Bannermen is an RTS game developed by Pathos Interactive that quite often boasts about it’s design being catered to fans of classic RTS titles. The classic gameplay that staples like Age of Empires, Warcraft III and many others have already given us are classics for a reason. Economy management, troop movement and interesting, fun technology trees make up the clone filled classic RTS genre. Bannermen’s development style designed to emulate some of these classic games may have hurt it. Before we take a deeper look, let’s look at what Bannerman is offering for $29.99.
Set in the fantasy world of Valtoria, the Bannerman story takes us on a journey told mostly through un-skippable dialogue between character models and rotating images with narration. The voice actor for the narrator is great and his delivery style has become pretty commonplace for these types of games.
The overall story here is quite simple and cliché for the time period – our Hero fails to defeat the enemy commander and is forced to start over from nothing and gather another army strong enough to try his hand at a final decisive battle. It’s a well-told story but pretty predictable.
Lord Berrian is your main hero throughout the campaign and if were not for him and the other heroes, the game would have little to no personality. Bannermen presents you with a single faction of medieval units. Spearmen, Knights, Footmen, Archers, Jesters, Convicts, and others make up a portion of the armies you will be using in Bannerman for multiplayer, in skirmishes against the AI, and throughout the campaign.
The journey taken throughout Bannermen’s campaign is told well enough to hold die-hard fans of the genre but it might turn newcomers away because of some tedious rescue missions and even the initial stealth mission where you have to avoid other units to survive through the map.
Unfortunately, we started experiencing so many small bugs and weirdness that the initial fondness we had for the game began to wane. We experienced no victory screen after defeating the AI in some missions, and also some annoying unskippable narration after failing to beat missions. Little things like this began to become frustrating and took away from the fun.
The enemy AI was defeated so fast I rarely needed to use my hero abilities to stay alive because the AI never truly fought back except for sending 4-5 units at a time to attack a random part of my base. Even with two Archer towers my base could probably hold up indefinitely.
This gameplay and weak AI might be really fun for some. Who does not love destroying AI forces or breezing through a campaign even on hard difficulty? I like a challenge and the online experience was that for sure, but I never wanted to invest much time in it because of Bannermen’s other pointless distractions caused by bugs and its unpolished UI.
I struggled more with the camera, buggy character pathing, and other small unpolished details than against the actual enemy that had supposedly just decimated Lord Berrian in battle at the beginning of our journey.
In the end, the gameplay felt like it lacked depth with only one single faction, and almost every campaign mission or computer skirmish could be won in the same way. Above is a perfect example in video form. I have already dried out the wood pile, one of two of the main resources in the game besides gold, and set up meager defenses. All I needed to do was repeatedly farm for 5 minutes for each mission, build a mass army whose composition does not matter, and it would end in victory every single time. There was never a sudden attack nor a mass army at the gates that I needed to defend again. The enemy AI just waited to be slaughtered.
Honestly, it was harder to build my base up then to attack and defend. For instance, I had to consistently tell the worker unit to build another house over and over until I realized the game was just failing to find a path to the build spot and the worker would just stand there doing nothing. You are forced to tediously path builders to their build spot or move armies to the desired attack again and again.
I even had some workers get stuck behind newly built buildings making them unusable units, or my mass army would get stuck at a choke point or bridge as if they were afraid to cross. It’s all so frustrating yet so avoidable with some additional polish by the devs.
The main narrator and the temple building are the two best parts of Bannermen. The temple building injects some life into the game as it allows you to use “nature powers” as an area of effect blast to defend yourself or summon a large bear unit to help defeat the enemy.
The rest of the technology tree and units are just too generic to be interesting. There is only one defense, an archer tower, and there are no walls and I never felt forced to build my way up to catapults to win. This means almost every game is the same with you quickly building the same army composition with a minor amount of archer towers to defend yourself.
This is a game that would only be better with the introduction of unique units in factions instead of just a different hero to differentiate the enemy. Even monsters or any creature-based armies would have brought some life to this game. More content, anything at all, to give Bannermen some flair and life is sorely needed.
I dislike holding classic games on a pedestal as if they are untouchable. They are not perfect. However, thinking of Age of Empires’ imperial age and other features, remembering Starcraft’s Terran voice acting and unit voice quips when being selected or moved, or hundreds of other classic things within the games of the RTS genre all helped build and keep a base of fans for various classics. It is the little things and the development time mixed with some unique flair that makes most of the classics really classic.
Bannermen’s consistent tagline of classic RTS gameplay in a new game for 2019 forces me to justify this purchase and compare it to those classic titles. This might serve as a good entry point for someone new to the genre with its simplistic gameplay, but anyone looking for a deep experience and a game that brings something new to the table will just have to look elsewhere or wait for a large content drop.
For $29.99, I struggle to recommend this game right now. I suggest checking back in a couple of months as the game can be polished with enough added content to make this a great game. The core gameplay of Bannermen is solid, it just needs some additional love and imagination.