There is something about Banner of the Maid I wanted to like. Its turn-based fighting feels very old school and polished, with a lot of strategy and tactics I could get behind, but to get to these strategy-heavy, fun-filled battles, you have to wade through a ton of story, and I mean a lot. The story is told through dry and often uninteresting text boxes that make Banner of the Maid feel more like an interactive storybook than a game. For some that might hold a certain appeal, but for me, the overall impact didn’t quite land as I had hoped.
Banner of the Maid is a turn-based strategy game, set during the French Revolution. Told through the eyes of Pauline Bonaparte(yep, that Bonaparte), this alternative history puts its spin on historical events. This is not the same history lesson that you might find in school or Assassin’s Creed, so history buffs might want to look elsewhere.
The story plays out through a series of text boxes rolling on-screen as countless other RPGs have done in the past, but in Banner of the Maid there seemed to be a lot, especially during the first hour or so, and this was a definite turn off for me. By the time I felt I had made any meaningful progress and the game started playing more like a game than a book, I had lost most of my interest in what was going on, and this was down to the sheer volume of text I had had to plough through to get to that point. Full warning – if reading isn’t your thing, maybe give Banner of the Maid a miss.
As a protagonist, Pauline is a likeable enough, but some of the dialogue and exposition comes off as a little clunky. This results in the characters lacking depth, and coming off as one dimensional which makes it hard to give a monkey about what any of them are going through or why they are doing what they are doing. Many of them simply serve to help you, with Pauline not so much on her quest but just doing what she is told. There is a story there, hidden behind the countless cutscenes and text dumps, but bt the time I’d read through the mountains of text to work out what it was I simply wasn’t bothered any more.
Making matters worse, there is a strange mix between audio and on-screen text that does the game no favours. I was playing in English, but there is an odd mixture of French subtitles for some scenes, mixed with Chinese and French audio which did nothing other than confuse me as to what was going on – I spent a few minutes looking in the settings to see if I had missed something but nope, this is how the game plays. Thrown in for good measure are odd moans and groans as text plays out on screen, making the game sound more like a porno at times, which did raise a few eyebrows when it was overheard. These moans and groans did feel like a strange choice, especially as the dialogue on screen was talking about military positions in an upcoming battle, but hey whatever floats your boat.
Added to all that, some character models during the cutscenes (did I mention there are a lot of cutscenes?) do appear to be more sexualised than they need to be, and again this felt a strange design choice. All the male characters appear as square-jawed hunks with flowing locks adorned in full military regalia, but most if not all the female characters appear in short skirts or in busty corsets that flash a surprising amount of flesh. Now I am as red-blooded as the next guy, but for a game set during the French Revolution, it seemed to be a little too in your face.
By the time the game has set the scene and opened up, the battles in Banner of the Maid are fun and interesting. The turn-based combat works well, and levelling up and equipping your characters with gear can turn the tide of battle in your favour. The game uses a cursor system that works well for the most part, allowing you to pick your units and issue commands as you see fit. These battles play out in a range of different scenarios, with the environment often playing a part too, such as rain slowing down movement or grass being used to hide in and increase your dodge and defence.
Before each battle you get a choice of two cards, each offering different bonuses that are applied during the upcoming battle. When the battle begins you start by choosing the unit you want to command, selecting them with X, which then highlights squares on the battlefield that you can move that unit too. Once the unit has moved to the desired location, you then have the choice between Attack, Item, Exchange or Wait. Having done that with each of your units, your turn comes to an end and the enemy gets their go. It is a simple system that works well, and strategy comes in to play in later battles, with some even making use of bonus objectives to complete for additional rewards.
Although the battle system itself is simple at first glance, there are some systems and features that the game doesn’t explain until later, and much of the controls and depth I found out for myself through trial and error. I would have preferred more battles with meaningful tutorials than sitting through the massive walls of text that the early game is cluttered with.
Banner of the Maid does try to offer additional gameplay outside of battles in the form of factions, and each one often offers up a few quests that can be completed to further your experience and equipment. Often these quests simply involve going somewhere on the map, having a conversation with someone and selecting the relevant response from a dialogue box. Again, not much depth is to be found during these side quests, but they do attempt to mix the gameplay up even if only a little bit.
Banner of the Maid feels like a mobile game, and I think it is there were some of the magic is lost. Behind its text-heavy narrative lies a decent turn-based RPG, but the challenge is getting to that before your attention has waned completely. Sadly I think mine did, so the joy of the battles was a little lost on me by the time I eventually got to them, which maybe says more about my attention span than the game itself but to me, it just wasn’t any fun – and ultimately isn’t that what playing games are all about?
Banner of the Maid PS4 Review
Overall 5 - Not Bad - 5/10
Banner of the Maid is a fun enough game if you can manage to withstand the walls of text to get to the actual playing part. Behind all the narrative is a decent turn-based strategy game, that would probably feel more at home on mobile than on a next-gen system.
- Enjoyable turn-based battles that are easy to pick up but offer some depth
- Very text-heavy to the point that the game becomes an exercise in reading
- Clunky dialogue that mixes English and French, with a little bit of Chinese audio for good measure
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.