmingly positive so we feel very optimistic that the community will enjoy the game. All that being said, of course, we will not launch a game until it is done. Our players would expect no less.
Rashid K. Sayed: The Banner Saga saw a standalone army sent to fight the Dredge and ultimately stop its leader, Bellower. What’s changed with the story and characters for The Banner Saga 2?
Arnie Jorgensen: Oh, wow, this question asks a lot. The basic answer is ‘a lot’! The planned story arc is a trilogy and the 1st part was just to set the stage for the true, hidden story to be told. I guess one could look at the Banner Saga 1 as surface detail, the ripples on the top of the ocean and the next parts will take the experience deeper and into darker waters, as any good Norse saga should. Hang on, it only gets stranger from here…I picture Willy Wonka’s poetic ramblings on the candy ship as it charges through the tunnel.
Rashid K. Sayed: Will players’ progress and decisions from the first game carry over into the second game?
Arnie Jorgensen: Yes, if the player wishes. By default we will present the game with 2 options based on who shot the arrow at the end of the Banner Saga 1 (no spoilers!) and then give them our ‘default’ or canon set of accompanying heroes and decisions that were made in the previous game. This is a good option for those who missed the Banner Saga 1, but for those finished it we’ll enable the ability to import their save game so all their decisions and character progressions will be saved. For instance, if you do not import a save game file then we will let you know if you did or did not destroy the Einartoft bridge. It will be out of your hands like the decisions in any novel.
"The Horseborn are a race created by a god in the world who crossed horses with man. They are friends to no-one and moved to the southern plains to live in isolation."
Rashid K. Sayed: The combat from the original game was praised for its challenging but rewarding nature. Are you taking a similar kind of combat system for The Banner Saga 2 or have some refinements been made along the way?
Arnie Jorgensen: We will continue with the same base system of strength and armor, but improve it in many ways by adding more variety in combat, more variety in win conditions and also a far more cinematic feel to both combat and the game in general. John has taken time to build some great tools for us make it happen. We plan on progressing the story through the combats as well with characters speaking during the action and responding to the enemies movements. The War system is also being modified with the addition of a War Council made up of heroes that can offer advice through story point conversations. This advice will change the tactics, win conditions and rewards of each battle.
Another aspect of the previous game that was praised was the artwork and visual style. Can we look forward to the same quality this time around and what new additions to the world can we expect in the process?
Arnie Jorgensen: I sure hope we can keep up the level of art in the second game, it’s my job to do so. We were able to hire some help for me this time around and found an amazing artist from Kazakhstan named Igor Artyomenko who is training up in the style and has already produced some beautiful pieces seen in the E3 demo. As far what people can expect to see in the world, well, they’ll have to wait. 🙂
Rashid K. Sayed: What can you tell us about the Horseborn, the new race? What new attacks and tactics do they bring to the forefront?
Arnie Jorgensen: The Horseborn are a race created by a god in the world who crossed horses with man. They are friends to no-one and moved to the southern plains to live in isolation. There is a sad history to the race which will be told in the game.
In battle they are all about speed and movement with hit and run tactics. Their visuals are based on the stocky Icelandic ponies, not like centaur of Greek myth. Their armor, weapons and decoration are derived from the bronze age Celts.
"The Banner Saga would be fine at 30fps actually, it doesn't reap the same benefits of a higher frame rate than a first person shooter or other types of games have."
Rashid K. Sayed: Naval ships were seen in the last teaser for The Banner Saga 2. Is there a possibility of naval combat making its way to the game in some shape or form?
Arnie Jorgensen: Those are hastily constructed ships pieced together from buildings, fences and other wooden structures in Boersgard, not longships built for war. As far as battling on them, only time will tell.
Rashid K. Sayed: The Banner Saga 2 is coming on PS4, Xbox One and PC. What kind of development challenges you came across while working on three different platforms?
John Watson: Porting to consoles has been a difficult road for us, but not because of the underlying console technology. Working with console technology is exciting and gratifying. However, since we are a very small team, we’ve looked to outside developers to help us get the game running on console.
Rashid K. Sayed: Is the game going to run at 1080p and 60fps across all platforms?
John Watson: As far as I know, yes. Certainly the 1080p part. The Banner Saga would be fine at 30fps actually, it doesn’t reap the same benefits of a higher frame rate than a first person shooter or other types of games have.
Rashid K. Sayed: Of the current gen consoles available, namely the PS4 and Xbox One, which has impressed you the most and why?
John Watson: I’m not willing to rank them against each other but I will say that I have been very impressed at how Microsoft and Sony both have been engaging and helpful during the whole process.
"We remain flabbergasted and appreciative of all the interest and excitement that the Banner Saga has generated."
Rashid K. Sayed: How far into development is The Banner Saga 2? Can we expect it early next year?
John Watson: The game will launch, according to our current forecasts, this winter. We like launching this game in the winter as it should be played alongside a nicely stoked fire to keep the cold of the deepening snow outside at bay.
Rashid K. Sayed: Finally, the latest teaser hints at a darker story in the sequel. How badly do things take a turn for the worst or is it just the beginning in The Banner Saga 2?
John Watson: It’s a troubling time that our heroes are trying to navigate, for sure, but how much worse the turns take is up to the decisions they make along the way. It is, after all, the end of the world…or is it?
Rashid K. Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
John Watson: We remain flabbergasted and appreciative of all the interest and excitement that the Banner Saga has generated. We are working as hard as we can to ensure that the Banner Saga 2 more than holds up to the communities expectations. We can’t wait to get it in players hands.