Bannerman is a game where you play as a man, with a banner, for about 30 seconds before you get tragically destroyed in a battle and then wake up and get sent on a mission to rally your troops for another shot at the title.
When talking about Bannerman’s basic gameplay, the biggest thing I noticed was realism in combat. Your character isn’t afraid of grabbing the blade on his own weapon and using the crossguard as a sledgehammer, your ability to absorb damage isn’t great, and you move with a sense of awkwardness only found in actually trying to kill someone with an ancient weapon while they are doing the same. The battles feel realistic, and the whole game relies on that.
Other than that, it’s your standard 2D walk through town simulator and talk to random folk who may or may not care why you’re there. That’s not a bad thing, I think it’s an excellent vehicle to share relevant story information without forcing you to sit through cutscenes or scroll through huge walls of text. You choose how much story you get, and that’s great.
The graphics are pixel art, and, it’s pretty good. I’ve seen much more involved pixel art before, but, this game has all of the animation you want, everything is clear and concise, and it fills in the key points with really nice portraits that remind me of old adventure games. The main character is cool looking, and while unique compared to the other characters, really feels like he fits into the world. I think the idea of the game is portrayed incredibly through it’s artwork. It looks like… Prince of Persia, but with combat. So… Blackthorne, but… medieval.
The music is great. The tunes are historically themed and even the sound of a blacksmith tapping away on a piece of steel brings you into the world more than in most games in the price range.
As far as gameplay goes, I already explained that battles feel awkward, but it’s not awkward in a bad way. The enemy AI is too slick until you figure out how to defend yourself, but pretty soon you’ll be dodging arrows and bringing the pain to anybody who stands in front of you. I think this game is best played with a light buzz, as it fits with the sense of opposition. One guy mucking about with a sword is always in kind of over his head, and that’s how this game feels. I enjoy it. Enemies are relatively weak at first, provided you can hit them, but, I imagine a bit of gamification was required to make it feel like progression was more than just story progression.
The immense battle at the beginning was really neat to experience, even though I just walked through it with the banner. This atmospheric grit really pushes the game as far as I’m concerned. If it wasn’t for the attention to detail in environments and combat, this game would probably be compared to a slightly more advanced singleplayer only nidhogg, without giant worms, repeated deaths, or 3 different stances. (The game has two, which are enough once you see the combat.)
It’s not my favourite game of the year, by any stretch of the imagination, but it sticks with you, like a hearty meal. The overall game is worth playing, but it’s not going to draw you in with customization or incredible setpiece battles. Everything is contained, it’s simple, but effective story, combat system, and world are there for you to experience, not attempt to master. (Though, I dare you to try and master this combat system. It feels like a huge challenge that screams for multiplayer support, which it sadly does not.)
For 15 bucks, there are definitely longer-term titles, but, not many with the sense of realism or grit. This game is pretty good, and you might want to check it out.
Disclosure: We received this game for free.