It has been four years since the first Banner Saga was initially released and traveling from Skogr to Arberrang, Rook and his Banner have met Dredge, Varl, Valka, and Horseborn in an attempt to save the world. With The Banner Saga 3, Stoic Studio aims to bring their epic adventure to a close, while still making the journey worthwhile.
Like the earlier titles in the series, The Banner Saga 3 was kickstarted by the community and features turn-based, tactical gameplay with an engaging narrative that is spread across multiple characters. This is also combined with a beautiful, hand-drawn animation that you explore in an Oregon Trail like movement.
The story this time around picks up right after the second title.The world is coming to an end and the major players are making a last-ditch effort to prevent Armageddon or die trying. The writing in The Banner Saga 3 illustrates all the tense moments that Rook’s group faces in Arberrang and Iver’s in the darkness covering the world. Each group that you control in specific moments of the story face challenging situations from enemies within and without. Rugga, the annoying rebel from the second is an even bigger player in the third and the choices you make when dealing with him in Arberrang have instant ramifications. On Iver’s side of things, Bolverk is a menace that constantly threatens your group. It also doesn’t help that some of the Ravens within your group are still loyal to him. The overall narrative of The Banner Saga 3 also affects how the world looks. Brightly colored landscapes, with massive, detailed godstones are replaced with dark horizons and areas that look like the aftermath of a volcanic activity. BS3 feels like a conclusion and you can see that not only in the story and the world but also in the combat.
Combat in The Banner Saga 3 is similar to its predecessors. You pick six characters from your pool of playable ones and try to defeat your opponent in a turn-based manner. Attacking either the armor or strength of an enemy is a viable strategy to victory and using the special abilities of your characters, granted you have enough will, can be helpful. This time around though, Stoic Studio has added some extra mechanics to combat that I personally don’t feel where necessary. The new mechanics are Respite and Heroic Title.
In Respite, certain battles have a turn limit until the opponents get reinforcements. The turn limit last for around 29 turns or so and once the timer runs out, players have a choice of fighting on or fleeing. If you choose to fight, you can bring in reinforcements from your character pool and defeat a mini-boss to get a powerful item. Fleeing, on the other hand, just ends the battle and you gain renown or promotions like a normal battle. The problem with continuing to fight means that you risk injuring your characters which will have negative effects on future battles and the powerful items aren’t too powerful.
Heroic Titles are bonuses that you earn when a certain character reaches level 11. They have names like “Bloodletter” or “Oath-maker” and they give bonuses to stats for all characters. They are free to upgrade initially but cost renown for every continuous upgrade. Heroic Titles are useful but since they require renown and a promotion to upgrade, it might be hard to see their usefulness since you are also managing other characters.
I appreciate Stoic Studio trying to add new things to an already perfect formula but I personally found them unnecessary.
In the end, I would highly recommend The Banner Saga 3 and it’s previous titles for their fantastic art style, story, and music. The third entry is a fitting end for the series even though it tries to add some new mechanics that didn’t really fit with the game.