As you watch villages getting torn apart and fight with whatever and alongside whoever you can to bring at least a little bit of light back into civilization, you come across a caravan and a clan united by the grim goal of survival.
They tell you of uneasy allegiances, enemies stab in the back — but also of bonds thicker than blood have been carried them along the journey that has taken them across both stunning and unforgiving lands. This is the world of The Banner Saga 3, and it is as beautiful as it is tactical and narratively deep.
Built as a turn-based RPG game, The Banner Saga 3 is where your choices between combat affect the chosen character’s journey. Players can either play as Rook, or Alette, his daughter. Depending on the player’s choices in the Banner Saga 1, either the father or daughter survives. If the player chooses Alette, then the story is about how she is set to continue her father’s work. whereas when playing as Rook, players start off with a meeting with his teammates, which then leads to fighting against Rugga’s loyalists.
As the player fights and journey together with their chosen allies, they learn to appreciate their unique skills and strengths. It falls into a rhythm after becoming familiar with weaknesses and strengths in terms of stats you put in each character, and how far they can travel during their first phase of combat.
The combat itself involves turned-based strategy, where a player’s team has to duke it out with enemy forces using brute force, a barrage of arrows, or even a kick that sends them tumbling away. Players can lower an enemy’s armour before attacking to increase their damage, while getting enemies to walk in fires, poisoning them, or getting them to walk in coals heaps deal more damage. While the battles can offer a challenge, the AI is sometimes frustrating such that it doesn’t always deliver killing blows when it could, allowing players to move their characters away and start lowering their armour from afar while teammates, who are giants, for example, can land kills on the enemies.
If the player’s own teammates lose all of their health, then they must rest for a few days before being able to fight again. Meanwhile, players get to rotate another teammate in the main roster. To further the complexity of the tactical combat, The Banner Saga 3 utilizes armour alongside health adds a bit more flavour to the game as opposed to only health as well and encourages players to think more about their next move before simply charging into battle with axes equipped by giant allies.
As the player’s journeys from one location to another, they also get the choice to purchase supplies, items, or even recruit more clan members. These decisions can affect how many days the team can survive to even their morale.
This is only emphasized by the overall writing of The Banner Saga 3. Like The Banner Saga 1 and 2, the writing in this game continues to be strong, despite a bunch of new characters to deal with, the core characters and those the player decides to save in the past connects to Rook.
As for the animation and artwork, it does what would be expected for the genre and style of game, however, it takes it a bit further by adding sound effects and even animations for when teammates get injured. The art style works for this, as well as the cutscenes craft a picture of the brutal battle your comrades face. The game is beautifully hand-drawn, and coupled with the animated cutscenes and teammate animations for whenever they falter, players can make a connection with the characters. It also helps that the choices players have to make between these fights make the connections weigh more.
Much like the rest of the package, the sound and music design is top tier. The Banner Saga 3 has a lovely soundtrack to go along with it. Composed by Austin Wintory, the music both go well with the story and ends The Banner Saga 3 on a good note. It is a joy to listen to on and off the battlefield. It paints a musical landscape from the start of the game to the time the final battle comes to a close.
Even when the game ends, the journey does not officially conclude, as players can also import their saves and get unexpected outcomes based on previous decisions big and small. It is a content-rich experience and should keep any strategy fans busy for days worth of engaging tactical goodness. Even more so if they are jumping in blind, three games deep, The Banner Saga is a series well worth jumping into.
Along with the hand-drawn artwork, fitting music, as well as the decision-making involved when purchasing supplies and recruiting fighters, The Banner Saga 3 is a long journey, but one that makes players want to play again and again just to relive the compelling story of it.
At the end of the day, The Banner Saga 3 is a delightful experience that is rewarding to play. The game also like a solid end to the trilogy, with time put into polish and fine-tuning, and functions in a way that is engaging and enjoyable. Players get to strategically position their own forces to fight against enemies, as well as pick and choose who to level up, and, in some cases, who survives to fight another battle without having to rest.
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