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  Click here to go to the first staff post in this thread.   Thread: The Strides Forward and Missteps of The Banner Saga Campaign - Feedback and Review

  1. #21
    Just finished my second playthrough of TBS, and was coming to the forums to post my reactions to the game, when I saw this thread; Great OP, great discussion, and some very important things for Stoic to take note of here.

    The lack of benefit to keeping population alive, and the lack of foreknowledge presented regarding travelling times are two of the biggest problems that I've seen. Also, the War events are dependent on your own caravan population, and can be 'gamed'. These issues do need to be sorted in the sequels.

    Character deaths were unpleasant (intentionally so), but I found almost all of them well foreshadowed and/or avoidable, and I personally felt that they fit the tone of the game. I would however, prefer Tactics Ogre style character deaths in combat, gameplay wise, and love the idea about limited numbers of wounds.

    One thing I really missed was strong set pieces for the battlefields. After having just finished Blackguards, in which every single tactical battle is its own set piece, TBS feels incredibly lacking; given that this is a single player game, balance isn't really an issue, only development costs, so hopefully we'll see some more interesting terrain in the next iteration.

  2. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Zekram Bogg View Post
    So, I know there's already thread for feedback on the Single Player Campaign, but I'm a guy who tends to write, like, a LOT of text...
    It was a good read, and I agree with most of what you said, especially:

    Quote Originally Posted by Zekram Bogg View Post
    the Caravan sections are too forced by the narrative, too confusing, and too simplified to feel like an actual "gameplay" element. They feel more like a series of semi-interactive cutscenes.
    I haven't finished the game yet, but I think strategy (like the caravan's resources) and rails absolutely do not mix. Maybe it can be done, but it has not been achieved here. If they'd just dropped caravan management and went for Fire-Emblem-with-choices-and-scenery it would have felt a lot smoother.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zekram Bogg View Post
    At the end of the day, most of these flaws can be ignored by fans I think. The tone is what it is, however dreary. The arbitrary character deaths and always negative consequence "choices". The limited gameplay variety. All of these elements could be seen as intended functionality and the frustrations can be accepted by a certain number of hardcore fans. But that would be a huge mistake.
    I'm a pretty hardcore fan (having never made a fan site nor racked up hundreds of comments on a forum before this), but I hope that these are not part of intended functionality. It's a good skeleton of a game, but I wish they had spent more of their tiny budget on fleshing it out instead of making it long (and it feels really long). Or that they had play-tested this stuff before releasing it, as they did, very thoroughly, for the combat. I'm optimistic that they will do so in the sequels.

  3. #23
    Good points in the OP. It is a fantastic game, and only needs a few improvements.

    Story-wise there were some great moments, but too many problems and not enough choices.

    Problems have an optimal solution, and games match up well with problems because what are (many) games but number-crunching exercises to find the best move.

    Meanwhile, choices simply have consequences: there is no optimal way out, no solution. This is much harder to implement into a game.

    Choices are interesting in subsequent playthroughs, problems become click-throughs because you know the 'right' solution.

    Gunnar and the treasure cart is a problem with a solution, Onef is a choice with various consequences, and that remains interesting 2 playthroughs later.

    Population definitely needs consequence too.

    I've said this in another thread, but one thing I think is needed in combat is a 'flee' option, i.e. If I move a character to the edge of the map and and enemy isn't within a few spaces, I should have an option to make that character leave the field.

    This would speed up battles and also be a tactic for avoiding injuries.

  4. #24
    Senior Member Yellow's Avatar
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    Vary good thread, it addresses many of my own particular issues, such as:

    - The the lack of caravan management and the lack of reward/purpose for saving as many clansmen as possible.

    - Wars feel hollow and with little substance(specially because the number of Dredge escalates to the number of warriors you have, this making the any choice you make regarding saving people or sending them off, irrelevant, also different war options are worthless as there will never be a reason to flee a battle or to oversight...

    - The battlegrounds also feel hollow sometimes, a bit repetitive when 90% of the time it is an open field with no obstacles on the way or anything unique that differentiates it from a previous one.

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    Other points i do not share the same opinion, or at least not completely, but i can understand where you are coming from, a good example:

    - Lost of heroes because of "bad decisions": It can be a bit annoying as you said, when you spend lots of renown on somebody just to never seen him again, but it also adds some spice into the soup, making you worry about the desitions you make along the way, how can they affect others in your group even if it is not clear that it would do so.
    Some do feel a bit out of place, like Egil dying on the bridge or the entire mutiny thing, others feel more organic, like Grunnulf dying saving the Treasure if you insist on trying to save it, or Egil's first dead(Iver recommends you not to bring the kids along for the party) even Hogun(or his twin can't remember) dying if you go against Iver best judgement and try to clear your way trough a sea of Drege...
    A bit of tweaking can be done with some of this deads, but most are fine in my opinion.

    -The combat, well i am biased toward this because i played tons of Factions when it first came out on steam, so i like the combat and i feel it very organic(but as i said, maybe because am used to it) In other words, i would not like to see any changes made to the turn system.
    "Forged by Fire; Empowered by Passion"

  5. #25
    Just pointed out by a friend, but another benefit of the flee mechanic for combat I proposed above is that it incentivises killing enemies off instead of leaving them at 1 health.

    If the enemy is fleeing off the battlefield with 1 health (thus taking their 1 renown with them), you'll be sure to kill them off instead of "gaming the system" and keeping weak ones alive.

  6. #26
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roder View Post
    I thought Zekram's ideas of Travelling speed and Rationing Level are amazingly awesome!
    +1. This was one of the most interesting ideas I managed to extract out of ZB's WoTs

    EDIT -- Zekram Bogg, please try to include TL;DR(s) whenever possible! That would make your threads/posts much more accessible
    Last edited by Aleonymous; 01-23-2014 at 07:45 AM.
    Together we stand, divided we fall.

  7. #27
    Junior Member Bastilean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yellow View Post
    Vary good thread, it addresses many of my own particular issues, such as:

    - The the lack of caravan management and the lack of reward/purpose for saving as many clansmen as possible.

    - Wars feel hollow and with little substance(specially because the number of Dredge escalates to the number of warriors you have, this making the any choice you make regarding saving people or sending them off, irrelevant, also different war options are worthless as there will never be a reason to flee a battle or to oversight...

    - The battlegrounds also feel hollow sometimes, a bit repetitive when 90% of the time it is an open field with no obstacles on the way or anything unique that differentiates it from a previous one.
    The Caravan needs to have purpose. You are provided 3 numbers.

    1. Clansmen these need to serve a purpose. Right now they are dead weight. How do we change that? I think that it needs to be more clear whether you can feed what you have and how long and how far that will take you. I like how you can train archers from your clansmen. I think Tryggi offers to train spearmen. This would also be good. It would be nice if he spoke to you more than once in the whole game. More importantly, you need to have a benefit based on how many you have accumulated. Cutting the game up into a trilogy makes it even harder to bring any relevance to the clansmen beyond being hungry mouths you don't have supplies for. I really like the idea of tying your clansmen and warriors number to your renown generated. Isn't that real renown?

    2. Also, how do we make starvation more of an immediate threat? Also, how do we manage this better? My biggest pet-peve about starvation in Rook's journey is that the most obvious way to avoid starving is to secure and transport the town storehouse, but there is no supplies benefiting this course of action. This leaves the rest of the game feeling like Russian Roulette. Iver and Rook got the cart loaded, so lets see some +SUPPLIES! Also, why doesn't the bag of gold and silver from Ludin provide supplies?

    3. Warriors and Varls numbers should effect the out come of combats! Dredge numbers should be independent of your own troop size! When you have a significant advantage a +1 strength wouldn't hurt. When you have a significant disadvantage -1 strength makes sense.

    4. Decisions not to fight a battle should not miss out on benefits so often. There needs to be more options to feed your people when you are playing Rook. Given a choice to ration from the beginning at the cost of some moral sounds good. If starvation should be a thing Alette should talk to you about it.

    5. Renown should not transfer between Hokan and Rook. It's nonsense to think otherwise. They do not even know each other and creates meta that should not exist.

    6. Some decisions are down right silly or obnoxious. Work on making the choices difficult because they provide different benefits. If you send Eirik home get some renown! If you can't to to Gofheim don't provide the option to go there. It's not in Hokan's character. Remove the facades. They make players feel claustrophobic.
    Last edited by Bastilean; 01-23-2014 at 02:39 PM.

  8. #28
    Just finished the game, and first of all--despite flaws, I still love it. The only video game of the last seven years or so to be nearly so complete a success, I think, is Mass Effect 3 (which, despite the awkward ending, has some of the best writing I've seen in a game.)

    That said, I can't but agree that having your people starve to death should have some detriment--even if it shouldn't be major for the game. Perhaps a morale loss or (better yet) different text for key scenes with main characters. Because on the one hand, on the whole, I think that letting every Tom Dick and Harry join up ought to be a heroic, difficult, courageous (and possibly stupid) act, while keeping your group to a lean band of hardened killers should make for improved efficiency. However, I want the game to at least nod towards my heroism/cynicism. At the very least, compassionate members of one's party should be shocked and horrified by the slow starvation and death of their friends and loved ones. Still, I would be disappointed if the clansmen were a net gain; I WANT the choice to protect everyone to look like playing in "hard mode." That's what makes it heroic.

    As far as the bleak tone went? Well, that's what makes this game stand out, despite its weaknesses. [Spoiler] even the Dredge are a desperate band clawing for survival. On the other hand, I love The Road so I may be at the core of the game's audience.

    Other than that, the rest is just "I want more." More diverse landscapes to fight in (odd that Factions was so much more landscape-reach than the SP campaign, but I suppose that is an AI issue), more character interactions, more dialog. I do like the idea of paying for animations only before battles; I was always annoyed by the FF Tactics philosophy of "let's start with a beautiful animation and never show them animations again," though the semi-animated conclusion was pretty great.

    In any case, I really hope this game makes a solid profit, and will eagerly throw my money at a sequel's pre-order if that option becomes available.

  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by raven2134 View Post
    CORE
    Here I disagree with you. What is or isn't intuitive at this point could be driven by conditioning and convention. I mean by the very nature or fact of being new and different, that new element (TBS/F combat) will end up being unconventional and perhaps un-intuitive. What would happen if it reverted to old turn based style and convention? The key mechanic to win would simply end up becoming focusing and killing 1 threat at time faster than you can be killed. (As you said...you've NEVER played a game and so on and so on, which is kind of the point.)

    TBS changes this and I think really gives you that incentive to develop skill playing the game. It's not about killing, killing has always been easy. Now the game is about deciding who to attack first, how weak to make them, who needs to be killed and when.

    Difficulty levels were designed to cater to wide tastes, so I wouldn't be surprised if you found it wonky. Hard is supposed to be ridiculously hard (though some would disagree and just say it only made them pop a bead of sweat if any). While easy is supposed to be letting you steamroll fights to enjoy the story. If people are happy with normal, well that's great actually.
    The fact that they are implementing a new type of combat system that some people haven't gotten used to yet, is not a free pass for many of the flaws that this new system introduces. In addition to being unintuitive, the combat system in many cases ends up being immersion breaking as well. And there are portions of the combat system that are simply not flushed out enough yet, or simply don't work.

    The issue isn't necessarily the implementation of the Armor, Strength, Damage relationship between the characters two stats. In fact I am a big fan of this new type of interaction in a tactical rpg. However there are consequences when you wind up combining that stat interaction with the turn system this game uses/ There are, in fact, more alternatives then just the player phase/enemy phase move all units option as well; including turns based on individual units speed, expending resources to move specific units, or potentially even tweaks to this existing system like making pillage activate sooner.


    First lets look at the potential of this current system and where it falls short. The most non-intuitive part of the battle system often pointed out is intentionally leaving enemies alive at low str so that they waste their turn. This goes against the immersion of what a player would expect to happen in an actually battle, and lays bear that players are simply manipulating an underlying game system. While all games boil down to a series of complex game systems, well made games allow the player to interact with the illusion of the game narrative, rather then the underlying systems and algorithms.

    This particular issue though could probably be alleviated if there was a better trade off for killing an enemy right away vs leaving them alive and wounded. The best example of this is the archer class. In most battles against computer human teams (as appose to dredge) the archers are already relatively weak. Its easy to hit them down to 1 str early on while ignoring their armor, and causing them to 'waste' their turn. However, because archers passive ability allows them to do damage based on missing armor; they become very dangerous if left alive near the end of the fight. So in this case it feels more like an acceptable tradeoff rather then exploiting a series of systems.

    However the archer is really the only class to have that large of an impact when left wounded. Certainly none of the Dredge abilities compare, as the only threat they pose is based on the str stat. Summoning new units to the field isn't that big of a deal and in some cases is even an advantage to the player (more renown, another wounded unit / wasted turn in the making, ect). The grenade ability isn't that powerful and can be canceled if you kill the guy before they explode (which is like saying this fire will no longer burn me because i defeated the guy with the match...). The dredge spell caster is made out to be a dangerous unit but is relatively weak on his own and only shows up in at most 3 fights.

    Maybe if they had developed dredge with more dangerous 'wounded abilities' as the game went on the fights would have been more strategic, but they seemed keen on enforcing the idea of trying to set up units so that they 'waste' their turn.


    Second in the list of non-intuitiveness and immersion breaking is the issue of mobility. Because it always alternates turns (even when the unit who was about to go next is killed), that means the units on the team with the smaller side are more mobile on the battle field. Mobility, and positioning on the battlefield is just as much part of the strategy as the effective strength of each unit, and the effective strength of each side.

    This can result in situations where your units feel sluggish and frustrating. Where you feel like the enemy gets several turns in a row because you wind up with a unit that you are unable to clear a path for or move unto a position where they can do something during your turn. Of course, it works the other way at the start of the fight when the computer outnumbers you; but even then it can feel more like you are exploiting rather then playing strategically.

    The entire idea that either the enemy or players unit have their turn 'wasted' under certain circumstances just doesn't play out well. It frustrates the player when they feel they have control taken from them that turn when they are unable to do anything or the enemy effectively gets to move twice in a row. And it doesn't feel as satisfying when you feel like you are exploiting AI by getting them to waste rounds; which is probably the same reason why they talked about trying to avoid making exploitable maps earlier. Ultimately avoiding those situations in which turns are wasted often require the player to abandon not just their conceptions about tactical role playing games, but about the story and game play narrative of battles and medieval combat as well.


    While there are several more specific examples of this, at least in part a lot of it can be ignored during the main game; as you have some leeway as far as being able defeat some of your enemies early on rather then trying to maximize wounding all the time. Unfortunately, by far the worst case of all of these issue shows up in the final boss battle.

    You end up in the situation where if you go into the battle with out having faced it before; the unit composition you bring in may not be able to defeat the final encounters at all; Even if it has been a reasonable unit composition the rest of the game. You wind up with forced characters in your party, even though at least one of them doesn't have to be there. You wind up in the case where the encounter will not be forgiving at all if you don't wound specific units, or kill a unit to early. If your specific heroes don't have the ability to do enough armor or hp damage in a turn, then the enemy is going to heal up everything you just did and kill/wound another one of your heroes to uselessness.

    When the game suddenly switches from being able to bring in a group of heroes, then adapt to what the fight throws at you; to now having to know the mechanics ahead of time and specifically min/max your restricted hero list and tactics to the specific fight mechanics... it just becomes a thesis for the largest weaknesses of this battle system.



    If they want to continue to use both this Armor/Str/Damage interaction and turn system, then they are going to have to develop and understand exactly what this new system is and is not good at; and design their encounters and enemies around it.

    If they are going to continue trying to adapt specific narrative or enemy units into the story as they have been, then they are going to have to tweak or change a non-insignificant portion of the existing combat system.

    I would like to see Banner Saga 2 and 3. But I would also like to see a continued reasonable discussion and acknowledgment of the strengths and weaknesses of this current iteration.

  10.   This is the last staff post in this thread.   #30
    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    I agree the game cud have been made more interesting by having enemy units which increased the impact and required skill for choosing when to kill or when to maim

    But...

    I don't think it's an issue as much as a possible improvement that could be made. Not to mention such a thing would probably make the minimum skill level so high it just wouldn't appeal to most people.

  11. #31
    @darkwolf: The tactical combat mechanics are quite solid, even if "unintuitive." I think the problem is that the game teaches its combat mechanics, but these are not nearly sufficient to grasp core parts of strategy here (in particular, "turn advantage"). I would love to see Ludin, Prince of Men, make some strategic error in combat (like killing a harmless maimed unit), leading to a discussion of tactics by the Varl. Outside the combat, the lack of any strategy tutorial is more serious. For example, ...

    [spoiler] apparently, there is some gameplay role for the size of one's army, but it only comes into play in Chapter 7 of 7, where too small an army inevitably leads to Krumr's death (?). This is annoying enough that I'm quitting the game for now. [/spoiler]

    Any other strategy campaign game would teach elements like this early on. Heck, it wouldn't be too out of place for our quartermaster, Mogr, to give a tiny tutorial/conversation on why we should care about the caravan layer, and what the tradeoffs are. I knew that Morale affected Willpower during battle, but was happy to fight through that. Beyond that, I was taught nothing of substance about the caravan side of the game, and learned through playing that army size does not actually matter in the larger battles ("Wars")... which is, um, ... an interesting design decision.

    So, while you feel "there are portions of the combat system that are simply not fl[e]shed out enough yet, or simply don't work"; I disagree but feel that way about the caravan system.

  12. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by RobertTheScott View Post
    Because on the one hand, on the whole, I think that letting every Tom Dick and Harry join up ought to be a heroic, difficult, courageous (and possibly stupid) act, while keeping your group to a lean band of hardened killers should make for improved efficiency. However, I want the game to at least nod towards my heroism/cynicism. At the very least, compassionate members of one's party should be shocked and horrified by the slow starvation and death of their friends and loved ones. Still, I would be disappointed if the clansmen were a net gain; I WANT the choice to protect everyone to look like playing in "hard mode." That's what makes it heroic.
    Hi again. Yeah, if there had been an option to drop all the clansmen at the side of the road (the cynical/easy option), I would have taken it on my first play through, and that would've been a cool role-playing option (perhaps leading to a mutiny, mass departure or beratement from all sides long into the future). Generally, both population maintenance and the passage of time had very few consequences (in conversation, combat, folks leaving, the darkness catching up to and swallowing us a la FTL, the Sundr catching up and crushing us ...), and I'm hoping this was just a result of Stoic's limited budget and time.

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