If this is the first you’ve heard of The Banner Saga be sure to check out my review of Banner Saga 1 & 2 .
On paper, The Banner Saga isn’t a series I should like. My games usually consist of constant action with a gameplay hook that doesn’t stop me. While I enjoy reading a book here or there I absolutely do not care for reading in video games. For those new to the series, The Banner Saga is a heavily narrative driven game. With this being the 3rd (and final) game in the series I thought there was nothing more the series could show me. Boy was I dead wrong.
The original part that drew me into the series was its combat. It is similar to something you would see in Final Fantasy Tactics or Front Mission (TRPG – Tactical Role Playing Game). My assumption was that the whole game played that way. To my surprise, the combat is the smallest part of the game series. You journey consists of text driven conversations. There will be cutscenes here and there but they are far and few between. Out of all 3 games however, The Banner Saga 3 is hands down the most ambitious game in the series. There are more animated cutscenes, more detail environments and more action over all. I would compare it best to how The Lord of the Rings trilogy plays out. The 1st being the setup into this world, the 2nd digging deeper and the 3rd being a grand finale of epic proportions.
I will not dive into any of the story aspects here. If you are reading this review then you have played the other 2 games in the series. The reason I keep these reviews from telling little to no detail about the game is because of its narrative driven nature. Anything I say will tell you something about the story. This is a game you must experience first hand. No walkthrough, no forums, no videos, no reading. Nothing. I have mentioned that yes it is text based and focused on story, but you are not stuck reading and moving on. During your conversations you are often met with dialogue options. All 3 games carry over so any choice you’ve made in the original game could have an effect on The Banner Saga 3.
We’ve all heard of save files carrying over but I believe that the team at Stoic has truly outdone themselves here. I have been shocked many times at how my decisions have come back to bite me in the ass. Every choice I have made throughout this series has weighted heavily on me, in a way no video game or story has ever made me feel. By the end of the series you feel as if you know these characters, you’ve seen them develop. You understand their motivations and how far they’ve come. Regardless, you will still be held up to make the hardest decisions you will have to make in a game ever. You can quote me on that. The Banner Saga 3 pushes the envelope when it comes to this type of gameplay. They put you in situations, that if met in real life you would be lost. I have made so many poor decisions that the morale for both of my caravans have been poor throughout my play through of The Banner Saga 3. I cannot make them happy at all! All these choices lead to different climatic endings. None of your heroes will be safe. My game ended in a way that had me completely distraught. I could not focus once it was done. While I can load my old saves and try to see a different ending, these were the choices I made and this ending was the fate I was given.
With every iteration in the series there have been improvements. There is a new battle system in place that you will face during your journey with one of your caravans. It involves faces waves of enemies within a certain turn limit. If you kill all the enemies and you still have 20 turns left, then you can continue to fight more enemies. The benefit of this is gaining more renown and new items for your characters. The downfall is, if you’re not prepared you will all die and have to start back from you’re recent save point. These battles can be time draining. Heroic titles have also been added to the game. Once your character has reached a certain level you are able to add a “title” to them which is adding another skill to your character. Finally the game will be throwing in new “heroes” to add to your team. While it has been mentioned online who some of these heroes are I will not be naming it here. When this particular character joined my team I was shocked, and thats what this series does. It constantly puts me at awe in the twist and turns that weave around every corner. The music is as grand as its even been. The original score was composed by Austin Wintroy. This is as just as important to the game as the art, the story and the battle system. It adds depth and an ambiance like never before. It truly helps in wrapping you into this world. The game has satisfied every appetite of mine. While the ending for my play-through was extremely disturbing, it just helped push the fact that this series was more than just a game to me. I connected with everyone. I made these relationships what they were. While you can buy just part 3 and watch a recap at the beginning of the game, this is not the way to play. Going through all 3 entries is the definitive way. Each game will clock in between 10-12 hours and it’s worth every minute.
This is not only about The Banner Saga 3, but about the trilogy over all. This is hands down the most impressive & shocking story I’ve ever experienced. Every choice is crucial, it will effect more than just outcomes but the morale of your caravan, your battles and how other characters react with you. The fact that Stoic was able to make all of these choices have such a staggering impact throughout all 3 games deserves an award on its own. You need to play this series. This is a fact. You will be thrown into this world you know nothing about and it will cause some confusion but it will all become clear as conversations go on and you learn more about the lore. I cannot recommend this series enough. If you think the genre isn’t for you, try it anyways. Once the credits roll on The Banner Saga 1, I guarantee the next move you make is buying/starting up The Banner Saga 2. It is available on every platform. You have no excuse.