May 1


The Banner Saga


I am a casual computer game player who loves good stories.

I try not to play anything free-to-play that involves spending real money on coins and jewels, and I’m also wary of massive, endless games that I suspect will suck up my life and take over my writing time.

I also have little interest in playing with or against other people. Is that weird? For me, computer gaming is a kind of relaxation, a place where the usual vacancies of life are temporarily forgotten. It’s, at best, my attempt to absorb the game-maker’s vision, and is therefore not something I want to be competitive about. But that’s just me.

Knights of the Old Republic is one of the best-told Star Wars stories I know; X-COM is a brilliantly conceived narrative experience. But the most frustrating thing for me is games that are billed as having “good stories” but turn out not to, games which are just artsy or have a narrator.


Perhaps you like the sorts of games I like. If so, I really recommend The Banner Saga. It’s a great game.

The game introduces you, without much explanation, to a world on the edge of complete disaster. The sun has stopped moving, and the allied societies of humans and the giant “Varl” are under siege by the inhuman armies of the Dredge, who are pouring down from the north, destroying everything in their way.

In the first game, you guide two different convoys across this bleak world: one is a political cohort of important characters in both human and Varl society; the other is a more sympathetic group of refugees and obscure heroes. You fight monsters and bandits, keep the peace between suspicious party members, travel to the Varls’ ancient stronghold, learn about the world’s magic and gods, manage supplies and resources, and look for clues to prevent the apocalypse.


For me, there were two “gasp” moments as the game unfolded, which I won’t spoil, but both provoked a far stronger emotional reaction than I ever expected from a game about stabbing monsters with axes. The Banner Saga also gives a powerful lesson, for writers, in constructing a story with male leads, based around swords and sorcery, fighting and struggle, that yet does not indulge in toxic masculinity, and which repeatedly suggests that the wars raging across this world are a terrible mistake, a break in the natural order of life.

The art is also beautiful.

The sequel to the game recently came out, and I started playing it last night. It already looks great, and seems more polished and complex than the original, but if you are interested, I would really recommend starting with the first game. Remarkable stuff.



Banner saga

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