Those who have been reading our reviews for a while will have noticed how much we enjoy The Banner Saga games – and we can’t wait for part 3 to arrive. Until then, the first two games are now available for the Xbox One and PS4 in a “Complete Pack”, which also includes the Survival Mode DLC.
The Banner Saga and The Banner Saga 2 had already been released on console in 2016, but at the time we reviewed The Banner Saga 2 for the Xbox One the Survival Mode had not been added to the game yet. Survival mode is a fast-paced, competitive mode best enjoyed after playing through the original campaigns first. This is assuming that you’ll have a pretty good grasp of the different strategies you can employ based on character traits and tactical opportunities – as you’ll need it during survival mode.
During this extra mode, you’re playing through a series of 40 challenges in which you use six characters from a larger roster in each level. When one falls he’s gone forever, but building up experience (in the shape of ‘renown’) will allow you to recruit new members of the team. The actual gameplay is what you’d expect from The Banner Saga, but with a major difference: there is a 30 second timer for every move you make.
This seems to be at odds with the basic nature of games like The Banner Saga, but it serves a purpose. Basically, having the timer evens out the playing field a little bit, as scoring high and comparing your score with others on the leaderboards is an important part of the challenge-driven mode that is Survival Mode. If there had not been a time limit, then score comparisons would have surely created a rift between different types of gamers. Then again – I can definitely see gamers who like to take their time not enjoying Survival Mode for this reason. I would have added a special leaderboard for players who play without time limits for this reason… perhaps we’ll see that in the future. Instead, there’s a difficulty setting that allows you to play in either a normal or a hard mode.
Survival mode is available for existing Banner Saga 2 owners as a DLC purchase (despite being free for owners of the game on Steam), but is also included in the Complete Pack – which is the best value you can get if you haven’t already bought one of the Banner Saga games. And if you enjoy turn-based strategy, then there is no reason why you wouldn’t at this point.