Bannerman is a real time strategy game developed by Pathos Interactive. There are three options in it to play. These are tutorial, campaign and skirmish.

The tutorial teaches you the basics, though what it communicates can still be self-learned from intuition and multiple skirmishes. Bannermen isn’t very hard to learn but as in all games you grow better as you play.

However the lack of depth is clear from the start and can be inferred from the title which seems to borrow from Game of Thrones. Also gold and wood are the only resources in the game. A real time strategy game needs at least four resources and new RTS titles are adding more resources in their games. Then there is a small unit roster and only a single faction to play as. This clearly isn’t enough.

The background story in the cinematic, that the game gives when starting a campaign (or the cut scenes in-between), is interesting and well-written but borrows too much from Lord of the Rings just as the gameplay borrows from Warcraft III. Still it remains one of the few selling points that stops the game from being a complete mess.

The storyline starts with the background of your starting hero Lord Berrian and how he challenged, but failed to beat the villain named Karthor in the battle of Beckron, where their two armies clashed against each other. Berrian lives after the battle with a wound to his belly and you lead him throughout the campaign. It’s by no way a boring story, that’s for sure, and the storyline continues to hook some gamers even though there is nothing left to do, when and if the campaign is completed.

As is noticeable at the start Berrian has lost his army and must establish a new one. Therefore he has to visit various towns and muster support from among former and new bannermen, some who have surrendered to Karthor. In concept it sounds like a thrilling game but the gameplay is not good enough to bear the title through.

The campaign offers relatively challenging gameplay with only normal or hard mode available and there is no way to reduce difficulty if you run into problems later on. At least there are short commands which can be mastered to streamline the experience.

Also there is the capacity to upgrade Lord Berrian’s stats and skills in between missions which slightly improves the game even though there is a limit to how much you can do this and the options aren’t very liberal. The campaign also takes you through different locations which means you will not be forced in the same setting all the time. The soundtrack isn’t bad either.

But the only real aspect that separates this game from others of the type is that you can build temples on select locations (usually in the middle of the map in skirmish). These are marked by a kind of marble foundation and holy light emanating from them. Controlling them gives you “nature power” which can be used to severely damage enemy settlements and armies. But this comes with a twist. The enemy is alerted as soon as the temple is built and tries to take it out before the power, which has a cool-down process, can be activated. Done better it could be one of the aspects that takes this game apart from the other RTS titles out there.

The biggest let down is the skirmish mode. At least skirmish is available but it offers very limited options, where extra options are what make a strategy game, Age of Empires or Civilization type, great. It has more maps and less confusing save options than the relatively successful Spellforce 3’s skirmish mode at launch but even then it cannot compete with Spellforce in almost all departments.

You may choose from among three heroes here in Skirmish, and the number of opponents (if the map is large enough). Though there are no difficulty settings at all, something we take for granted in all real time strategy games with sandbox mode. This lack of choices is a massive impediment to a game that sets itself as strategy.

If there were more factions the game would be much more stimulating but with only one faction and less than fifteen units to choose from, Bannermen is very generic. Every army has footmen, knights, spearmen and archers. The real question is what sets Bannermen apart from other real time strategy titles?

In the campaign, though a map is shown fleetingly in cinematics, marking the key settlements of Quirren, Crullfeld, Beckron and Exouro (various towns where different Kings and Kinglets rule; some allied, some neutral and others hostile to Berrian) it would have been far more interesting if the game had an engaging and interactive map, possibly growing larger as you unlocked new settlements. We also wish we could choose which location to go to next, something Spellforce III did so well.

The game also feels like it was rushed through in development. I only started hearing about the game in early January 2019 and it was out by late February. And a number of bugs confirm this. There are camera bugs, there are panning issues and there are some pathing bugs. The game looked good from the trailer but no one expected it to have so few options. Bannermen disappointed many, including me.

Even though there has been a new patch released in April and it adds an easy difficulty, pause option and two new units the fundamental problems still haven’t been resolved, particularly replayability and sandbox options.

Therefore the Bannermen experience is a brief one and with very limited skirmish options there is little replayability in this game. Even if you manage to complete the campaign, Bannermen will most likely sit idly on your computer until it’s uninstalled for good, most likely without a single look back in its direction.

That said, Bannerman has some, rare, interesting moments. But in no way is it a revolution in RTS gaming. Though it has the basic foundations of a good game, good foundations alone do not establish an entire building. There is much that could have been improved in Bannermen, including the arenas of sandbox options, content, faction variety, unit diversity and increased choice for the gamer to interactively select his or her own maps and battles.

Review Platform: PC

Rating 5.1

Pros

  • Interesting storyline
  • Has some limited character development. Your characters advance in abilities as you go along.
  • Nice soundtrack
  • The campaign takes you through a number of diverse locations so the setting isn’t always the same.
  • Short commands make recruiting and base building simplified.

Cons

  • It wouldn’t even make a difference if tutorials were unavailable since you can learn the game from campaign or skirmish mode as well.
  • Only a single faction available.
  • Only 3 heroes on skirmish mode. 2 in campaign.
  • Lack of options in Skirmish.
  • Lacking resource depth. Only two resources, lumber and gold.
  • Very brief game. Nothing to do after the campaign and a few skirmishes. And no replayability.
  • In storyline it resembles Lord of the Rings (Just replace the villain with Sauron) While in gameplay this seems like a cheap copy of Warcraft. It seems to take bits from other games without introducing something unique.
  • Generic, uninventive unit and building roster. Every medieval army has spearmen, archers, footmen and knights. The question is what sets the units apart? Or the game?

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