View Full Version : Turn Based Strategy: Why I love it and Why the Banner Saga Will be Epic

Slimsy Platypus
01-21-2013, 11:18 PM
I just wanted to create this post in hopes to share a couple of they key gaming experiences I've had that have etched a soft spot in my Heart for the turn based strategy genre. (Also, if anyone out there thinks I missed something cool that I might be able to catch up on feel free to shout it out!)

Shining Force II

This was the first game I ever played so much that I had to begin replacing controllers. In short, you got a pool of characters to duke it out in classic turn based strategy battles. All units would promote once after reaching a certain level. The kicker was if you could find a secret item, you could consume it to promote your units into a generally much more cooler option! Replayability consisted of attempting to promote weaker units into bombs before far outpacing them with everyone else. "hmm... I wonder what this little turtle that throws his little turtle crown at his enemies will promote too? A giant flying monster that has fire jetpacks in his shell, duh!"

Vandal Hearts:

Vandal Hearts took the classic turn based strategy and added a hardcore rock paper scissors aspect to the combat. Certain classes were very effective against one other type, but also had a corrisponding class as a weakness. Armored units were effective against swordsmen, who were effective against archers, who were effective against hawkmen, etc. The game had a very deep and intruiging story which gave it a hardcore one-more-battle feel. Towards the end of the game units would promote into one of two promoted classes, and every one felt like it turned your characters from a Prius into a Monster Truck.

Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy Tactics took the classic turn based strategy and put customization into player's hands by having way more promoted classes than you could ever use on a single team. All units would start off as a couple basic classes, and as they leveled and increased their stats they would open up a host of additional options for promoted classes. The game totally set a new standard for difficulty and losing battles wasn't uncommon as you tried to find the best approach to a variety of maps. The never ending exploration for potential promotion options made you feel like you wanted to continue to level your dudes, even when the game was over.

Fire Emblem Series

Now a series staple, Fire Emblem games took the classic Turn Based Strategy and beautified them up with modern graphics. I started the series on my ol' Gamecube, and loved playing a game that was so similar to some of my favorates I played while growing up (i.e. the above). The game deffered from the classic mold with permenant death of characters that fell in battle and the ability to distribute a pool of excess experience to units that were behind in level. The classic kill-things-until-I-can-kill-tougher-things works as a perfect carrot-on-a-stick as you go through a linear progression of battles and unlock what feels like an endless amount of playable characters. Promotion options exist, but in most cases just turn you into a more shiny version of your previous self. Micromanaging levels between a variety of cool classes was the driving factor that got me hooked into playing this series.

The Banner Saga
[INSERT EPIC BANNER SAGA IMAGE HERE (due to image per post limitations) ]

So far we know the combat takes the turn based strategy genre, pumps it full of roids, and lets it loose in an arm wrestling competition against children. Calling what has been done here "graphics" can be considered an insult, as Stoic Studio has caught every other gaming company (ever) with their pants down by severley outpacing them with a game I can hang on my wall. We don't know what to completely expect from the single player campaign, but so far all signs points to an epic experience that harkens back to some of the best reasons why I have come to love video games (i.e. the above). Add on top of that choices that arn't an illusion of linear progression, what is sure to be an epic story, and a group of developers that can't prove to be anything other than a band of nice guys working with a community to make their dream a reality. What really puts the icing on the cake is that their dream is friggen awesome. I mean... I've had some good dreams before (puberty is a thing), but these guys have one-upped me severely with The Banner Saga.

Please feel free to share your thoughts! Also, if there are any fans of the above out there let's go on an epic journey down memory lane together! Additionally, if there is a game out there that fits between these cracks, be sure to let me know as I am a sucker for the classics. Cheers!

01-22-2013, 01:01 AM
Great post! I don't have much experience on consoles, but really like the portable Fire Emblem and want to some day try out the others you mention. I'd recommend maybe Eador (released recently on GOG.com) and XCOM. Bang!Howdy is also excellent, but, as an online game, on its death bed. Finally, I thought Betrayal at Antara was the best thing ever back when it came out.

Jagged Alliance and Fallout 1 and 2 (and, presumably, Fallout Tactics) use turn-based tactics (TBT), but don't involve much party management and don't have battles in arenas (as the Banner Saga and all the games you mention do).

I know TBT from games where the units are anonymous and/or non-promoting, like Sean O'Connor's Slay, Heroes of Might and Magic and King's Bounty. For me, TBT was never the draw: I like Slay for its territory-control mechanic (also found in Jagged Alliance 2, Eador and Rebuild) and HOMM for exploration with light (nowadays, perhaps "casual") strategy.

There's also Wesnoth and (as you surely know) Advance Wars, but the combination of numerous units, many of which have ludicrously high movement ranges, and the whole-team-moves-at-once rule make it hard for me to visualize a strategy.

01-22-2013, 01:22 AM
Nice, Slimsy :)

Looks like our childhoods were pretty similar in terms of gaming influences. Shining Force 1 and 2 are basically the reason we're making The Banner Saga, and oddly enough the catalyst to getting my first job in the games industry. We're also paying a steady homage to the great design of Shining Force with stuff like class promotion, a huge cast of playable characters and even centaurs. We almost even did the full-screen battle animations like Shining Force but luckily the other guys at Stoic talked some sense into me.

FFT was the game that solidified the idea in my mind that turn-based strategies could be not only deep but have a really well-written and engaging story. In relative terms, the story in FFT compared to other RPGs at the time was like comparing Nabakov to Dr Seuss. It was mind blowing! Plus the endless customization and promotion system put the replayability through the roof.

Fire Emblem was great, and pretty much the only TBS franchise that still saw new titles besides FFT Advanced, so it was the one that I played the most in my professional career. The smooth and expressive animations are something that I really appreciate, so I was bummed when everything eventually became boring 3D.

I'd also mention Disgaea, personally. Though it didn't have much influence on The Banner Saga it did a great job making the genre viscerally exciting, fast-paced and fun, and almost infinitely playable. I sunk a lot of time into those games.

Great job, you pretty much nailed why we're making The Banner Saga. I know Arnie came up in the industry with a real love for Heroes of Might and Magic (specifically the third game in the series). Though I never got into the series myself we've done the best we can to do all of our influences some justice.

Thanks for the post!

Slimsy Platypus
01-23-2013, 08:59 PM
Wow, happy to hear the positive resonses!

Now take this with a grain of salt since you are guys are the creative geniuses, but how awesome would it be to pay homage to the old full screen battle animations by simply having one of the game's animated sequences pan to the classic 45-degree horizontal third person view! I can picture myself going bonkers recongnizing the likeness! I mean, there has to be one point in the game where a cut scene has two people with thier weapons drawn :) . Going even further, maybe even the waiting screen when getting matched up in Factions could be you viewing the back of your team facing the opposing team at that classic angle (hehe don't take this too seriously because obviously it would be a lot of work).

After making this post I was definately mulling over the question: what were the most epic moments I remember from these games?

For the most part it always feels awesome to simply promote your guys. The portion of the game where your guys were all getting promoted generally would fly by and be so difficult to stop playing. This is probably why Final Fantasy Tactics is so fun because you are constantly promoting your dudes as you go. In Fire Emblem that screen that pops up where you see your unit "evolve" into their new 3D image is pretty riveting, even though the dynamics of the class almost never get adjusted.

From Shining Force, I remember simply being super stoked when you promoted one of your guys and their portraits changed (for any non-fans out there, for the most part unit's portraits would stay the same). It's funny that this tiny bit of 2D artwork played any significant role at all but it was definately cool. Also, the 2D artwork in the games full screen battle animations still have held the test of time because they remain pretty cool when looking back at them now.

http://s7.postimage.org/5n8pza9jr/Geralf.jpg (http://postimage.org/) > http://s8.postimage.org/63gsm4iyp/Geralf_Wolf.jpg (http://postimage.org/)

Another thing stuck in my mind that was really cool was the Kraken battle in Shining Force II. Even though nearly every other turn based strategy game had boss battles, the fact that this one was completely unexpected and dramatacally different then everything else in the game made it awesome. And even though it was different than most other battles in the game it didn't relly feel awkward. I'm sure anyone that has ever completed Shining Force II remembers this battle. I probably hated it while playing because it was a little more difficult than the other battles, but thinking back it was definately cool. The dynamics of The Banner Saga regarding the traveling and your caravan make me think that encounters could replicate this feeling pretty easily (unexpected epic encounter, unique battle type, etc.) I'm so excited for the Saga!

01-24-2013, 01:36 AM
Wow, I too grew up on Shining Force I and II. FFT blew my mind and I put quite a lot of time into that one as well. Art in FFT was amazing, especially the art book. Alex, it's cool to know that you were so into those games as well. Can't wait to see what you guys do with the single player campaign.

Anyone remember that mf'ing Laser Eye boss in SF? That stands out in my memory as being quite rough. Oh, and B, the Kracken is unforgettable ;)

Slimsy Platypus
01-28-2013, 11:45 PM
I just read an article that a new Fire Emblem game is going to be releaesed. I frantically was looking for the release date and by the hairs on my viking beard it is friggity-diggity February 4th! Holy cow, I feel like I've been under a rock or something not knowing this! It's on the 3DS (which I actually have one of that has almost no playtime on due to a bunch of busty games). Looks like there will be some awesome 2D animation in it but in a couple screenshots it appears the battle animations will be 3D.

Just something to buy me some time while I wait for Stoic to get the Saga out :)

01-29-2013, 10:40 PM
Never had the fortune to play Shining Force or Fire Emblem, but FFT and Tactics Ogre... can't count the hours I spent on them.

01-30-2013, 10:38 AM
I'm significantly older than all of you. I was never a serious computer or online gamer. I never played ANY of these games. I grew up on Zork! (which came out when I was in college and got played all the way through law school 1983-89) INstead, I was a fairly frequent paper RPG'er. D&D and Runequest were favorites. I also loved turn based tactical games like Panzer Division, Battlecry, 1944, Frederick the Great, Kings and Castles, and Federation Space. We also played Risk and Acquire addictively.

01-30-2013, 01:35 PM
For me I've never beat any of the Shining Force games and i was too young to play them when they first came out or i never had the system to play them in their original forms. But what stood out among them to me was the characters you could hire into your army. The knights weren't hoarse men they where centaurs, the warriors where dwarves, and the archers elves, and that's not even getting into the late game stuff. You could hire a steram tank, birdmen, a werewolf, a cyborg, a flying squid man(who also happened to be the best magic user in the game), and right before the final level if you looked at the right spot you could hire a ninja that just happened to be there. Fire Emblem also has had several awesome characteres, shapeshifters,monster summoners, dragon riders, and even pirates. Probably the game with the most unit variety I've played had to be Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. That game had normal fantasy stuff like dwarfs and Halflings, but it also had Dragon Men, Panther Men, Demonic Zerg look-alikes, Extra-dimensional Protoss look-alikes, Nomads with Elephents and Goro from Mortal Kombat, an Orc unit that looked like Jabba the Hutt,psychopathic Catcholics, and to top it all off you could summon a demonic penguin using ice magic. In short what im hoping for is a wide variety of different units for The Banner Saga, judging by the current game and what Arnie and Alex have been hinting at they seem to have that covered.

01-30-2013, 08:39 PM
I almost forgot Arc the Lad 2! And big RQ fan, Attycylist

01-30-2013, 08:51 PM
I just looked online and learned Shining Force 2 has a Rat Man, and a turtle that basically turns into Gamera. I also learned the Steam Tank is only in Shining Force 2 and what i thought it was in one is actually a armadillo man in steampunk power armor...

Man i gotta play Shining Force sometime.

Urist McDorf
02-01-2013, 04:20 AM
Turn-based tactics games are probably my favourite genre. It's why I was interested in Banner Saga so much, too.

Oh, and to whoever hasn't played this little gem: http://www.kongregate.com/games/StormAlligator/mission-in-space-the-lost-colony. I missed it when it first came out (which is understandable since it's just a simple flash game) and only tried it now and it turned out to be incredibly well-made.