The final chapter to Stoic’s epic strategy-RPG series arrives today to swipe you off your feet directly into the bleak world under the unmoving sun. It is the time to find out if you have what it takes to save the precious little that yet remains from the mysterious encroaching darkness and face the consequences of your decisions (some of them immediate, some coming to bite you all the way from BS1 or BS2). Steel your resolve: the stakes have never been higher as your characters make a desperate last stand to stop the apocalypse threatening to engulf everything while a single caravan heads directly into the unknown.
Join us for our spoiler-free review as we take a dive into the beautiful apocalyptic world created, it seems, specifically to hurt your feelings in the best way possible.
Following the tradition of the predecessor, Banner Saga 3 picks up almost exactly where Banner Saga 2 has left off. Just like with the previous game, the players have an option of using their save file from the previous title. If you have not picked up BS1/BS2, played on multiple platforms or have lost your save, the game will allow you to choose your protagonist – quiet hunter Rook or his innocent daughter Alette - and jump right into the action. In that case, you will be able to adjust some choices during certain key conversations as you make your final stand in the human capital of Arberrang, filled with desperate unrest and ready to turn on itself at any gust of wind.
As before, there will also be a different group of heroes to control as the chapters roll out and you learn more about the dire state of the dying world. Sometimes those shifts in perspective feel jarring, but the two stories coexist naturally and add contrast to one another, forging stronger singular plotline.
If you have not played BS1 and BS2, the fine details of the plot will be hard to pick up, as most conversations might seem like an endless string of names, titles, places and events you have no idea of. Even having played the previous titles relatively short time ago, I had to keep Wiki handy to take a quick peek at certain times.
The story’s tone changes from melancholy with an unhealthy layer of desperation in the first BS to full blown dramatic doom n’ gloom. Amidst the hard choices, uneasy alliances, death and carnage, you will become closer with the travel-weary characters that made this journey possible. There will be silly dialogues that make you raise a brow, deep long conversations, emotional moments and much more. My heart sank when one of the long-time characters left the party because, essentially, the world is dying anyway and they would rather spend what little time is left away from the devastation and hardships of battle. It is hard to overlook the subtle but insistent “this is it” feeling in many conversations, both in regards to the apocalypse the world faces as well as the end of the trilogy that only adds the edge to the overall emotional turmoil the game causes.
The Banner Saga 1 felt slow and flat due the repetitive combat process in the second half of the game. The sequel added some small but substantial changes to the system and the latest instalment in the trilogy continues to expand on it. Players will face against a large number of foes, varying in types, sizes, races, abilities and more. Enemies will be actively healing or restoring armor, putting up barriers, summoning reinforcements if you do not dispose of them quickly and trying to use the terrain to their advantage: putting the roaring fire between themselves and your melee fighters, using magic to push you into the harm’s way and more. Any battle can suddenly change as new enemy storms into the battlefield or your own reinforcements arrive.
Every now and then, you will get a fight against the consecutive waves of enemies. After the first one is defeated, you will get an option to change your active war band and a choice to flee or continue fighting. If you choose to keep at it, after all the enemy waves are defeated, you will get a powerful item as the reward for your ferocity.
Even if it is supposed to show your struggle in the world going insane, from time to time it feels like battles happen too frequently: you just finished cleaning up the battlefield, exchanged few words with your comrades and instantly get pulled into another fight before the story managed to progress.
Where the battle system has seen a significant number of improvements from the original BS, the caravan management remains woefully blank. It does not feel bothersome but it also fails to present itself as impactful. You will spend a lot of time over the course of trilogy watching as your caravan slowly ventures onward with your banner fluttering over the long lines of fighters and clansmen and… that’s about it. While undeniably cool looking against the many gorgeous landscapes of the game, the system fails to provide the depth and meaningfulness other parts of the game possess. The only significant parts of dealing with the caravan were allowing your heroes to rest and spending Renown to promote them and choose titles that grant powerful battle bonuses – new feature added in BS3.
The numbers of supplies, fighters and clansmen feel negligible. At least the morale of your troops has an impact on the battle, but it is not hard to stockpile a huge amount of supplies and forget that it even exists outside of the dialogue decisions that will see it swing one way or the other.
The Banner Saga 3 embodies all that is the best of the series altogether. While we would love to see it go on, it is refreshing to see Stoic willing to have the series bow out at its apex. The Banner Saga 3 hits all the right notes in all the right ways and brings this epic six-year journey to a satisfying end, something very rare in today's world.
- Amazing art & music
- Deep tactical combat
- Epic dramatic story
- Interesting characters
- No way to import saves from other platforms
- Clunky controls in battle
- Lack of voice over
This review was completed via a PC game code provided by the publisher.