January is so often a month in which little happens in the games industry. Indeed, if you're a console gamer, you could be forgiven for forgetting that two new consoles released three months ago, such is the paucity of fresh content that's arrived this side of New Year.
But for gaming fans willing to look beyond the home console scene there's been much to celebrate, and so after a week of pondering the state of things, here's a belated Game of the Month post for January. We don't always give Game of the Month to the game that received the highest rating -- reviews are always subjective, and we like to take certain other things into consideration too.
There are honourable mentions aplenty this month. OlliOlli emerged as a strikingly addictivve little indie title for the Vita, perfect for those pick-up-and-play, five minute snatches of gameplay throughout a busy day. Tomb Raider on consoles got some upgraded PC treatment and re-released on PS4 and Xbox One. We saw the first chapter of Broken Age release to wild acclaim, as Double Fine began to make good on their Kickstarter promises. Nidhogg delivered an outstanding slice of multiplayer madness -- devilishly accessible, but offering hours of entertainment with like-minded folk. Blackguards finally released, serving up a deliciously hardcore slice of old-school RPG action.
But this month's award goes to a studio that took a risk and became a true Kickstarter success story, and one that will forge ahead with a sequel in spite of some rather unwanted attention from King.com.
We are, of course, taking about Stoic and the beautiful, tactical RPG that is The Banner Saga.
Game of the Month | January 2014 - The Banner Saga
Here's what we said about the game in our review:
Imagine Game of Thrones crossed with a dark, brutal, bleak Disney production that Disney would never dare to make, and you're pretty close to The Banner Saga. Stoic have delivered a cracking tactical RPG centred around an impressively elegant combat system and a peripatetic adventure that never lets up with tough choices and decisions to be made, letting the burden of leadership weigh heavy on players' shoulders. Engrossing, challenging, and aesthetically striking, The Banner Saga is a crowdfunded triumph.
And the best news is that the game has proven to be a commercial success as well as a critical darling. It may well be that King.com attempting to throw their weight around and play hardball over the use of the word "saga" was the best thing that could have happened, suddenly making Stoic and their IP victims and underdogs. The internet loves victims and underdogs.
But to simply ascribe success to the contrarian nature of us gamers would be doing Stoic a disservice. It's a fantastic game -- a sublime mix of sumptuous aesthetics and perfectly balanced mechanics. It deserved to sell enough to warrant the rest of the trilogy, and it looks like it's done just that. Roll on The Banner Saga 2!
We're giving away a copy of The Banner Saga this month, and to be in with a chance of winning all you need to do is stick a post in the comments section below telling us how you'd go about preventing an invasion of gigantic mechanical golems.
It's as easy as that. Try and be as hilariously inventive as possible, as we'll almost certainly factor chuckles into the incredibly complex algorithm we use to determine winners.
Finally, make sure you've got a legit email address attached to your account. Lines will close at noon on February 14th.