The new game has been available since July 30, 2020 of the British studio MonteBearo available in Early Access on Steam. It is not yet known whether the title will also be implemented for the consoles later.
We took a closer look at Banners of Ruin, not least because of the pretty interesting-sounding genre mix that wants to get roguelite, deckbuilding and more under one roof. Unfortunately, Banners of Ruin is not (yet) able to bring together the best of all worlds. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. But why is that?
Source: PC games
In Banners of Ruin we go to the medieval city of Twilight Castle (originally called Dawn's Point), which is inhabited exclusively by anthropomorphic beings. However, a violent conflict has flared up among these beasts. On one side is the Ender's house, which has gained control of the city. The black feet, who fight a bitter fight against the Enders, resist. We and our companions go into battle for the insurgent house Schwarzfuß. Unfortunately, this interesting premise does not lead to an exciting plot, at least in the current version of the adventure. The story about the competing animals is always confused, there is hardly any world building and after the introduction, the story moves so much into the background that it is almost forgotten at times.
Why we actually want to take revenge on the enders, what exactly is going on in the city at the moment, what our black feet actually stand for, what they fight for and what they want to achieve, all of this is hardly addressed. The pale story could still be ache, after all waives CD Projekt Gwent for example entirely on a narrative. But Banners of Ruin is not an online game, but a pure single-player experience. And as such, it could have offered a more engaging plot. But that's not the only problem.
Source: PC games
What makes the almost nonexistent story even more tiring is the stale staging. This does not apply to the art style, this is really handsome. All characters almost look like hand-painted, the armor on the animal looks cool and the individual playing cards are nicely designed. However, what gives these qualities a bitter aftertaste is the way in which we explore Dusk Castle. We're not in town with a group of companions and can't even control the main character ourselves. Instead, we are presented with three playing cards on each screen during the exploration, each representing three different paths.
The left card can be a battle, the middle card a path through a side street and the right card a monastery where we can heal. During special events, such as when we meet a citizen who is harassed by city guards, a text block is displayed to sporadically animated still pictures, in which the event is described. Sometimes we can make decisions, but these only affect whether we have to fight or not, whether we get damage or whether we lose a card. There is no real variety, and this principle becomes boring after the third round. This is mainly due to the fact that these route maps are often repeated and each run feels the same. At least a moody narrator voice, like like in Darkest Dungeon, would have loosened up a bit.
Source: PC games
However, the core of the game is not the story and the exploration, but the turn-based battles. Here we go into battle with a group of up to six members, each of whom can be positioned in a ranged or close combat range on the battlefield. The individual rows take turns. Once we have finished the actions of our melee series, it is our opponents' turn first, and in the next round the ranged combatants are deployed.
The attacks and skills that our characters can perform in combat are determined by our drawn cards. The effects range from a simple damage value to status changes such as bleeding, poisoned or vulnerable, by the latter we cause more damage. Playing a card costs each character a certain amount of stamina or willpower. We can increase the maximum values of our animals when leveling up. Each fighter also equips a weapon and can unlock additional abilities by leveling up, which are each shuffled into our deck in the form of cards. A particular hero's weapon and skill cards can only be executed by the character who has the weapon or has learned this skill.
Source: PC games
This can cause frustration with the randomness of the card system. When we end a turn, we discard all cards that are still in hand. We then draw new cards in the next round. So it can happen that we draw cards for our ranged fighters while it is our melee line. Of course we cannot play them out, but neither can we save them for our next move. The same applies if one of our heroes permanently blesses the temporal. His cards still remain in our deck, but cannot be played by any of our characters unless they have the same weapon or unlocked the same ability.
In a deck building game, however, you should be able to adjust your deck at any time, so that's not a challenge, is it? Yes, it is, because we can by no means rework our deck at any time. For this, one of our three drawn route cards must lead to a teacher, with whom we can then reconfigure our deck. Apart from that, we have no access to it and the mentors do not show up too often.
Source: PC games
In the main menu we can also exchange the experience points earned during a run for new cards. However, these are not permanently in our card set, but can be found randomly during a run. At the beginning of each run, we always start with the same two characters and the same supply of cards, which is why the many runs feel all the more monotonous. For a roguelite in which we die very quickly and have to start all over again, that's a real problem.
In addition, the unlockable cards and abilities are very similar at first. After the fourth to fifth round, you hardly get to see any new specimens. The same goes for the armor that we can find, for the weapons and also for the opponents, who pretty much always look the same. A lot could change during the early access phase, but in the current state Banners of Ruin does not make a particularly good first impression and offers too little variety.
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