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Stoic Studios' The Banner Saga has already hit the ground running, as far as critical acclaim goes. The title was one of the big shakers and movers of the early Kickstarter craze that occurred throughout 2012. The game racked up a breezy $723,000 on Kickstarter while only requiring $100,000 for their goal.
Throughout 2013 the title went dark in most media circles, save for the free-to-play Banner Saga: Factions. However, as 2013 came to a close it was revealed that January wasn't going to be as bleak on PC as it is on consoles, with the game certifying a January 14th launch date. It was announced and Stoic delivered... in spades.
The critical consensus is that The Banner Saga is already a potential GOTY contender, as far as the review from Elder Geek is concerned. Other big and small outlets have also chimed in on the game's potential, with Destructoid, Pixel Volt, Eurogamer and IGN all scoring the game with approximate 8s out of 10, thanks to an aggregate post on Reddit.
All of the above praised the game's bleak but rewarding story arc following a caravan of Nordic survivors in a land where the sun never sets and world appears to be on the brink of dying. All of this is occurring while a constant threat from arch enemies rises to thwart the survival of the tribe.
The story may seem similar to other games, but the way it's told and the art that accompanies that story is receiving a lot of welcomed laud. While Gamespot scored the game a 7 out of 10, Kevin VanOrd summed up the general atmosphere of the experience with these niceties...
“The colorful hand-drawn characters and cel-shaded villages would have been at home in a high-budget animated film. And the sight of your caravan stretching across the screen, with the yellow banner flying from an oxcart and the horned varl trudging wearily onward, reinforces the viciousness of the elements.“
Austin Wintory's soundtrack also gets a fair mention in most reviews... I haven't had the opportunity to check it out just yet, but when I asked him about it earlier last year he hadn't started work on it yet. Apparently the time gap between signing on and having an opportunity to come up with some striking gave Wintory an extra edge because it has become a talking point in some reviews, with IGN's Leif Johnson articulating the score with the following compliments...
“The Banner Saga also gifts us with some of composer Austin Wintory's best work since 2012's Journey, even if it's a subdued score that never reached the rapturous heights that landed him a Grammy nomination. This, rather, is music for the Polar Vortex. It's grim, it's bleak, and like so much of The Banner Saga, it sneers at all expressions of optimism. It's beautiful.”
I need to check the Steam store to see if you can purchase the soundtrack because I would love to check that out.
However, a positive pot of criticism from the consensus of critics doesn't necessitate that the game will sell. It's another mystery bet from the gaming community if an offbeat idea funded by gamers for gamers could turn into a winning formula. The idea has worked with DayZ, Starbound, FTL: Faster Than Light and Rust, but will The Banner Saga join them? We'll soon find out.
If Stoic hits a home-run with the game, then it's going to be another notch on the belt of indie games that help shame the AAA publishing model even worse than it's already been shamed by the aforementioned titles.
The Banner Saga is available right now from the Steam Store and other participating digital distributors for only $24.99