The middle chapter turns the story a little more meaningful while making combat better.
By the time I reached the startling conclusion of the first Banner Saga, I was locked in for the sequel. Thankfully the wait wasn’t too long as Banner Saga 2 is now on Nintendo Switch less than a month after the first game. The middle chapter of the planned trilogy originally came out on other consoles in 2016, making the leap to a Nintendo platform a month and a half before the concluding third game. While I cannot recommend anyone who didn’t play the first one start with its sequel, the second Banner Saga builds off of the stellar foundation of its predecessor while adding a lot more depth and quickening the pace of everything across the board.
Banner Saga 2 picks up more or less right after the events of the first game. If you do want to join in here (or you forgot the events of the first game), a recap covers the broad strokes of the story so far. Depending on your choices in the first game, your very party and chemistry could be different. It’s hard to touch on it without spoiling some great moments, but I felt the story hit the ground running and was a lot more balanced throughout the course of the 10-hour or so tale. The party does split, much like the first game is split for the beginning, but it starts together, which makes the eventual split more meaningful. The story does suffer minorly from being the middle chapter in a planned trilogy, so the conclusion feels a little more abrupt than the first one as it feels like it’s building and leading towards the third game more deliberately.
However, my knock against the first game for having trouble with making me care about more than the core characters is almost entirely eradicated. The secondary characters are given more to do and also have the benefit of being a part of your fighting crew for a second game. Sure, your favorite ax-wielding giant varl might not be that integral to the story, but he might be helpful in a specific sequence and now you can smash up dredge for another several hours with them. Unless of course that character you love dies during the course of the story. In that case, everything sucks and I sympathize with you.
Battling is mostly the same in practice, but now your fighters are not capped at Rank 5 and can go all the way up to Rank 10, giving new abilities and strengths along the way. A more deliberate set of challenges is also nestled away in the Training section of camps that focus on specific strategies and abilities. I found those new challenges, which keep getting unlocked throughout the story, to be a fun way to experiment and uncover battle tactics I had forgotten or didn’t totally understand. The combat is also made better by a wider variety of player types and enemy types. The original eventually boiled down into similar fights against a limited amount of enemies whereas this sequel broadens the amount of potential baddie combinations. Even with everything new, the battle system is still on the simpler side, which isn’t really much of a bad thing. The new additions help keep it from getting stale, though.
Banner Saga 2 is a great sequel, building on the first one’s fantastic presentation and style. The music is positively sublime especially when paired with the gorgeous art and animation. If you’re craving a good fantasy story and are down for some fun tactical turn-based fare, this series is one to follow through on. The finale can’t come soon enough even if the battles and story segments along the way might thin the party in tragic ways.