Banner Saga 3 is out today, and it caps off the Viking trilogy first Kickstarted by Stoic Studio in 2012. Over the next six years Banner Saga became one of the first in what would become a revival of sorts for the strategy RPG genre. But in 2018 the landscape looks quite different and multiplayer experiences like battle royale games are the driving force of the industry.
With that in mind I asked three of the members of the Stoic Games team, who have a background in making single-player games at BioWare, what they think of the death of single-player narrative game theme of the last year.
"I think it's greatly overstated," says Matt Rhoades, lead designer of Banner Saga 3. "There's no question that making a single-player story game, we're competing at a much bigger playfield now. And you need to make sure that people know about you and they have a reason to be talking about you even if they're not playing your game with their friends and it creates a lot more noise for you to break through."
Ultimately though Rhodes says there's no way people will abandon the kind of narrative experience single-player games offer. "People want those kinds of narrative experiences. They want it in film, they want it in books, and they want it in games. So, I'm not worried that a subgenre of games is going to die off."
Alex Thomas, a co-founder of Stoic Studio, BioWare veteran and writer for Banner Saga says that if there is a death of single-player experiences Banner Saga hasn't felt it. "One thing we have noticed with Banner Saga is that the sales of it has been very steady over six years, very consistent. I think we made something with an art style and narrative that is kind of timeless. You can play it ten years from now, try a different path. You can play it with your kids, you know, 20 years later."
Thomas says this timelessness is a big advantage for Banner Saga over games trying to get in on the latest fad "People are still going to be picking [Banner Saga] up across any platform that comes along in the future compared to whatever the flavor of the moment is, like battle royale. It could be that nobody is playing Fortnite a year from now, who knows?"
As more studios get in on battle passes, games as service, and long-term benefits of retaining players it's clear that the top of the industry is moving towards more service-like experiences. However studios like Bethesda and Motive have also said that narrative games will stick around. And for studios like Stoic and games like Banner Saga the creative drive for narrative games remain a focus.
For more on Banner Saga 3 check out our review when it drops tomorrow along with a full interview with Stoic Studios.