I will start with the painful truth: There are no maids in Banner of the Maid. Well, not like I would have expected them. I will profess immense disappointment at this realization. But now that that is off of my chest that is one of the few bad things I have to say about this game.
Following Proven Formulas
Banner of the Maid is a turn-based tactical-strategy RPG set in France in the 1790’s. It follows the tale of Pauline Bonaparte (sister of a certain pint-sized general) and her rise to fame as an officer in the French army. In battle you will take control of units of different classes and maneuver them around the battle field on a grid to gain tactical advantages against opponents. The units will gain experience and level up giving them access to new skills. For anyone that has played games in this style it is a tried-and-true formula.
Combat takes place in a sort of “simul-turn” where a defender will always have a counter-attack regardless of turn provided they are within range. Those counter-attacks play into a rock-paper-scissors mechanism where certain unit types have an advantage over another. This manifests in improved accuracy and damage with advantage and a decrease in the same without advantage. In a twist though, this is not always a guaranteed win for the unit with advantage. Sometimes an attack will do enough damage to wipe out a unit before they can counter.
Taking a page from Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series, the weapons also have durability. The durability replenishes between battles, but it does act as a cap for how often you can use a particular weapon. In contrast to Fire Emblem, even if a weapon reaches zero durability it will not break. So don’t be afraid to make good use of the better weapons!
Watching The Book
The game isn’t all battlefields and glory. In fact, the game almost plays more like a Japanese visual novel. There is a LOT of reading. I don’t mean that it’s a bad thing, but be prepared for an in-depth read on alternate history in 1790’s France. Characters from history will make appearances including Robespierre, Murat, Lafayette, and several others. Sadly, my knowledge of history of this area is sorely lacking, so I am unable to fully appreciate the effort.
On a plus side, the character artwork is stunning. The main characters are incredibly well-drawn and help bring the story to life. The backgrounds they are placed against are equally well-done. However, this is just for the “visual novel” portions of the game. When in battle it felt like I had traveled back in time to play it on a PlayStation 1. In fact, lacking the 3D component that games of that era held I would put it on par with the likes of Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced. It is still very playable, but for someone judging a book by its cover I do need to point it out.
Sounds Good To Me
There is voice work in the game, but that is another interesting point. In the fashion of other visual novel games, there is limited voicing – usually a single word or phrase at the beginning of a block of text. Also, in spite of being fully localized in English, the game was developed by CE-Asia for the Chinese market and retains its Chinese voice work. Being the anime nerd that I am, I am no stranger to hearing a different language than I am reading, but I found it an interesting decision. Fortunately, the localization is excellent and reads very well.
But Seriously, Why Maids?
Being completely honest, I am several hours and chapters into the game and I’m yet to fully answer that question. The write-up on the Xbox store lists Maids as, “…one of the gabled women with mysterious powers capable of turning the tide of a battle…”. I’d make a joke about French Maids with super powers, but I’ll let you fill those in on your own.
Conclusion and Scoring
I love tactical strategy games and there is enough depth in this one to keep things interesting. It is simple in some areas, but with subtle depth in others. I’m looking forward to playing this one to conclusion.
Overall, the game scores an 85/100.
Pros: Excellent character art, a deceptively deep combat system and an intriguing alternate take on history make this an easy recommendation for anyone that is a fan of tactical strategy games. The RPG-like elements outside of the battles add an extra layer that is intriguing.
Cons: It is just as easy to mistake this game for a visual novel that happens to have strategy battle elements in it. If you are not interested in the characters or story then be prepared to wait a long time in between battles. And while I am hesitant to put this as a detraction, the lack of English localized vocal work can be a turn-off for some players. Also no maids. No, I’m not bitter.
- Excellent character art
- A deceptively deep combat system
- The RPG-like elements outside of the battles add an extra layer that is intriguing.
- It is just as easy to mistake this game for a visual novel that happens to have strategy battle elements in it.
- If you are not interested in the characters or story then be prepared to wait a long time in between battles.
- Lack of English localized vocal work can be a turn-off for some players.
- Also no maids. No, I’m not bitter.