Fly The Flag: The Banner Saga: Factions Now Available

By Jim Rossignol on February 27th, 2013 at 3:00 pm.


The Banner Saga: Factions is, you will recall, the free multiplayer aspect of The Banner Saga, rather than the single-player campaign that you’re going to have pay up front for. Nathan went hands on with the game previously to tell us all what to expect. I’m downloading it right now for turn-based impressions. Anyone else jumping on this particularly wagon? It being F2P and all that?

Trailer beneath the snowy wastes.

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54 Comments »

  1. pakoito says:

    This F2P is not P2W except paying unlocks more stuff, faster. But you can grind a lot to unlock what the people paying have so it’s not P2W. Pinky swear.

    /fallacy

    • Zeewolf says:

      Ah, it’s just “pay to win faster”.

      • pakoito says:

        Well, at least that is balanced because team composition has a point cap.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Not really. It’s “Pay to progress faster”. As you upgrade your units you will be matched with other players who have an identical amount of upgrades to their own, so it’s always a level playing field with the only differences being which units are upgraded, and how. It seems pretty good overall to me, I’ve played six games and promoted two units, it seems like achievements aside, you get on average 6 renown per match imagining you aren’t always being stomped, with 50 being required for a promotion, one per ten matches seem reasonable to me.

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      • somnolentsurfer says:

        Because of the matchmaking, more like “pay to play against better opponents”. Or, if you don’t know what you’re doing, “pay to lose”.

        Which probably isn’t the selling point Stoic were hoping for, but if it stops all the tedious complaints on the forums then great.

    • Fenixius says:

      It’s fun! It’s pretty, it’s smart, and it’s balanced… but I’m loathing the progression system so far. First fight each day, win or lose, is the only one that seems to be worth Renown. And you need 5 kills per unit to upgrade them, but apparently they’re only counted in the first day, too? I’m hoping some of that is bugs, but I doubt it…

      Edit: I’ve been informed that kills are counted in random 1v1, but not friends/private games. Upon consideration, while annoying for me since I’d prefer to play with my friends, it’s a good move for the community because you’ll see more people playing normal matches. On the other hand, it encourages abnormal play to prioritise kills by one unit over another since there’s no death penalty. So I’m a little on the fence about that decision, but it’s probably better overall…

      • somnolentsurfer says:

        How so? Doesn’t it just mean you have to weigh up the long game of trying to level key characters vs. the short game of what’s strategically important now? Sounds like it should make it more interesting to me…

        • Kitsunin says:

          Not to mention that as of now, getting the kills to promote a unit is extremely trivial.

  2. Blackseraph says:

    Yeah I am waiting for the single player, don’t see much point in this part of the game.

    Single player seems great though.

    • pakoito says:

      I do see the point. It helps balancing combat, makes money on the side and allows tactics multiplayer, which is a highly overlooked genre.

      Between this, Telepath Tactics and Card Hunter it’ll be a great year.

      • Blackseraph says:

        Single player does not have to be all that balanced, I get your other points though.

        I just fear that making this might have taken time from making the single player. But then my fears might be baseless.

      • DK says:

        Balancing around multiplayer hurts singleplayer more than it helps – which means this is an entirely wasted effort for the singleplayer portion. Factions is entirely about making mo-money – and their grindy progression and expensive store are symptoms of that.

        Hopefully their singleplayer game is nothing like Factions.

        • mariusmora says:

          Well, being a beta tester for factions i can tell that combat has improved a lot thanks to community feedback. I agree maybe “balancing” is more useful for multiplayer, but you are also going to have to fight against the same units (AI) in the single player part. Thanks to this, combat will be better in the sp game.

          Anyway, obviously working on the network stuff and the like costs time that is not going into the main game. But I personally think it’s worth it: they get a little extra cash + a lot more coverage for the game

          And we get to play an amazing game for free!

          • DK says:

            Fighting the same “balanced” units in singleplayer is incredibly boring. Good Singleplayer is fun because it’s unbalanced – you fight things that may outclass you or hordes of things that are far too weak to be considered balanced. Or a mixture of the two. Or things that are completely outside the realm of playable multiplayer units. But if you base your singleplayer combat on the multiplayer balance, you’ll not have any of that. There’s a reason most RTS games have started to have completely separate units for their campaigns – balance is boring.

          • Arnie-Stoic says:

            DK: There are no Dredge in the multiplayer. They would be severely overpowered if players could use them. They will be the main menace in the Saga.

          • pakoito says:

            Balance doesn’t mean equality but fun, that your team has synergies and the numbers are ok.

  3. Easy says:

    It’s a clever game, every move must be carefully weighted, every use of willpower makes you sweat. I like it, a lot. Chess on steroids, except I don’t like chess so much but I do like THIS. Ultimately I’m waiting for the SP campaign, but I can’t deny that there’s a lot of strategy going on here and if you’re into a clash of wits and cunning you may like this.

    Oh, beautiful art too. And music.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      I’ve been finding it much more reminiscent of Blood Bowl, only without the annoying randomness, ugly graphics and horrendous net code. There’ve been some issues, but it’s generally much nicer than that was (at launch anyway, it might have improved now), and the prettiness of it all more than makes up for it.

  4. Screen Blind says:

    Really enjoying it. Scratches just the same sort of itch that Kongai used to :)

  5. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    I’ve been writing about this on a weekly basis, in an effort to try and master it. It’s very difficult. I also think all the comparisons with chess that are constantly made are not particularly helpful.

    • Easy says:

      Well of course it doesn’t play anything like chess, but it does help to convey a few tropes:
      - it’s played on a board with a square grid
      - it’s played with various pieces that have common (move) but also unique (how far they can move + special abilities) characteristics
      - every move can be agonizing as it’s a big commitment and you’re constantly thinking BUT WHAT WILL HE DO NEXT!

      That’s all I meant by that “comparison”.

      • Ninja Foodstuff says:

        I wasn’t referring to your comment specifically, just that that comparison crops up an awful lot.

        • mariusmora says:

          Yeah, it’s really a lot more than chess. It’s something you could never do in a real board game. And different too :)

          • Illessa says:

            You say that, but apparently they developed the system with a chess set, seems like it would be a lot of book keeping faff to me but there you go.

            I think the comparison is meant to draw attention to the alternating turns and lack of random elements too. The only things I can think of that need an RNG are the Thrasher’s special (4 hits, 50/50 chance of hitting armour or strength), and to-hit chance when your strength is less than the target’s armour (if you’re running into that one often you’re probably doing something wrong). I like it, means I have no one but myself to blame for my frequent losses ;).

  6. Jenks says:

    I backed it on Kickstarter but I’m really waiting for the single player. I played a few games in beta and it was great, but I prefer to come at my SRPGs more like a puzzle than a competition.

  7. Cerzi says:

    Been playing this solidly since it went up on Steam a couple nights ago. Fantastic little game – even if this multiplayer wasn’t the original focus of the game, it clearly has a huge amount of potential just in its mechancis, and I can certainly see it drawing in the competitive crowd.

  8. Tyrmot says:

    This is beautiful and fun – though I can’t wait for the single-player!

  9. H-Hour says:

    It looks promising, but it’s a bit ridiculous for them to make a game that on the surface has a lot of similarities with (not-free-as-in-pay-to-win-but-actually-just-free) Battle for Wesnoth and then say on their Steam profile it has “a degree of depth unprecedented in the realm of free games”. I’ll be testing out that claim…

    • pakoito says:

      Not every TBS game is BfW, seriously, I’m so tired of this uninformed statement. Westnoth is NOT a tactics-level game nor it scratches the same itch as Disgaea or Fire Emblem.

      http://sinisterdesign.net/11-differences-between-telepath-tactics-and-the-battle-for-wesnoth/

      • Zepp says:

        Wesnoth is not a tactics-level game? Just because you used caps for “NOT” it doesn’t make your opinion more valid. You are disgusting.

        • shadowmarth says:

          Maybe, maybe not, but he’s right that as far as strategy games go, it’s HIGHLY dissimilar to Wesnoth. I love both, but they are not even in the same ballpark. Wesnoth is about managing resources on a large map, capturing territory, creating, upgrading, and carefully managing large numbers of units throughout a battle, as well as planning based on shitloads of random chance. Wesnoth has a number of enormously divergent factions, map types, day/night cycles, etc. Banner Saga is about down close positioning, carefully managing the stats of single units, blocking, maiming, weakening, and avoiding the element of random chance like the plague. There’s one faction, no production of units, and you go in with the team you pick regardless.

          Long story short it’s like the difference between, I dunno, Advance Wars and Frozen Synapse.

    • Szpil says:

      I’d suggest go play it, cause it is really nothing like BfW. It’s a whole different and deep tactical game, so you wont be disappointed. Been playing it since beta.

      • Arnie-Stoic says:

        We did not design this game after BfW and have been getting many questions from new players asking for more info on what is a pretty intricate system to wrap their heads around. There are many great guides on our site, but here’s a good one made by one of the top players in the game that’s “compact” to see if the systems seem up your ally:
        http://stoicstudio.com/forum/showthread.php?1036-Slimsy-s-Compact-Guide-to-Factions-Strategy
        Really great comments! Thanks to all the players here who have given it a shot. :)

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        I’ll echo that statement by Szpil. Give it a go and see for yourself.

  10. Strangerator says:

    This might be the first game that is pay-to-lose. You basically buy your way into the big leagues, so you have the same stuff as the more experienced players, but you are still completely inexperienced. If you actually work your way up the ranks, you earn the ever intangible “player experience.”

    • JFS says:

      Absolutely, good sir, absolutely. I didn’t quite understand it at the beginning, but I’m really glad I didn’t buy any renown or upgraded units, because that just makes you meet the big bad guys who know how to play, whereas you don’t.

      All in all, great game. I don’t like competitive and/or multiplayer, but this is nicely done.

  11. mavis says:

    As a backer of the kickstarter I only really wanted to look at Factions in order to get a look at the combat system and I have not been disapointed. The combat system looks pretty simple – but with the armour, strength, will power interaction it has a decent ammount of depth so I’ve found self playing the tactics game a bit.

    I think however they have messed up the progression – very grindy – and have locked all the fun units away until you’ve played a lot. Also the expense of upgrading people – and the fact you can not get those points back really don’t reward experimentation.

    Some sort of system where you spent points to build your team would allow a much better play experience in my opinion. Getting matched up against somebody with a max level aoe guy in my first game was not a good play experience as he just butchered two guys in one attack…..

    Fingers crossed they are using this to really make the combat in the single player really fabulous – so it’s actually heighening my anticipation.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      You can’t get back renown you spend on specialising when you level up, but you know you can respec the stats of your characters at any point, right?

  12. Hanban says:

    These trailers.. I really, really like them. They evoke such immense Myth: The Fallen Lords vibes for me.

  13. TsunamiWombat says:

    Tactical gameplay strikes a balance between being sedate and frenetic. You make a move and wait a while for your opponent to make a move. I’m concerned the PVP will get boring and samey after a while. Also when a match is clearly over it can still take a long while for things to run down.

    All in all, with how long a game takes, i’m concerned the Renown rewards may not be enough. I’m mostly interested in the singleplayer story anyway

    Also I might be in love with the archer character, she’s very pretty.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Following the Blood Bowl comparison I made above, it takes a heck of a lot less time for a clearly over game to run down than that does…

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        On the other hand, it doesn’t feel that way (for me). Granted, I’ve only played one match, but while fun it does feel a bit slow. Which is interesting considering I missed my opponent finishing his move on more than one occasion. Sure, it’s because I was considering i could have done differently and wanted to do, but still it’d be nice if there was a sound or something to make the ending/starting of moves a bit more obvious. Not that the order bar isn’t obvious, I just didn’t feel like gawking at it all the time.

  14. agentgray says:

    I feel a little burned by this because I supported it on Kickstarter—and then all the Factions stuff has F2P elements in it. It’s like my support went to Factions so they could get money for the single-player game (what I originally supported for).

    I know it’s coming but it’s I feel slightly slighted. As far as the Factions side goes, the rewards are not worth the investment. It feels like there is a pay wall in there.

  15. almostDead says:

    Can you guys please tell me if there is any kind of tutorial or whether you can practice against bots (and do the bots have reasonable AI). Or is that too SP for this MP part?

    • tobecooper says:

      There is a tutorial which I think explains the basics really well. And the matchmaking is working rather good so you should encounter people with similar skill.
      At least, that was my experience.

    • Szpil says:

      yep, there are tutorials and videos explaining the basics. there are also some good guides on the forums over at stoic. stoic confirmed that they are going to implement their AI in the multiplayer game as well, while they are working on it for the saga (the sp game) – so you will be able to play AI opponents in the future

  16. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    woah… this game came out of nowhere for me.
    I read a bit of the stuff about it being a single player RPG-ish tactical game, then it was going to be a competitive online…or two games or something.
    But it’s free so I figured why not.
    I have discovered that it is quite good.

  17. CrossCountryOtterHunter says:

    Backed this in the Kickstarter, but missed out on most of the beta as a little intimidated. However I’ve been playing for the last week or so now and finding it really fun.

    I’ve been looking for something semi casual, but with some depth, and this fits the bill nicely. Games are about 20 minutes a piece, so fit in nicely when I’m shattered from a shift and to do something more involved gaming wise. Was worried in the beginning about the ‘grind’, however I’ve found for myself the progression nice so far. It’s encouraged me to knock about and learn to play the game without rushing into the amazing units. Perhaps years of EVE have tempered my patience around this though.

    Every match has been a learning experience, even getting completely flattened. While some of the more advanced units are pretty cool to play with, until you under stand some of the fundamentals they won’t be used effectively.

    I’ve also thrown £20 down on some the F2P stuff as I’d like to support Stoic further, I’ve even held off putting the renown into promoting anyone as I feel it’s a little pointless with less than 20 games under my belt.

    Have to say while this seems to have had more focus that Stoic planned, there are plenty of backers who are bitter about this already, I’m even more excited to see the campaign come to fruition. It’s going to be bloody mint.

  18. Star Guarded says:

    I understand why they released this, I really do, and this game is definite confirmation that the singleplayer game will be great, but I’m in the camp that’s disappointed they pushed the singleplayer game back to put this out. You don’t get kills for playing games with friends, so you have to play ranked games to promote your units, which aren’t fun because people can just quit once you gain an advantage (and they do, because one match takes around 45 minutes). It’s a great game that’s, unfortunately, made worse because you have to play it with people you don’t know. But the combat is great and the game is gorgeous, so I’ll just keep waiting for the singleplayer game.

    Also, you get renown for playing with a friend, but only the first time (presumably once per day). I understand these measures are in to prevent exploitation, but it makes it harder to have fun.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Well, even in real life matches of games such as chess, most people concede when they see they don’t have a chance. If people deny you kills by quitting the game though, that’s a problem… either they should be penalized in some way, such as losing any promotions their units would’ve gained from the battle, or the opponent quitting should grant some XP to your units.

  19. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    Anyone else having trouble logging in to play now?

  20. notenome says:

    Warning, large post incoming:

    -I backed this on kickstarter, and on ks the devs had already said they were going to make a multiplayer f2p game before the single player. That was always the plan.

    -A lot of the work (music, art etc) obviously carries over into single player. Also the combat system refinements do so as well, and they can build the AI around what works in multiplayer (for example, its better often to cripple units rather then kill them).

    -Its most definetly not pay to win. A week ago, there was a cost to respec units and the store was fairly expensive. The community complained and the devs lowered the cost of making purchases and removed the respec tax.

    -Because of matchmaker, buying units pretty much guarantees a loss. You are matched on a combination of your ELO and how strong your units are. If you buy units, that means you’ll be putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage. Personally I haven’t spent a dime on the game (outside KS) and I’m currently 3rd or 4th in ELO and have more renown then I know what to do with (and I’m a far cry from a strategic/tactical genius. A far cry).

    -As for the renown grind: It’s important because it smooths out the learning curve. It makes it so you’ll be playing other unexperienced players. Also the game is very generous with its renown bonuses:

    -Every unit you kill = 1 renown
    -You get 1 bonus renown for every consecutive day you’ve logged in.
    -If you play expert mode you get 1 bonus renown
    -If you play someone with better units you get 1 bonus renown
    -If you win you get 1 bonus renown
    -If you go on a winning streak you get 1 bonus renown
    -For every achievement you get 5 (I think) renown, and there are a LOT of achievements

    -Though obviously a computer game, TBS:F is often compared to chess. Personally I like to call it viking chess, because it has the same base concepts as chess: alternating moves, no hidden randomness etc. But one thing that makes the banner saga fairly unique is that it provides a very big board with few pieces (6 per side). That creates an interesting dynamic because (unlike chess) its harder to try to control the middle AND attack the flanks simultaneously, so you generally have to create a strategy on turn 1 and hope you’re right. Also there are enough units in the game that strategies can vary wildly between players/matches.

    In closing, I’d like to remind everyone that this is an Indie game funded on Kickstarter, and its a quality product. I want this to succeed, and I’m delighted by how its turned out so far. FTL was great, and I’m loving Banner Saga. If this level of quality persists in Kickstarted games, then crowd funding might be the most important new development in the history of video games (along with digital distribution) imho.