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Thread: Musings on Banner Saga 1 Ending [Spoilers]

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    Junior Member icekatze's Avatar
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    Musings on Banner Saga 1 Ending [Spoilers]

    hi hi

    I realize I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but in the spirit of following the no bumping rule, I'm making a thread about the end of Banner Saga 1. I hope this is the right place for it. I've just got to write something or I'll go crazy, since none of my friends have finished the game and I obviously can't talk to them about it.

    A lot of the discussions I've read about the ending dilemma seem to revolve around the choice of sacrificing Rook or Alette, but in my playthrough, I went in without reading any spoilers or guides so that wasn't a choice that I was making. I tried to look at it from Rook's point of view, and how he might try to make the decision, with no certainties about the future. If it had been a simple choice with known outcomes, I think Rook would have sacrificed himself for Alette, no question, but prior to the fight there was no certainty.

    Admittedly, I had supported Oddleif on the issue of training women to be archers in the past, but honestly, the shame of being a hypocrite wasn't a serious factor in the consideration. I looked at it from two perspectives, from a short term tactical sense, and from a longer term strategic sense.



    Tactically, it actually seemed like a good idea for Alette to fire the arrow.

    • Her argument about being the better shot was valid.
    •*Whoever was carrying the silver arrow would be the one single person that everyone would protect at all costs. All of my front line fighters were between the arrow carrier and Bellower. In fact, I felt like Rook would have been uncomfortable having everyone protecting him at all costs as the most important individual on the battlefield.
    • I had Rook set up as a master armor breaker, which usually involved him moving in ahead of everyone else, and breaking as many as 9 points of armor with each shot. ((Max break, max exertion, and Farthingjörd equipped.)) He couldn't run ahead and stay safely behind the lines at the same time.



    However, as I was mulling over those points, I realized that it was really moot. There was something even more important with the big picture. It wasn't a decision about if one person or another would die, the reality that Rook faced was that if Bellower wasn't defeated, everyone would be killed. Whatever course gave the highest chance for success would have to be the course he chose, because failure meant that Alette would be dead anyways.

    Which brings us to Juno's secret.

    • Juno tells Rook that the silver arrow cannot actually kill Bellower. It is the belief of everyone fighting that it can, which will actually win the day.
    • Rook cannot forget that fact. If he were to carry the silver arrow, he would be playing the key role in the battle with full knowledge that it is a fake.
    • Alette is so confident that it will succeed, she is willing to risk her life to make it happen.

    For a plan that requires the people carrying it out to believe the silver arrow can kill Bellower, it seemed like a painful but necessary thing to give the arrow to someone who believed it. And that more than anything, is why I chose to let Alette take the shot.

    And if it wasn't tragic enough that his daughter dies, Rook knows that Bellower isn't actually dead. He knows that it was a lie, and he knows that he has to take that secret with him to the grave, can't confide in anyone. I can only imagine how that would eat away at someone inside.



    I guess all I can say is thanks to the writers for making such a deeply compelling game. So many games promise that a player's choices will matter, and then most of them end up being extremely black and white, heroically saving orphanages or evilly kicking puppies; or so morally grey that none of the options seem much different. Banner Sage 1 definitely delivered.

  2. #2
    The conflicts you just perfectly described is Exactly how you were meant to feel with this game! As you continue into the second game you will see rook will reflect the same emotions and pull you further into the story. it's one thing to execute this kind of emotional roller coaster but another entirely to have it connect and have meaning in the story to come!

    Welcome to the community!

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    Superbacker Ratatoskr's Avatar
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    I originally let Alette shoot for similar reasons (plus the fact that I wanted my daughter to grow up into a strong, independent woman and so felt the need to support her) and then felt completely gutted by that ending.

    I've actually never thought about the fact that only Rook knows Bellower isn't dead, but that kind of makes it worse, doesn't it?

    Personally, I love hearing everyone's choices - why they make them and how they feel about the result. I made my brother give me a play-by-play of his first run through both games just because of that. So feel free to share any more thoughts that you have.

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    Junior Member icekatze's Avatar
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    hi hi

    Thank you kindly. It is interesting the different ways you can portray the lead characters, in Rook's case there were lots of times when he got to choose between being eager or reluctant to hold power over others. I ended up playing more of a reluctant leader, being thrust into the impossible dilemmas, so that made the themes of "having to choose between what he personally wants vs what is best for group," stand out.

    I think Oddleif said it best when she said how being strong meant pretending it wasn't burning her up inside.

    When it came to playing as Hakon, I wasn't quite as sure what role to play. I ended up playing rather recklessly, charging straight into a lot of situations, some of which worked out but mostly ended up causing trouble. I got the feeling he didn't quite prove himself as leader material, considering the number of heroes we lost along the way, but once we reached Grofheim it was like, "Oh, I guess it's actually amazing we made it this far." What felt like a series of unfortunate events, brought about by inattention and carelessness, up until that point suddenly became a series of totally predictable events given the circumstances.

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    Superbacker Ratatoskr's Avatar
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    It's been a long time since my first run, but I think I played Hakon more as a reluctant leader as well. He and Rook were both thrust into impossible situations and are just doing the best they can to save everyone. Although, my Hakon does tend to default to punching things

    And I think the whole point of the Banner Saga is unintended consequences of difficult choices. I have killed so many characters by accident. I've also done a few runs where I killed everyone on purpose, and I have never felt as guilty playing a game as I did then.

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    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    I guess I never really gave much thought to that dimension of Rook's dilemma... Especially the part about "Rook not believing in the arrow enough" is something that I admit I hadn't paid any special attention to! Thinking about it, I wish there was an actual _combat advantage_ in Alette having the arrow in that last battle (...choices that matter...), due to her stronger belief in it.

    In my play through it was pretty damn straight that Rook should take the arrow, being the father and the better fighter (Alette was just Rank 1). Moreover, it wasn't even "obvious" that he/she who had the arrow would die or even be in any greater danger than the others; needless to say I wasn't even expecting a second phase to that battle Revisiting that dilemma now (and having "acquired" a daughter of my own in the meantime ), my feelings that I made the "best" choice only strengthened: Alette must not come in danger; it's not the right place for her to prove her worth; she might be the better shot, but the skilll difference is just not worth it...
    Together we stand, divided we fall.

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    Superbacker Ratatoskr's Avatar
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    In my defense (for letting my daughter get herself killed ;-)) both Alette and Rook were level 5 for me. I am all about the archers, all the time.
    And this was the first time she'd really shown any initiative so I didn't want to stifle that.

    Of course, if I'd known what was going to happen, I would never have made the same choice again. That's why there's nothing quite like the first run-through with games like this. I had a couple of those in the 2nd game as well.

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    Senior Modder YaK's Avatar
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    I let Alette shoot the arrow, cause I was fond of her. For me the travel to Boersgard was also the opportunity to see my child becoming a woman: she faced orrors, death, loss, violence (Damned Onef!) and grew up shaping her own personality, keeping her values ( As Ekkill said: They need an Alette, not two of "you"). When she asked me to trust her, considering they could be our last moments, I could not refuse.

    Useless to say, I felt devastated, but not guilty.

    I felt really guilty instead when Gunnulf died and also when Hogun and Moving die in Frostvellr or in the Summer path, after i reloaded.

    I felt guilty also at Einartoft, because I was sure that Fasolt dead was due to my not fighting all the days on the bridge. When I understood it was not my fault, I felt relieved.

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    Junior Member icekatze's Avatar
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    hi hi

    One thing the game really impressed on me was just how close to total defeat we were, and how much was riding on that one shot. If that one shot missed, it was all over. In the days leading up to the final confrontation, every other avenue of escape was tried and shut down, from building new boats to fleeing on foot. I suppose that feeling of desperation was helped by the fact that, by the time I reached Boersgard, moral was absolutely rock bottom, and we'd even lost some people to starvation in the flight from Sigrholm. (I'd done so well preventing it up until that point.)

    As for the fight itself, I went into it not realizing that I would need to break down Bellower's armor first, although I had expected that I would need to fight through some number of dredge to reach him. I also wasn't expecting a second phase, but Oddleif really saved the day by keeping Bellower pinned down. Well... sort of.

    I doubt it would happen, but having Bellower return in the third installment if Rook took the shot, and not returning if Alette took the shot, would be pretty interesting. Still, I get the feeling that it would be someone else in ages yet to come that would have to deal with that problem. Assuming there are any more ages to come. Does thinking that the world is ending change people's evaluation of the dilemma? I wonder.

    Also, damned Onef is right! That part... I was in shock. I felt devastated about losing Egil, but I knew I had made the right call to give those refugees a chance to escape, and those deaths were on their hands. I did feel a little bit guilty about Yrsa though, that felt like something I should have foreseen, but I was trying to be respectful and considerate of the strange humans' requests.

    There weren't many decisions that I felt out of place though. The only one that really springs to mind was in Frostvellr. I went into the city through the tunnel, thinking that I was going in to see what was going on, and what the governor's problem was. I hadn't thought the plan was to cut down the guards at the gate straight away. That was the one option where I felt like I had the wrong impression about what I was signing up for. In hindsight, I probably should have stayed outside, but Ivar was pretty persuasive about the need to get inside the wall so at least I can unload some of the guilt on him.

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    Superbacker Ratatoskr's Avatar
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    Aah, Onef. I think he's caused of a lot of cursing. My initial reaction was along the lines of WTF?!!! Egil!!! No!!!
    Especially since I liked Egil and had him well leveled by that point.

    So I was devastated about him and Alette and felt pretty guilty about Gunnulf, though I think I managed to keep everyone else alive the first time through. I admit I didn't feel so bad about Fasolt, but I've always liked Hogun/Mogun so I've reloaded after the Summer path a time or two. However, BS2 is where getting people killed really made me want to cry, maybe because it seems harder to do by accident.

    I also agree about the sense of desperation. My caravan was starving to death for most of chapter 6 (and let me tell you, that makes me feel guilty as heck) so I'd been desperately trying to keep them alive, and then you come to Boersgard and nothing is better. Shooting Bellower was our last ditch hail Mary pass.

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    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Egil had died on me so many times by the time I reached the Onef mutiny event that I just went <facepalm> (...Not again!...). I was mostly shocked about Odd at that point, the text kinda implying that she got killed at that point... A big relief! My only lament was that Onef didn't take part in that fight; I so wanted to personally gut him

    Gunnulf is everyone's "first time" Seems like nobody gets the quiz right on first touch!
    Together we stand, divided we fall.

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    Junior Member icekatze's Avatar
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    hi hi

    I spent soooo much renown on supplies, sometimes when it wasn't a very good deal which is probably what got me in the end. I only leveled one character up to rank 5, not counting Eyvind, who was already rank 5 when he joined up. Gunnulf was the only character I actually leveled all the way, everyone else that I used significantly was either 3 or 4. Rook, Hakon, Oddleif, and Bersi were rank 4. Nid and Mogun were rank 3.

    Perhaps I should have gone looking for a few more fights every now and again to pick up extra renown, but I suppose things are always clearer in hindsight.

    When Onef turned traitor, my first thought was that it had to be a dream or something, like the unexplained shared dream from... I want to say Chapter 3, but I can't recall exactly when it happened. But then it kept going, and entirely too slowly the realization dawned that it was really happening. I didn't do any reloading during my first playthrough, so that was the first and only time Egil died on me, but I'm probably going to try to play through and try to keep him alive.

    I didn't even realize Gunnulf could die until I went back and read up on the stuff I'd already been through. Unsurprisingly, the game still manages to punch the player in the gut either way. Hearing him talk about the event, I almost wanted to go back and re-do it a different way.

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    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    I think the first game was a bit harsh with its permadeaths through story events. I am not talking about the Egil-Onef event, which is actually one of the few that are actually well balanced (You take on Onef and his supplies, Ekkill joins; you lose Egil and get a backstabbing; I call this even ). I am talking about some of the deaths of Egil, of Gunnulf, of Griss/Nid, of Yrsa. Other deaths do feel balanced (or expected) too. You haven't played Saga2 yet, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by icekatze View Post
    When Onef turned traitor, my first thought was that it had to be a dream or something, like the unexplained shared dream from... I want to say Chapter 3, but I can't recall exactly when it happened.
    Yup, it's in Chapter 3, when Hakon and Mogr are having the same strange dream, most likely "broadcasted" as a SOS signal by Juno-in-distress in the Ridgehorn tower.
    Together we stand, divided we fall.

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    Superbacker Ratatoskr's Avatar
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    See, I'd managed to keep Egil alive all the way through until freaking Onef ruined it. Though I agree, the phrasing really makes it sound like Oddlief is dead as well.

    I'm actually torn about the story deaths in BS1. On one hand, sudden inexplicable death is more true to life and the only ones I actually was blindsided by were really Gunnulf and Onef's betrayal. But on the other hand, it really sucks.

    I think BS2 is better about making things seem like bad ideas before you do them (which is probably why killing everyone made me feel so damn guilty. That and being forced to fight an entire battle with my friend's broken body on the field). There may be one or two options that are sudden but not as many as BS1. I think I only lost one guy and I had an inkling that it could end badly, but my rule is no take backs on the first run so I had to go with it. Won't say any more now, because spoilers, but it definitely felt more deliberate there. Of course, that game is nicer in several places - I don't think I ever starved in BS2 while I am always running out of food in BS1.

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    Junior Member icekatze's Avatar
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    hi hi

    Indeed, I have yet to play Banner Saga 2. It might be a while, given how crazy and busy things have been lately, but we'll see if I manage to pull it off before Banner Saga 3 comes out.

    I actually like how Banner Saga one handles permadeath, maybe that makes me weird. It is a bit more true to life that not everything you do is completely under your control, but the game gives the player legitimate choices to make, based on value judgements, and the consequences of those choices aren't necessarily a direct result. Choosing whether or not to help a stranger is a real choice that people have to make, without any in depth understanding of who that stranger might be, and there are all sorts of strategies for trying to make decisions with limited information.

    There is some serious game theory, like prisoner's dilemma level game theory involved, in trying to anticipate how people will react over time. Part of the benefit of keeping cause and effect more than one step detached, is that it helps break up the kinds of downward spirals that positive feedback loops can create. And it allows the player the opportunity to pick different means to accomplish their goals. If for example, the player realizes that every time they pick up a new character, one of their other characters will die, once they have a party they like, they might decide to never pick up any new characters and plot considerations be damned.

    The way I see it, sometimes doing the right thing means taking the hard route, accepting more risk and danger. If the doing the right thing was always the path of least resistance, I would think the world would be a much nicer place. But I suppose that's just my take on things.

    On the other hand, I suspect I'll like the way Banner Saga 2 handles it just fine too.

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    Superbacker Ratatoskr's Avatar
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    From a story perspective, I definitely agree. From a gaming perspective, it just sucks to lose a leveled character Though, I have to admit, the Egil vs Ekkill trade off is something I always think about now when I start new games. I actually like them both, which makes the choice more difficult.

    For your BS2 run, I think you'll be happy. The sequel certainly didn't get rid of the permadeath. It's a bit harder to kill people by accident (there are more who can't die for story reasons), but it's definitely possible and your choices still have consequences. I could have lost a couple more characters pretty easily if I had happened to pick different options, or just not had them if I had come in with less from BS1.

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    Junior Member icekatze's Avatar
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    hi hi

    I can think of some ways to help offset the sudden loss of invested renown from story decisions, and some of them I'm sure have already been suggested and/or used. Awarding renown when a hero leaves without dying, like with Eirik if he leaves the party willingly, is one way. It would certainly seem odd to award renown for getting someone killed, but it could be worked into the narrative. If the group were to, for example, help someone out in a future encounter; they might remark at how humbled they are at the sacrifices the group endured on their behalf.

    And, while I'm not saying this is necessarily the best suggestion, having a feedback system where rewards are increased as the state of the party deteriorates would be another way to help offset unexpected losses. There are some who might say, "there can be no glory without a worthy opponent," so perhaps winning a fight when you are at a comparative disadvantage might be worth more renown. (Although, at this point, I'd suspect things are already well in hand.)

  18. #18
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Agree with Rata(toskr) on Saga2 permadeaths -- It's much harder to lose someone by mistake (compared with Saga1), which makes choice-making more difficult!

    @icekatze -- Very good suggestions! The first one has actually been implemented in Saga2 "Survival Mode" and is called Viking Funeral; effectively, you perform a service to the fallen hero and thus get some of the Renown invested on promoting him/her back. I'd surely like to see this system on the main campaign as well! The second one, that "adaptive Renown reward", is even more interesting; bringing this to the devs' attention.
    Together we stand, divided we fall.

  19. #19
    Junior Member icekatze's Avatar
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    hi hi

    I definitely know how difficult game balance can be, so I don't want to come off like I'm some kind of know-it-all who is always right, but I would think even some small things can add up over time. Something like +1 renown for every hero that goes into battle with more than 1 day wounded already in place, would at least give people who are really struggling a chance to catch up a little bit, but maybe wouldn't be so big that people would be intentionally wounding their heroes to get it.

    I'm not sure what factors people would consider the most important measures of party strength. Overall ranks, number of heroes wounded, something to do with equipment? I suspect I wasn't the only person who had a few characters that didn't get used very often, and thus were left at a low rank. (Even if most of my heroes didn't rank up past 3 or 4, most of which was in the earlier chapters, I doubt many people ranked up all of their heroes.)

  20. #20
    Superbacker Ratatoskr's Avatar
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    I actually have managed to fully upgrade all my characters in a couple games, but those are usually the ones where I got most people killed. I think renown & kills generally end up being what stops that, more renown now that you can get kills from training as well. So a few extra renown could certainly make a difference. My caravan is often starving largely because I like to get everyone as upgraded as possible.

    But I know everyone has their favorite characters and there are a few that I have to make myself use since they just don't fit my normal battle strategy.

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