The Banner Saga 3
THE ONGOING SAGA GOES ON NO MORE.
STOIC STUDIO WANTED to make a trilogy of games telling a single story from start to finish, and it’s done just that. We should all take a second to sit back and appreciate how solid an achievement it is for the dev to complete The Banner Saga 3, rounding off the tale of Vikings, the Darkness, witches and wonder as it does. This doesn’t really happen too often in videogames. If you’ve been paying attention to The Saga so far, you’ll know the world is being submerged under an ever-encroaching wave of Darkness. If you’re returning to the series, you will be able to import your old saves and carry on with all decisions intact, but if you’ve decided to jump in at the third game, you are able to choose a hero and go through all of the major decisions from the previous two games, picking your options as you go. It’s an inelegant solution, and we reckon playing the other games first is better, but it works well.
The story is told from multiple viewpoints just like last time, although this time around, we have one band (under constant attack) surviving in the last untainted human settlement, and a second band (also under constant attack) travelling through the Darkness trying to find a solution to the problem destroying the world. These parallel stories play out the same way they always have in the Banner series. There are the story-led cutscenes where the action unfolds, you can have conversations, and perhaps have to make some tough decisions. There are the battles, playing out in a turn-based grid format.
Then there’s the travelling... This has been an area, which, in previous Saga games, has rubbed some people up the wrong way, but one in which we find an odd level of comfort mixed with apprehension. These are handsoff sections in which you watch your band making its way through the landscape. Morale rises and falls, supplies are consumed, people die and encounters abound. These encounters can lead to more battles, though others might lead to more supplies or new members joining the band. Other encounters might seem insignificant, only to come back and bite you in the behind later on. The Banner Saga is, just as the dev has always intended, a rich tapestry of journeys and destinations, stories and interactions, and inevitable, unavoidable bloodshed. And it’s really pretty lovely.
We won’t spoil anything of The Banner Saga 3’ s ending, but we just want to reiterate how happy we are to see a planned trilogy, telling a single story, release, in full, over a reasonable amount of time, with every instalment being a decent game. That isn’t to say it’s perfect. It isn’t the best turn-based tactics game out there, and it doesn’t feature the most engrossing story either. But it ends up being far greater than the sum of its parts. If there’s no other way you could play the first two games in the series, we’d still recommend giving this third one a go — but to really see what Stoic has achieved with this trilogy, it all has to be played.
Thanks to the choices you make, no two stories will ever be completely alike, and few series are able to deliver that level of personalisation across multiple games. We’re hopeful for more from Stoic in the future, but for now, this is a Saga that’s come to a satisfying close.