*DISCLAIMER: ALL VIEWS IN THIS REVIEW ARE MY OWN AND DO NOT COME FROM THE COMPANY THAT HAS KINDLY PROVIDED THE GAME*
The Banner Saga 3 is, "the epic conclusion to a sweeping Viking saga six years in the making. As the world crumbles around you, how will you survive when the Darkness draws near, and who will you trust with the fate of the world?" - Steam Page
Banner Saga 3 (shortened to BS3 henceforth) was developed by the company Stoic and published by Versus Evil. BS3 is the final installment of the Banner Saga series. The first installment was released in January 2014 onto Windows and Mobile; BS3 released on July 26th, 2018 for all major platforms. The third installment was funded by the crowdfunding site Kickstarter and the team managed to raise $416,986, with an original goal of $200,000. The game has so far received success with reviewers, rating it an average of 86 on Metacritic.
I became interested in The Banner Saga trilogy due to its storytelling. Each part of the Saga continues the overall story, and BS3 is the dramatic conclusion to the trilogy. I was enraptured by the idea that my choices would carry over from each entry into the next, and BS3 did not disappoint me in the least on this front. I had never played a game like this before, and I don’t honestly know if I ever will again. I was also interested in playing a game where my choices actually mattered in the end.
Varl and Man vs the Dredge. The living vs the Darkness. Valka vs Valka.
The end of times seems so near, and yet no one seems ready to lay down and die just yet.
As part 3 of the Saga begins, characters from the previous installments now seem like treasured friends. The choices the player has made so far have determined who is still amongst the living. But one thing is for certain: the living must stop fighting each other if they are to survive; Varl, Man, Dredge, and Valka. The Darkness that threatens their world does not discriminate based on race. It will devour all those left standing.
During my previous encounter with The Banner Saga, I mentioned that it was the first time that I could say that I truly enjoyed the story of a game. The third installment did not disappoint me in this venture. The characters have now moved on from just being unique. Instead, I feel they now have a personality that is each their own. Throughout the game, I felt a sense of involvement in the story choices and that made me feel more connected to the characters. I found myself actually trying to decide how each character would respond, not just how I would. It was sometimes hard, knowing I was probably choosing “badly” from a gameplay standpoint, but I stuck to my guns and really found the experience to be a blast. I had a ton of fun, felt connected to the characters, and even felt remorse during deaths and losses.
I mentioned previously that the main downside to the trilogy was the folklore. It was hard to take in all the different bits and pieces, but by the third part of the story, the player should be accustomed to the lore, leaving this a non-issue. However, I did feel that sometimes I would forget what had happened during a previous game, which would cause me to be a bit confused. This is due to the fact that the story started in part one (which has been a few months ago now for me) and does not concisely end until part three’s conclusion. With so much time between pieces, it can feel a bit daunting to have to remember all the little bits.
The Banner Saga is a very standard tactical RPG, and it will not disappoint fans of the genre. The battles are incredibly easy to fight (mechanics-wise), and the range of characters you can place on your team opens endless strategies. When it comes down to it, the battle gameplay does not do anything revolutionary, and if you have played any tactical RPG, you’ll definitely understand how The Banner Saga plays. That being said, it does everything within the battles very well, with the controls being simple and easy to grasp quickly.
Outside of battle, the player has more options to influence the overall story. Depending on which group you are following at the time, you will have access to different characters and their stories. The groups are on a constant trek across the map, with very little interaction with the player. This is not a downside, however. It reminds me personally of a very Viking-esque “Oregon Trail” sort of vibe.
As the group traverses the landscape before them, a HUD menu is always present for the player at the top of the screen. It shows the number of fighters, Varl, and clansman that the group still has alive. It also keeps the player aware of the number of days that have passed, as well as the number of days left before the group runs out of food. In relation to that, the HUD also possesses a Morale meter, which will slowly decline with each passing day that the group continues walking. This leads the player to decide how long the group must go between resting. Resting will increase the group’s Morale, but it will also cost the group a day’s worth of food.
Whenever the group is moving forward, or in a town that they have come to in their travels, the player will experience different story events. Each will require the player to choose responses based on a provided list of choices, and each will have its own unique outcome. Some events will pass without much of an impact, whereas I have had events that lost me half of my group (due to my own poor choices). It can really create scenarios where the player feels connected to the story and characters, trying to choose the best option for the most beneficial outcome.
The third installment did not change much at all for the series, except to add small quality of life updates. The character display when heading into battle shows a better analysis of character stats, though this is subjectively one of my least favorite updates, as the screen feels a bit cluttered now. There have also been a bunch of rebalancing changes, such as how much Renown (used for purchasing food, items, and levels) a player gains for specific actions.
Overall, the gameplay is solid. I love the ability to choose my characters and plan out my strategy for battles. I also love having my decisions impact the game. Whether it is a small change to the overall group, or large changes like character deaths, I felt my choices actually mattered. It was a very satisfying experience.
“I loved, loved, loved the art style of these games.” – Me, Banner Saga 1+2 Review
I still feel the same as I did in my previous entry. Every character feels so alive in their artwork. I love the “still” art of certain scenes. I use quotes here because, while it does just look like still artwork with dialogue below, it is anything but. The characters blink, their hair or cloak billows in the wind. Using the right joystick, the player has the ability to change the viewing angle as well, though there is one default position.
The quality of the game was just as solid, if not more so than the previous two entries. I experienced no crashes during my playthrough, and the framerate seemed incredibly steady and on point. The scrolls never seemed to stutter onto screen like the previous entries, which was a great improvement.
The one major complaint I have is the alignment of some of the dialogue. During battles, and some times during overworld scenes, small blue ribbons will pop up as dialogue for the characters. There have been many times over the course of all three entries that I have missed dialogue during battle, due to the ribbons popping up outside of my current field of view. That part of it didn’t bother me so bad, as it could be considered user error (I was usually zoomed in too far). But during an overworld scene in part three, I encountered ribbons that were half cut off the screen and I was unable to zoom or change perspective in order to read them properly. It was incredibly disappointing and frustrating.
The music was beautiful and the voiceovers, while few, were very well done. I really enjoyed playing the game with headphones, as it felt like the world wrapped itself around me through the music. The battle sounds and music also were great, which helped the game stay immersive, even during times of struggle and battle. I did not expect to enjoy the music and sound as much as I did.
In the end, I recommend this game (and the entire series!) 110%. The ability to migrate saves from part 1 to 2 and 2 to 3 was the idea that captured me, but the game itself was what kept me coming back. It has a few flaws in the quality department, but those were not enough to ruin the game for me in the end. The load times were a bit on the longer side, and the ribbon text placement was definitely a low point, but it can be overlooked. The game was an absolutely beautiful and enjoyable journey to experience, with delightful artwork and wonderful voiceovers and music, and I can for once say that I am actually sad to see it end. I think I will definitely be playing it from the start again, this time making different decisions along the way. Each playthrough can end up just a bit different, as each choice may end up saving or killing a vital character. I am interested in seeing what changes I can create. I really hoped to enjoy the game when I purchased part 1, but I am still just amazed by how much I loved the series in its entirety. It’s been a very long time since I felt that way after a game experience.
|Platforms:||PC | PS4 | Xbox One | Switch | Mac|
|Price:||£22.49 | €24.99 | $24.99|
|Story Completion Time:||10 Hours|
|100% Completion Time:||Unknown; due to a lack of achivements on Switch. Approx: 16 Hours|
|Possibility to replay, to see different survivals/deaths||Weird ribbon text placement|
|Art style is gorgeous||Long load times between scenes|
|Voiceovers felt perfectly placed within the game, not over used||It ended!|
|Ability to migrate saves|
|Arbitrary Final Score|
Review by Bonnie
The Banner Saga 3 is available now for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Mac for, £22.49/$24.99. Thank you to Stoic Studio, Versus Evil, and Plan of Attack for supplying the game and assets used in this review. Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.