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Review: Banner of the Maid (NSW) — Vive la Révolution Tactique!

 
 
Overview
 

Published by: CE-Asia
 
Developed by: Azure Flame Studio
 
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (review), PlayStation 4, PC
 
Genre(s): Turn-based strategy RPG
 
Mode(s): Singleplayer
 
FG RATING
75%
75/ 100


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

Raves


High-quality visuals. Simple and fun gameplay mechanics.

Rants


Alternative-history struggles between grounded and fantasy themes. No story voiceovers.


0
Posted August 16, 2020 by

Banner

Games like XCOM 2 and Mutant: Year Zero has kept the turn-based strategy genre relevant until today, but the classic ‘Tactics’ games have not seemed the same kind of limelight in recent years. That’s how Banner of the Maid caught our attention. It’s a turn-based tactics game that harkens back to classic titles like Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, and even Fire Emblem albeit sporting alternative-history 17th century French Revolution with a dash of fantasy elements mixed in. Banner of the Maid just made the launch to Nintendo Switch and though it didn’t quite hit all the marks we wanted it to, it still made up for a memorable title.

STORY

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The story takes place in an alternate French Revolution setting, referencing various historical figures whilst taking a few liberties and mixes in some elements of Fantasy. You play as Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte’s younger sister. Like her famed brother, she’s a talented tactician who soon discovers she is among the ‘Maids’, women with latent supernatural abilities destined to turn the tides of battle. The plot reminds me of Valkyria Chronicles, which was also set in alternative history and also had mysterious and powerful maidens that greatly influenced battles. I would prefer Valkyria Chronicles in comparison as it took grander liberties and introduced some pretty over the top fantasy themes. Banner of the Maid instead anchors itself to the french revolution but without fully committing to historical accuracy. Your left with references to historical figures but without any of the historical accuracy and fantasy themes that are kept mostly grounded and are seldom extravagant.

The game still manages to flesh out some memorable characters and interactions. If there were voiceovers for dialogues considering how nearly all of the story and banter between characters play out like a visual novel which makes for some unstimulating sequences.

GAMEPLAY

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Thankfully, the battles are more engaging than the story sequences. Staple to most turn-based tactics games, each battle’s got a win condition, defeat condition, as well as optional challenge objectives. Combat is on a fixed isometric view and players take turns with your opponent in commanding units to move, attack, use items, etc. Each of your units represents a squad of soldiers which represent your unit’s health. Initiating an attack displays a board with your uniting issuing the attack command to a firing line of soldiers.

Balancing the unit types you deploy and keeping in mind positioning is key. There are over 4 unit types that are good at a certain type and vice versa. You’ll need to carefully consider which units you send to attack which enemy, making sure to keep your units away from their weaknesses albeit keeping them close to units they have the advantage over. Moreover, an opponent may counter your attack unless you are positioned such that you are able to fire outside the enemy’s range of attack. This keeps combat engaging without being overly complicated to enjoy. The challenge of combat is focused more on how you intend to tackle the various well-constructed map layouts and the many challenges set within.

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Units unlock new abilities and passives over time. They can also be bought individually at a shop when out of combat. However, you may only equip a fixed number of abilities. This allows you to specialize in certain units to a certain playstyle despite sharing the same class with other units in your staple party. A successful attack earns your unit some experience, even more so when it’s the killing blow. You also build up morale for every successful attack and counterattack. Once your morale meter is full, you gain access to a HEROIC action, which are powered up versions of your existing abilities. This means units who aren’t able to deal with damage or defeat an enemy are left out on experience games. This means if you wish to strengthen your entire team as you progress, you’ll have to make sure everyone gets a shot in. I found optimizing my runs incredibly fun. Even simple or easy battles become engaging when trying to optimize the amount of experience you can milk out of a single battle (ie. instead of 1 hitting granting exp to a single unit, have your weaker units attack first to squeeze as many attacks in before finishing an enemy off).

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There aren’t too many complicated systems outside of combat save for some shops, challenges, and sidequests. These are usually associated with different factions which, when earning enough reputation in each, unlocks new items for purchase within the said faction. Reputation in a faction is usually earned during story sequences where you are free to choose among a choice of responses that each lean towards a certain faction’s opinion. These generally don’t affect the story progression and you don’t lose reputation on opposing factions when favoring another.

Overall, Banner of the Maid’s combat and systems appear to be simplified versions of some staple features in tactic games, once again, keeping the game simple whilst maintaining the fun of character building and strategizing.

VISUALS & PERFORMANCE

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Visually, Banner of the Maid looks absolutely fantastic on the switch on both docked and handheld mode.  It presents an interesting blend of nostalgic aesthetics with fresh new visuals. The isometric sprite-based visuals are beautifully rendered and look very sharp despite the pixel-art style. It excellently captures what a Tactics Ogre game would look like today. On top of that, the French Revolution setting makes for a fresh new look that have previously been unseen in the genre. The uniforms and backdrops may not look historically accurate, but the blend of anime-style aesthetic into the 17th-century European look unexpectedly works.

The artwork for the characters and the backgrounds look premium and well made. The only downside was that there weren’t many variations of the art. There are only a handful of rotating backgrounds used for scenes and nearly all characters only have one pose with two to three different facial expressions. These coupled with the lack of voiceover work really made the visual novel sequences difficult to stay engaged in.

VERDICT

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Though the French Revolution setting is an interesting concept and is visually amazing, it could have benefited from taking more liberties with the fantasy aspect of the story as opposed to keeping it anchored to the time period without fully committing. Gameplay steers clear of being complex but risks being overly simple. The game certainly isn’t perfect and perhaps leaves much to be desired. Yet, despite seemingly missing its marks, it still manages to shell out an interesting gameplay experience, especially for those who are fans of the genre looking to try something fresh. For its price, Banner of the Maid is difficult not to recommend. If you’re a fan of Tactics games and are currently itching for one, you can’t go wrong with picking this up, at least until something better comes along. 

[This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.]


Dian Raval

 
Dian is a writer for Flipgeeks who, in his spare time, stares at a wall in his basement. If you'd like to discuss music, video games, or the infinite wisdom of concrete, follow him on twitter @iburnandfume or subscribe to his YouTube channel @iburnandfume. He's pretty much iburnandfume in everything. Apparently he... burns and fumes.


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