Title: Banner of the Maid
Developer: Azure Flame Studio
Release Date: February 14, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
I’ve always had a fascination with history. The events that shaped our world are worth spending some time learning. While in no way does the CE-Asia-developed Banner of the Maid suggest that it is historically accurate, the team has put together a beautiful tactical RPG packed full of names from French history that kept me entertained for hours.
Banner of the Maid follows Pauline Bonaparte, the sister of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte, during the French Revolution. She is eager to help her brother and serves in the military as an officer. During her first battles, it’s shown just how capable she is, as she ends up being named a Maid by the people. The Maids of France are powerful units who have the strength to turn the tide of the war, but she’ll still need the help of the people to do so.
The story isn’t so straightforward, though, as players will need to take on quests that gain them allies in various factions. Although this does include battles, there are times where influence is gained through conversation. However, these conversations sometimes affect relationships with other factions, so it gets rather interesting later on in the game. The benefits of factions include political influence and access to specific items.
Let me just say that I love the story and thought it was a charming twist on the French Revolution. The designers surprisingly did their best to turn these historical figures into anime characters, and I loved it. While it was a rather cheeky design choice to make each of the female characters displayed with huge breasts, the story doesn’t seem to dwell on those things so neither did I. Plus, I mean, all the characters are rather attractive, even though they are all long dead by now.
During gameplay, players will acquire new units as they complete missions and quests. Battles are turn-based standard tactical RPG greatness where players move their units and execute actions. Borrowing elements from games like Final Fantasy Tactics and classic Fire Emblem, players control large groups of units represented by a single officer. Officer types vary by different classes, with some units being stronger against certain enemies.
There’s a variety of mission types, but I really enjoyed how the environments change throughout the battle. Heading into an enemy stronghold with a clear plan in mind only to be flanked by the enemy in a trap kept me on my toes. Alternatively, there are sub-missions available such as completing an attack in a certain number of turns, which requires that you knock down a wall and go straight for the enemy instead of going around the long way.
These alternative mission types were much appreciated, especially in the later hours when the burn out of these types of games is high. However, I was continually learning new tactics by equipping new weapons and utilizing units in battle. As straightforward as the battle system is, there’s a depth here that players can take advantage of as they level up and upgrade units.
The environments in the game are each unique. Elements such as fire can often limit mobility around the map, but at some point, it might rain and put it out, which can change the battles considerably. However, this increases the difficulty since players heal near a campfire, which is extinguished in the rain.
Though the battle system is engaging, navigating the menus can often feel disorganized. This also bleeds over into item management, which isn’t isn’t very streamlined at all. While the character classes are there, I was never really forced to change classes or try new things, which means you can go through ane entire playthrough without really switching classes or building hybrid units.
Balance is another issue that might take some getting used. There’s no real way to grind levels or go back and play old story missions to try new things. This gives off the impression that you are basically just a set-piece within the battle, and there are specific ways to get through these encounters. Any deviation often results in death, which won’t go over well with hardcore fans of the genre.
Still, the in-game animations are all gorgeous, and I loved watching each of the different unit types execute their attack. Furthermore, most units also have a counter-attack, so your battles never seem to last longer than they should. Although some of the late-game encounters can become longer as new elements are introduced, they don’t overstay their welcome.
As I mentioned before, character illustrations are beautiful and playoff a historical fantasy theme well. Sadly, the game doesn’t have voiced audio, which I feel would have made the longer story sections a bit more immersive. While the music in the game is good, there seem to be strange fade-outs or hard stops when the track ends, and then the song loops again. I would have preferred that music looped unnoticeably.
When it comes to localization, I think the developer did a great job of bringing this game to the western territory. I held off on my review to wait for a pre-launch patch, which fixed the issues that I found in the game’s translation, but even then, I never really felt it hindered my understanding of the game’s story.
Banner of the Maid is a decent tactical RPG that is as easy to follow as it is approachable. Hardcore fans of the genre might miss some of the more in-depth systems offered by other titles, but I believe there is enough here to satisfy any player, no matter their skill level. The interesting twist that these are all real people from history makes this game a learning experience as I found myself on Wikipedia often to learn more about them.
I had a lot of fun with Banner of the Maid, and I really enjoyed the more unique elements that it offers. There are some issues with menu organization and balance, but the game loop of progressing through the French Revolution while also building an affinity with various factions was brilliant. Now, which other historical figures can we turn to waifus and husbandos?
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