Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

The Banner Saga Factions

Review: The Banner Saga: Factions

2:00 PM on 03.08.2013 // Allistair Pinsof

Like Fire Emblem for PC

When we first heard of The Banner Saga and its success on Kickstarter last spring, it was a single-player focused turn-based RPG. Since then, it has split off into two releases: a narrative-driven single-player game to come and a free-to-player multiplayer game called Factions, a taste of what's to come and a standalone release that will receive its own updates in upcoming months.

While I was foaming at the mouth for Banner Saga when I checked it out in the fall, it now enters a post-Fire Emblem and XCOM world. By the time the beta rolled out, my interest had faded. Despite these lowered expectations and the misguided community concerns over this free-to-play release, I've been having a good time with Banner Saga and see much promise in how Factions and the upcoming commercial release will improve upon an already solid foundation.

The Banner Saga: Factions (PC, Mac)
Developer: Stoic Studio
Publisher: Stoic Studio
Release: February 25, 2013
MSRP:  Free

Factions is a turn-based tactical RPG played on a grid with a team of six. Characters can be hired, swapped out, and upgraded across matches. Keep those archers behind tanks and use your speedy thrashers to flank; you know the type of game. At a glance, it's Fire Emblem with mouse controls, but its particular systems put Factions in its own class that will win over some while turning away others.

You will fail and fail Factions until you take note of one very important detail: Your characters' strength not only fluctuates in matches, but it is also tied to a unit's hit points. A warrior that does 12 damage will also die from 12 damage, if dealt without any armor. Armor subtracts damage taken, so that a 12 damage strike becomes 2 damage if armor is at 10 (12 - 10 = 2); though, there is a minimum of one damage dealt, if armor is greater than an opponent's strength/hit points.

When attacking, either armor or strength can be specifically addressed (only specials can damage both). This results in some very different approaches to the game. Some players will try to eat away the armor of opponents so they can have a late-game comeback, while I like to lower the strength/HP early on so there is no great threat present. It's an interesting dynamic that Stoic has created; one that I'm still not sure will result in a healthy community with evolving strategies, but it's one that continues to excite me, match-to-match.

Combat is further complicated with the ability to respec individual units' stats outside combat and the willpower system that enables extra movement, damage, and special abilities. Fool around with these systems and you'll discover game-changing strategies. Right now, I'm winning every match with an archer that has high strength and willpower. I use her to do major damage from a distance, until it stops working.

I'll tell you what's not exciting: the speed and presentation. I won't say the gorgeous art style isn't gorgeous, but I do wish there was more movement and animation throughout matches. The game feels like a chess match at times, both from its complexity and its snail-like pace. In its current state, a lack of variety in character classes and abilities also lends a monotony to the first five minutes of these ~20-minute matches. While I don't expect XCOM-style cinematic flourishes, I would like some of the snappiness that keeps matches moving in Fire Emblem: Awakening.

All players of Factions are tied into its renown-based economy, which dictates everything from how characters look to their abilities. At 50 renown, characters can be upgraded once they've killed enough enemies. Player skins can also be altered by spending extra renown or paying money for skins locked behind a pay wall. And, yes you can pay for a lot of things in Factions, if you wish. Stoic may say the game is not pay-to-win, but when players who paid played against me, they certainly did a good job of winning. Though, I can match them in time and I hardly feel frustrated.

Factions' matching system does its best to match by ability and experience, but I did run into two matches that were laughable. One, with a user that had all sorts of abilities I didn't even know could be accessed. While my guys were still moving, he threw two traps that did significant damage to my party, making it very hard to comeback. The other match was with a user who did not pay for any extras but had a team with 300+ kills under their belt. This is just two matches out of ~10 and you can always quit out at the beginning without penalty. I do worry how these systems will work, should players continue to pay and the playerbase shrink.

Some users are calling Factions a grindfest and I can see why: 20 is the most renown I've won in a match, while a losing match often earns between five and seven renown. The path to unlocking new abilities and expanding your roster is a long one. It can be shortened at the marketplace which offers 30 renown for $1.99 to 1,000 for $39.99. Call it a grind, but I never felt I had to pay and rarely did I not have fun because of my decision. In fact, I'm often happy when I come across someone who has, since the display of new abilities and outfits breaks up the monotony that comes from playing multiple sessions. I think the economy isn't fair to those who pay, but that hardly matters when it doesn't greatly effect those who choose not to purchase renown.

I may be harsh on Factions, but it's only because Stoic let the economy -- the one thing that it can't so easily patch -- sour some of the experience in an effort to get that F2P green. Let it be clear then that it never sours the game to the extent that I want to stop playing, though the lackluster pacing and ability set discourages me from coming back. Even so, the rules of Banner Saga's battles are unlike any SRPG I've played and require the player to rethink strategy that applies to similar games. This is a good thing and it keeps me returning, despite my misgivings.

Consider Factions for what it is: A testing ground and potential cash cow for Stoic's upcoming commercial release, and a fun sample of what's to come. If I were not in the middle of Fire Emblem, I may continue to play Factions -- hell, I may play a random match here and there, anyway. This unorthodox release that has Kickstarter backers in a frenzy is not worth getting so worked up over, as it suggests the single-player Banner Saga may be a gem -- a gem that some will have Factions users to thank for helping make it what it is.

While testing Banner Saga through Factions is not exactly social work, it's not what you've been waiting for, either. Call it a scenic detour that gives the dinner hosts at Stoic some extra time to cook more side dishes while testing out the current ones on guests. Don't worry: Factions is plenty of fun on its own and will only get better as updates roll out.



The Banner Saga Factions - Reviewed by Allistair Pinsof
Likable - That's a seven, which is actually a different number than five. It's more than ok. We like this game. I don't want to play it every day forever and ever, but it's definitely worth the time I invested in it, and I'll be picking it up again to relive the fun sometime down the line.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Allistair Pinsof,
 Follow Blog + disclosure DtoidAllistair

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
The Banner Saga Factions

  Feb 25

I'm playing Banner Saga: Factions and so can you!

The free-to-play strategy RPG is now on Steam and dang hot

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!

Some more of not much tbh.

On The Fence

Five wrestling games in which kayfabe is REAL

Persona Still Reigns Perfection

Cblogs of 11/30/2015 + Saudi Arabian Ban Hammer

Eleven indie games that will CHANGE YOUR LIFE in 2016

Should 'Mercy Spoilers' be a thing?

Thankful It's Over: Assassin's Creed 2

Virtua Memories: Virtua Fighter/Remix (Virtua Fighter Month)

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
EdgyDude smiles upon thee, Thou hast backed the new Indie, Indivisble. (They're 98 percent there!)
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
Project M isn't dead. It only truly dies when you let it die in your heart. Remember MvC2?
Project M is gone. One less Smash game to suck at!
Torchman avatarTorchman
RIP Project M.
JayfromtheSun avatarJayfromtheSun
Have a [url=]Harvest Moon 64 Review [/url].
Parismio avatarParismio
I thought it my PS Plus would end at November 30th, but it turns out it ends at the last day of December... Well alright then.
Alright guys, check this out; I'm going to write a paragraph, double space it, enlarge the font, then put a cover letter page over it and hand it in to the professor. What do you guys think?! I am best riter. #iwantareallife
TheCrazyEven avatarTheCrazyEven
Valve has lost almost all my respect: [youtube][/youtube]
KnickKnackMyWack avatarKnickKnackMyWack
I wish more cartoony games would come out. Nintendo makes plenty but there should be more high quality games with whimsy. Where's Jak IV? A proper Crash? Anything that doesn't just involve mashing one button? Realism is fine, but there's a LOT already.
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
Okay, that's Fallout: New Vegas done. Can't wait for the next one to come out.
techsupport avatartechsupport
I'm new to Ultra Street Fighter IV and I suck and I still dig it a lot
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
R steepled her fingers and smiled as she looked over at S and Z. "We have stopped two shipments of breasts from making it to America as well as Europe, meaning those will be added to our boob coffer. In time, all the breasts shall be mi... I mean, ours.."
siddartha85 avatarsiddartha85
I finally backed Indivisible. After hearing about Red from Transistor, I played the demo again. That platforming is solid and I'm used to the combat now.
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Man, I completely forgot how awesome Pokemon Black and White's soundtrack is. The Vs. Trainers theme is probably one of the best I ever heard, if not the best in the entire series: [youtube][/youtube]
EdgyDude avatarEdgyDude
Indivisible's campaign is over $1.4 million! just a little more!
Dum, dum, dum! Another blog bites the dust! And another done, and another done! Another blog bites the dust! #RIPtumblrbecausefuckit
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Ugh, I've been sick for what feels like 3 weeks. If I die I leave all my games casket because they're mine. Stay away! *hiss, hiss*
TysonOfTime avatarTysonOfTime
Apparently the upcoming Tri-Force heroes update makes the local-play only items possible to get for everyone. That's pretty great!
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
What youtubers y'all watch? I need more.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Playing For Glory earlier today, some guy beat me and changed his name to "ifukdu_up". I won next round and he changed it to "ILETUWIN". I then 2-0ed the little sucker, and he left the lobby. I took great pride from this incident.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -