Monday, February 24, 2014

Banner Saga, Vikings, and A Princess of Mars walk into a bar...

This week I've enjoyed so many things that I can't decide on just one! Read below for mini-review of the game Banner Saga, the show Vikings, and the book A Princess of Mars.

The Banner Saga

I absolutely love this game. The first thing you'll notice is that the art is absolutely stunning, and it remains so even during game play. Travel in the game is done Oregon Trail style, uncontrolled journey that you interact with through event-driven prompts. They can be morally ambiguous or potentially risky to your caravan. Combat takes place on a grid-based, tactical map. Each character has an ability or two that makes them different and changes how you plan an encounter. Enemies are reasonably difficult, if not particularly varied.
A meeting of Varl and Men.

A special note on the combat -- I appreciate that each stat in the game matters. Strength is the most important, as it is your health and damage (which lowers as you take damage, which is an interested translation of battle fatigue/damage), but all of the others have very important roles in character growth.

Grid-Based Goodness.
The story itself is dark and grim but, for the most part, very well told. The characters are unique and interesting and you're given enough choices throughout the game to feel as if you're changing things. The main players are viking-like humans and giant, horned varls verse dredge, though their may be more behind the sudden dredge invasion than is readily apparent...

The few negatives I have are that the actual story is fairly scripted. Most of you choices effect your caravan, but they have very little effect on game play. Also, certain events can happen that are unavoidable if you make certain decisions fairly early in the game, and they seem terribly unfair. The combat itself is interesting, but the maps you fight on, while beautiful, are the unbroken/unaltered grids. There is no terrain or obstacles, and that would have added a huge element to the strategy components. Oh, and the game is a bit short. I've played through almost three times already (I enjoy it that much), but I definitely wanted it to keep going, especially considering the final story elements. No word on when the rest of the trilogy will come out (assuming, of course, they do...).

This game gets a 9/10 from The Nerd, it really did hit a lot of levels I enjoy.


Verizon has the first season free up until Thursday. It's almost like a historically based Game of Thrones. The action is solid, the tension can ride pretty high, and the history component is pretty damn interesting.
Ragnar, the most BA Viking you'll meet.
Thursday, when the second season premieres. I watched it on a whim and The Wife and I quickly fell in love. There are a lot of characters to like here, from the main character Ragnar, to the mildly insane Floki. It plays out almost like a historical-based

This is one to watch for the characters above all else, I'd say. I give it an 8/10 because I find some of their story choices to be a touch odd, but it is always engaging.

A Princess of Mars

New cover, works for me.
Following my sci-fi classic bent of late, I picked this up at a Barnes and Noble after the new cover caught my eye (I always judge a book by its cover). It was a relatively short read, but there was a lot to love. It was sci-fi before sci-fi had to explain everything to the thousandth degree. How does John Carter get to Mars? I have no idea, but when he gets there he does manage to kick some Barsoom-ian ass. It's a nice little romp through a fiction that has influenced many that have come since. Despite being a story that built many tropes we see today, it still stands firmly on its own without being overly campy.

The Green Martians, John Carter, and Dejah Thoris are all notable identities in this novel, and I strongly suggest it. For a rating, I'm comfortable giving it a 10/10, I had zero issues with the novel and look forward to the rest of the series.


  1. Thanks for the reminder. I've had A Princess of Mars sitting on my kindle for a long time (it is free since it is now public domain) and just hadn't gotten to it yet.

    1. I actually didn't know public domain works were free on ereaders. It makes sense, seeing as how I can find the full body of work online if I so desired, but that does make another interesting point in favor of ereaders, which I'm struggling against (can't have a physical library in my house without books to fill the shelves!).

      Either way, definitely suggest it. And it only took me a day to get through (though I spend over two hours on the train and another hour on my lunch break devoted to reading).