It’s not rare to find the final part of a trilogy turning out to be a disappointment. It has the hardest job of all, trying to tie up all the loose ends in an interesting and satisfying manner while still feeling fresh and innovative in the way it’s done. Some are terrible at this, I’m looking at you Matrix Revolutions, and then some are brilliant, think Return of the King. The Banner Saga has been heralded over the last few years as a beautifully epic saga that has built a fan base and charmed us with a myriad of characters, stunning world, and significant story. Which trilogy side does Banner Saga 3 fall on? The good, the bad or the downright ugly?
If you haven’t played the first two games in this trilogy then I have two things to say to you. Firstly, go and play the first two games right now for they are beautiful things. Secondly, it’s not worth kicking things off with this third game in the series, because you won’t know what the hell is going on, who is who or what is up and what is down. I’ll admit, I had a lot of trouble remembering it myself… and I’ve played the other two thoroughly.
Banner Saga 3 gives you the chance to reload your saved progress from games gone by, or just start off fresh with one of the two major heroes available. Ideally, you’ll want to go down the former route, because all the decisions made in the first and second game really do make a difference from the trivial interaction to which hero will lead the story from now. The chapters here now basically follow two parties of characters, but be warned because the game isn’t beautiful green fields and strolls in the park anymore; everything is in tatters and is going wrong. In fact, the struggle is so intense that you can feel the characters getting heavier as the loss and destruction piles on around them. It’s a struggle but brilliantly conceived.
Rook (or whoever you may have left from the second game) is defending the failing city by the water from the dredge. There is infighting amongst the clans and it feels like the city is hanging on by a thread. The other party is traveling deep into the darkness that has enveloped the land, looking to put a stop to it all in order to find some peace in the world. Each chapter flicks between both these journeys until they collide for the final assault.
Banner Saga 3 can be separated into three parts. The first is the incredible and beautiful story that is epic in scale and deeply emotional in all its parts. The writers and developers have quite obviously poured all their heart and soul into this project and it shows up on the screen, easily comparable to the great fantasy sagas in film and literature. It’s been a while since I experienced such sadness when I lost a character in battle or through exhaustion. The next element is the RPG ‘choose your adventure’ style of things whereby you have dialogue choices to accept and choose, each delivering a deep impact into the future of major characters and later scenes. You have to make decisions about major events, but also involve yourself with minor skirmishes or problems that you encounter on the way. It all counts and this gets collected in the form of resource points, regarding morale, fighters, supplies and more. You will need all these resources for the final chapter too so don’t ignore them.
The last part in the Banner Saga equation is found in the combat. It must be said that this hasn’t changed that much, except for the odd tweak here and there from that found originally. It’s still a turn-based system that takes place on a grid, and it can at times be as frustrating as it can be exhilarating. I’ll admit, I’m beginning to get a bit tired of this mechanic, mainly because occasionally the accuracy of movement is annoying and distracting. But when it works well, it all comes together to ensure that Banner Saga 3 is a great game to play.
Much of this is down to the visuals and the hand-drawn, rather epic, cartoon style is still as effective and haunting as ever. You long for a cutscene just to watch the majestic scene play out in all its glory. The character design is great too and overall it’s a very pretty and unique game for the eyes. The soundtrack is brilliant as well with some epic war scores mixing well with ethereal choral numbers that really hit the spot.
Banner Saga 3 is a fitting end to the brilliant trilogy. I’m glad I haven’t lost too many friends along the way, but have still sat and mourned the ones that fell. It’s a deeply emotional journey and from a development point of view, this is an excellent job well done. I could have done with fewer grid based battles, but I have loved my time with the Banner Saga and would recommend it wholeheartedly.
Just make sure you kick things off from the very beginning though.