Review: The Banner Saga 3
After the ending of The Banner Saga 2, I was left on a cliffhanger that got me insanely worried. You see, I’m not like most fans of Stoic Studios, as I didn’t play the game truly until it start coming out on the Nintendo Switch, mostly thanks to the portability of the device. And so while everyone waited around 2 years between the first, second and third opus to be out, I finished the last two chapters in the May to July period. And so, comes The Banner Saga 3, the final episode of this great tactical-RPG series, to bring us long awaited answers to key plots, and the conclusion of this long journey.
To begin with, I need to give you a small reminder of key events which you will in any case discover after starting the game. While I highly advise against playing just the Banner Saga 3 without finishing the other two, the third episode starts like the second, letting you pick the path you want in the story, and gives you a quick “previously in The Banner Saga” rundown. The world is invaded by Dredg coming from the north, darkness is engulfing the world, and we follow a small group of travelers as they are fleeing the threat and attempt to understand source of it in hope to stop it. Your group will separate into two around the end of the second game, and resume here where we were left, in the city of Arberrang.
After a short cinematic and some dialogues to open the game, you find ourselves directly launched in a clash, allowing you to see already that the combat mechanics haven’t changed. The system remains the same with a health and shield bar for each opponent and ally, abilities for each class of characters to use on the battlefield, and the same tactical approach in terms of map or board positioning on a grid.
Some new innovations or improvements will make their appearances soon enough though, such as new powers for some of your heroes, and a more simple and convenient selection system. The latter will allow you to better navigate during the combat when it comes to readability of character stats, especially since there’s a greater variety of enemies and a new breed of character to play as well as a new fighting style called wave battles.
Wave Battles are a continuation of the previous mechanics in the combat, allowing you to face waves of enemies to get more fame, which serves to the leveling up of our characters or buy rare items. At each end of the wave, you will have the opportunity to stop or continue fighting, which is a gamble, that will eventually end with facing a boss and win your rewards. Battles are thus more varied, including real story goals, such as protecting a bell to prevent the enemy from bringing in reinforcements or even defending a wounded character.
Between the battles, you will find the narrative aspect of the game and the system of narrative choices as it was in the old episodes. Here choices will have a much more important impact on your evolution in the game, which goes without saying considering it’s the end of the trilogy.
Diplomacy between characters will be critical, sticking perfectly with the situation that the end of the world is near. Take a stand for a person, accept new refugees in your caravan or help or not someone in combat will have a more direct impact, including disastrous consequences for you or your allies. Each choice is a bet on the future or the present and the behavior of your troops. It’s up to you to see if you will choose to listen to your heart or your mind at certain times, and what will be the smartest solution to avoid disaster.
When it comes to the artistic direction of the game, the Banner Saga 3 remains as beautiful as its predecessors, with varied landscapes, even if the darkness is covering most of the world. It is therefore during your travels, that you will really appreciate the settings, accentuated by a haunting music and sticking perfectly to the course of events. It’s a fitting ending to a trilogy all in all, which gets me to hope that we won’t have to wait another 2 years to get Stoic Studio’s next chapter in the industry.
The Banner Saga 3 was reviewed using a Nintendo Switch digital download code of the game provided by Stoic. The game is also available on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 via digital store releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published (click here for more information about our review policy).
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• The most visually different chapter
• Great way to live two stories at once
• A haunting soundtrack
• A great evolution of the combat system
• The exciting story and unexpected twists
• Some painful important choices to make
• Wish a bit of effort was made in animating the characters in cutscenes
• Some rare freeze on Nintendo Switch after long idle time
An accomplished, award-winning gaming professional with more than 12 years of experience in the videogame industry, Nazih Fares has worked in public relations, marketing, eSports and localization for over 14 different publishers and more than 90 global brands. Fares is currently MENA Communications Manager at Blizzard Entertainment, based in The Hague. His views on this site are his own, and not those of his employer.
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