Banner Saga 3 is the epic conclusion to the planned Banner Saga trilogy of games developed by the talented folks at Stoic Studio. It takes all the great things we’ve enjoyed from the first two games such as it’s gorgeous hand-drawn art style, animated cutscenes and great cast of characters and then adds in a few new gameplay tweaks to help the experience feel fresh. Delivering a satisfying end to the Nordic adventure we set of on with our caravan of characters back in the first instalment of the series.
Now as I just mentioned, this is the conclusion to a long running story that has been building since the first game back in 2014. This isn’t a great jumping on point if you haven’t played the previous 2 games. Could you do it? Yes. But you probably shouldn’t. Much of the enjoyment in the Banner Saga 3 comes with continuing the adventure you’ve set up so far and finally getting a closing off point for your own narrative. It would be like starting off The Lord Of The Rings series with Return of the King. Please don’t do it. There are so many moments in Banner Saga 3 that have a much deeper payoff because of time spent and knowledge gained with the first two titles.
Much like in the original Banner Saga, you’ll experience the story of Banner Saga 3 from 2 perspectives. Switching back and forth between 2 separate groups of characters. One of the first things you’ll notice about Banner Saga 3 is that this portion of the story is leading to some very cataclysmic events. Ragnarok is coming and with it the game takes on a darker colour palette as the world slips into darkness, with many of the area’s now featuring sinister hues of blue and purple.
Without spoiling too much of the story, you will be playing as both familiar and brand new characters in the Banner Saga 3. With one group fighting and fortifying the new safe-haven of the world Arberrang, and the other on a journeying quest lead by a female mage that aim to travel to the doomsday site and reverse the affects of the impending darkness spreading over the world.
Decisions made throughout the game just like in the first two entries will impact how your story plays out. With it’s branching decisions leading to the death of certain characters and choices even impacting the other group of travellers. These parties are the two sides of the coin that is The Banner Saga 3. The story overall is very well paced, filled with emotion and tension with choices that lead to very real consequences.
The 2 core aspects that made the first Banner Saga games are back here with some minor change-ups that breathe fresh life into the adventure. The first of course being the incredible story, which continues to branch off in different ways based on the choices you make throughout. As with the previous games you need to pay attention and think about these options, as even small trivial choices you think won’t mean anything past the initial outcome can be the catalyst of a much bigger event down the line.
And the second being my favourite aspect. The turn based tactical battles. I love grid based tactical rpg’s, and the systems in The Banner Saga 3 contain a near perfect blend of easy to learn and thinking out of the box to overcome some of the game’s more difficult challenges.
Almost every aspect of this game involves a risk and reward style decision. A new addition to the tactical battles comes in the new wave system. After clearing out a wave of enemies on the battlefield you will be presented with the option to stick around and take on the next wave of enemies for a harder, more lengthy battle or you can escape and continue on your way.
Do you continue battling, clearing all of the waves to potentially obtain a rare item? Or flee and keep the parties health up? Even this decision can have impacts on the story down the line.
Even choosing to rest your characters to regain health eats away at your time which means you need to keep an eye on the ever present countdown to Ragnarok even closer.
The animation in this game continues to be spectacular. Carrying a 90’s Disney vibe but with a much darker aesthetic than anything they’d attach their name to. It continues to be one of the main highlights of this series and I hope what ever the team moves onto next continues to use the skills of these talented animators.
I got through The Banner Saga 3 in around 9 hours. It does a great job of keeping you engaged from start to end. With a total play time that doesn’t stick around past it’s welcome and a well paced story that you feel like you have a real hand in crafting thanks to the decisions you’ll be making throughout that moulds the story of Banner Saga 3 into your own personal experience.
The Nintendo Switch version I played for review performed extremely well. I didn’t encounter any noticeable performance issues during my play through and spent my time with the game fairly evenly spread between docked and hand held modes. The hand-drawn art style really shines on the Switch’s screen in handheld mode and was my preferred way to play.
The Banner Saga 3 is a very fitting conclusion to the great Nordic fantasy story that began in the first Banner Saga. With the ability to transfer save data between all three game’s you’ll see your choices and their impacts carry on throughout the 35 hours or so it will take you to play through all three games in the trilogy. While it does take the experience of the first 2 games to fully enjoy, you’ll be glad you did play them when you do get around to jumping into and concluding The Banner Saga 3. Just be aware, based on some of your choices throughout you may not get the ending you’d expect. But that’s what multiple playthroughs are for right?
A Nintendo Switch review code was provided by the distributor for the purpose of this review.