I’m in utter shock. I’ve actually managed to find a game worse than Final Fantasy Tactics. Not even just one game, either; Walking Simulator Saga is a dreadful triumvirate of THREE separate games! HOLY SHIT

Let’s cut to the chase: The Banner Saga, or as I’d rather call it, Walking Simulator Saga, is a trainwreck of epic proportions and can barely even be called a series of “games.” Over 80% of my playtime was spent watching my caravan walk slowly, or making meaningless decisions that didn’t affect the plot. I use the word “game” very loosely in this article.

Supposedly, people have praised Walking Simulator Saga for its artwork. It’s decent, admittedly, but I have two issues with this outlook of “good graphics = good game.” Firstly, if I’m playing a video game, then I expect to play a game; I don’t want to watch a movie, watch a slideshow, or visit an art gallery. A game is supposed to provide me, the player, with meaningful decisions and interactive challenges. That’s the baseline criterion for being a game, and Walking Simulator Saga utterly fails in this respect. Secondly, while the graphics are good, they’re not remarkable. If a second-rate copycat of classic Disney – because let’s be real here, that’s all Walking Simulator Saga’s artwork really amounts to – can be praised as “stunning” and “excellent,” then the public’s collective standards have seriously deteriorated.

Most of Walking Simulator Saga’s scenes aren’t even animated. These cutscenes are few and far between, so likening the “game” to an “interactive movie” is dishonest at best. And regardless of how good these scenes are, were they really that good for 2014? No, of course they weren’t. 

Starting off Walking Simulator 1, I was presented with the most disjointed, pretentious, and messy introduction I have ever seen in any game. Someone delivers a monologue, but the “game” doesn’t bother telling us who he is. I’m thrust into the shoes of a character named Ubin. The “game” doesn’t bother telling me who he is, yet it expects me to choose dialogue branches for him; what sort of sense does that make? I’m shown a cutscene of some giant viking dudes barging into a tavern, but I’m provided no context for this and have no idea why any of this is happening. Why should I be invested in the story when it can’t be assed to provide exposition for stuff as basic as this? 

And no, the story doesn’t get any better from there. It’s either incoherent or boring (or both) throughout its entire running time. Characters all talk the same, and because of the cookie-cutter dialogue branches that most of them have, none of them feel like unique personalities. As the player, you are putting words into the mouths of several characters throughout a playthrough of the “game.” Given this reality, was there any possible way for Walking Simulator Saga to write compelling characters? No, of course not.

Here’s Alette. She only has one tooth and looks like a fucking troglodyte. Wow, marvelous artwork!

On the gameplay front, Walking Simulator Saga is at least 80% reading text or watching repetitive walking sequences. Hence why I call it “Walking Simulator Saga.” The general gist of the “game” is that it’s a second-rate SRPG fused with a second-rate Oregon Trail wannabe. 

The main problem with this fusion is that the “game” doesn’t execute either idea well. At all. 

When it comes to the SRPG stuff, the “game” is a catastrophe. Map design is among the worst I’ve ever seen: battlefields are bland, undecorated boxy arenas with nothing happening. It’s so bad that it even makes Fire Emblem Gaiden’s maps look breathtaking by comparison. Character progression is both simple and meaningless, culminating in special abilities which provide luck-based bonuses to stats, such as +20% crit chance or +15% chance to avoid strength damage. Because obviously, introducing a bevy of luck-based components is the only proper way to balance out a strategy game, right? 

This “game” makes Fire Emblem Awakening’s map design look like fine art. HOW IS THERE A SRPG SO BAD THAT IT’S MAKING ME PRAISE FE13?!?!?!!?!?

I can’t even take back my movement in case I misclick. You’d think something basic like that would’ve been ironed out, but no, this problem persists until the third “game,” which was released in 2018. (The original was released in 2014, and was in development since 2012 at least.) AI is also bewildering, often walking right up to you and then ending its turn without doing anything. You’d think that after six fucking years of development time, the developers would’ve bothered fixing basic issues like this, but no – instead, they must’ve blown their entire >$1,000,000 budget on graphics, to the exclusion of everything else. 

Fuck this “game.” It’s one of the very few “games” which legitimately make me angry. 

What absolutely and totally ruins Walking Simulator Saga’s combat is the asinine turn system which punishes you for playing intelligently. Let’s say you have 5 units and the enemy has 2 units. In a battle system with common sense, you would be able to move 5 units in the time it takes for the enemy to move 2 units. But no, not in Walking Simulator Saga. In such a scenario, you will alternate turns with the enemy, resulting in degenerate situations where an enemy will get 2 actions before some of your units have made a single move. It’s as if the enemy suddenly has the advantage due to being outnumbered. 

This is degenerate gameplay

There are so many things wrong with this turn system. The most obvious is that it encourages you to not kill enemies, and instead leave all your enemies at 1 HP before finishing them all at once. It also completely fails the common-sense test: do characters in Walking Simulator Saga suddenly start moving twice as quickly once their allies die? How does that even work?

Walking Simulator Saga doesn’t do Oregon Trail well, either. It only presents you with three resources to manage: Renown, Morale, and Supplies. None of them even matter. Supposing you run out of supplies, your caravan will start to starve, but there are no adverse consequences to this. Supposing you run low on morale, you’ll start with an ever-so minor penalty in combat, but that doesn’t really matter either. Especially considering that you can lose every single battle and still beat Walking Simulator 3… ON THE HARDEST DIFFICULTY MODE. Yes, really! I’m not even joking; the “game” truly is THAT bad!

Compare this to the heavy consequences of Oregon Trail. There were several more resources to manage. Death (usually by dysentery) meant something. Supplies meant something. There was always an imminent threat of danger. Oregon Trail was a masterpiece of its time; Walking Simulator Saga is clearly not. If you want a good modern-day game which fuses Oregon Trail and turn-based strategy, I would direct you to Overland instead. 

Look at this. My caravan has been completely reduced to zero. Yet, nothing happens. Nope – the “game” would rather punish me for doing intelligent things, like killing enemies.

Let’s go back to the biggest problem with Walking Simulator Saga. As I was saying at the beginning of this article, Walking Simulator Saga simply does not feel like a game. The whole reason I play games is to work through meaningful challenges, to make meaningful decisions, and feel in control. That’s what’s uniquely fun about video games, as a medium. In Walking Simulator Saga however, what I got was the complete opposite: there are no meaningful challenges, there are no meaningful decisions, and I feel like I am not in control of anything in the game.

Over 80% of my playtime was spent reading text boxes or watching walking animations. This is not how a “game” should feel. At best, you could argue that it tries to be a visual novel, but countless other games/visual novels have far superior stories. Look to Sakura Wars for a stellar example of a game which fuses turn-based strategy with visual novels, while also providing the player with meaningful decisions.

See this? It’s the perfect representation of Walking Simulator Saga. It’s visually impressive, but mechanically, it’s five minutes of just walking. Slowly.

Everything in Walking Simulator Saga takes way too long to happen. Walking from point A to point B on your caravan takes forever. Watching combat animations takes forever. Watching units walk in battles takes forever. Characters go on long-winded soliloquys which take forever. Writing this article is taking forever because of how chock-full of problems this series of “games” is. I spent a grand total of 12 hours finishing the entire thing (6 hours for Walking Simulator 1, 4 hours for Walking Simulator 2, and 2 hours for Walking Simulator 3), and even that felt like it took too long. 

Especially for the price point: it’s normally $75 for the whole thing ($25 for each “game”), but I thankfully got them on sale awhile back.

Here’s yet another problem with Walking Simulator Saga: dialogue options don’t really amount to much because they often lead to precisely the OPPOSITE of what you’d expect. Here’s a great example: at one point, I was prompted to choose between resting or searching for treasure. What do you suppose would happen in a sensical, reasonable game? Well, probably, “rest” would mean “rest” and “searching for treasure “would mean “searching for treasure.” But what does Walking Simulator Saga do? 

…choosing “rest” will get you ambushed by a group of enemies, while “search” will find nothing, and instead set you traveling on your way. WHO ON EARTH WOULD’VE GUESSED THIS? You may as well play through the dialogue branches while blindfolded. 

This is far from an isolated example, but it’s the clearest incident I can offer. Other shenanigans include NPCs who show up once, never to be mentioned again, or certain choices having no effect on your playthrough whatsoever. I remember one case where a group of women were feuding in my caravan, only for them to never get mentioned again. What sort of sense does that make? 

All in all, things like this result in a world which overall feels very stale and lifeless. It ties in with what I’m saying about how I’m not given any meaningful choices in Walking Simulator Saga. I might be leading a caravan of 700 people, but what good is this when they feel like mere numbers on a screen? What good is this when I can lose every single one of them, lose every single battle, get my morale to the lowest possible level, and still emerge triumphant in Walking Simulator 3? My choices mean absolutely nothing in Walking Simulator Saga. For this reason, I refuse to call Walking Simulator Saga a series of “games.” 

My 10 str – the enemy’s 4 armor should = 6 damage, killing him. But nope, this happens instead. I only dealt 4.

Going back to the combat, Walking Simulator Saga has even more significant problems I didn’t mention earlier, such as uncreative and boring 1v1 battles which have no place in a strategy game. In the above screenshot, you’ll see that monsters are suddenly mitigating my damage. The problem is there’s no way for me to tell why this is happening. I can’t investigate their skills or abilities, and I’m given no percentage chance of how often this happens.

There’s another battle which flat-out lies to me by saying “you must move one of your units to the gate to win the battle,” even though I did that by moving one of my vikings to the gate. Turns out I had to move one of my humans to the gate. That’s a big fucking difference. Why couldn’t the “game” just say “move one of your humans to the gate” instead? Why’s it gotta be misleading like this? 

mfw trying to derive any enjoyment from this series of “games”

As I stated at the beginning of this article, I’m in an utter state of shock right now. I cannot believe how bad this series of “games” is.

Not only have I actually managed to find a SRPG series worse than Final Fantasy Tactics, but this is by far, and without question, the worst series of “games” I have ever played. There is nothing redeemable about Walking Simulator Saga. At all. The turn order sucks, the map design sucks, the character progression sucks, the tutorial sucks, the story sucks, the storytelling sucks, the characters suck, the “choices” suck, the worldbuilding sucks, the resource management sucks, and the pacing sucks. It fails as a SRPG, it fails as an Oregon Trail game, it fails as a visual novel, and it fails as a “game.” You could actively try to make the worst game possible, and you’d still end up making a better game than Walking Simulator Saga. 

Every single thing about Walking Simulator Saga is catastrophically, consummately, and outrageously horrendous. This is the single greatest example of what happens when you prioritize graphics over gameplay. It represents everything wrong with modern gaming and is a total disgrace to the SRPG genre. 

Fuck Walking Simulator Saga.

General Information
Year: 2014 (WSS1), 2017 (WSS 2), 2018 (WSS 3)
Console: Who cares?
Developers: Stoic
I refuse to link to anywhere you can buy these “games.” They don’t deserve any additional promotion.

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Diogo Angra
29 days ago

That was very, very harsh. Poor Banner Saga. But at least the video ended with Streets of Rage music.

João Guilherme
João Guilherme
29 days ago

It think calling this game Walking Simulator is a disgrace to walking simulator because at least most of them have a good story like what remains of edith finch

Malisa
Malisa
29 days ago

I usually agree with you, but this has to be your worst review ever. I see something of a pattern now, you don’t like western designed games very much. Firstly I cannot fathom what was so confusing about the story for you, it’s pretty clear from the very beginning. The only thing that isn’t is why are the dredge back. The story is pretty great overall with little mysteries thst unravel over the course of the game. The choices do matter, and sometimes they can lead you to loosing battle characters, and different endings but seeing how you usually skipped the dialogue it’s no wonder why you gained that impression.
I also highly disagree with your opinion on battle system and strategy. They are great and have lots of options and ways for dealing with the enemies. The turn other is the same for you also so if you loose most of your units it can help you the same way as it’s helping the enemy. Percentage chance upgrades are just a cherry on the top, and you don’t need them, its much better to upgrade other stats or units. Also not all of the abilities are percentage. Health/Shield system is amazing because maintaining your health means maintaining your damaging power. Also playing on easy mode is a complete joke.
The one thing that I will agree with you is thst the battle maps are a little lacking but seeing as there are giant units it would be hard making complicated maps and these units would become completely useless. This way positioning of your characters is really important part of the strategy.
Also im not sure how or why many things weren’t clear enough for you, as I never had any of these problems while playing the games. Even the tutorial was super clear and helpful in understand the battle system.
Now I have to say I played all three games on pc and I don’t know if it maybe has something to do with that.

Malisa
Malisa
Reply to  Harvester of Eyes
15 days ago

Ok, I’m sorry for that comment, it was generalized a bit too much, my point with that comment wasn’t really explained, for example there are some western strategy things that I have continually seen you don’t like, like % chance for some abilities or morale giving extra turns and some other things that aren’t too common in srpg genre in Japanese games.
Worst review comment I can’t denounce, because this game has many things that are great that you didn’t mentioned and focused mostly on negatives. I can’t recall you saying even one positive thing about the game, except for it’s graphics, even once in this review. It’s not that I disagree with everything you said it’s just that you clearly from the start had the problem with the game and the whole review seems like you just hating on the game without caring and deliberately ignoring things that are good about it.
Now I’ll emphasis the word “it seems” because that’s how the video looked to me, and I very well may be in the wrong here, but that’s why I think you were too harsh on the game, and said it’s a bad review.
And for example, I tried playing Grand Guilds because of your review, sadly I didn’t really liked it, it had some things that I wasn’t very fond of, the game somehow just didn’t “clicked” but I can’t say that it’s a bad game and it has many positive things and I agree with many of the points from your video about it.

Neoleo
14 days ago

My god, you slaughtered the poor things. Deservedly however.

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