The Banner Saga 3 PlayStation 4 Review

The Banner Saga 3 is a fitting conclusion to a story that needed to be told.

By RON, Posted 30 Jul 2018

The conclusion to Stoic Games’ Viking-inspired epic trilogy is upon us. The tale of heroism, human condition, tough choices and imminent doom reaches its final chapter. Critics and gamers alike have been praising the series for a while now and with good reason – the trilogy is extraordinary. For an independent game to achieve so much is definitely worth noticing and The Banner Saga 3 does not disappoint.

The Banner Saga 3,PlayStation 4,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Stoic,Battles,Strategies,Trophies

The Banner Saga 3 picks up where it left last time. The errant band of warriors and common folk alike keeps traversing the continuingly deteriorating Arberrang which, to be fair, now is more of a post-apocalyptic landscape than the city it used to be. Guided either by Rook or by Alette, depending on the decisions made in the first game, and the information in your imported save file, the group will have to survive despite the adversity and conflicts inherited in previous installments and the new challenges ahead.

The Banner Saga 3 is better enjoyed if you’ve been playing the last two installments of the series; otherwise, most things will not make sense or feel flat. Its true power lies within its powerful storytelling, but eit’s difficult to get emotionally invested in the characters if you haven’t been following the transhumant story that unfolded thusfar. That being said, the game  does actually manage to take the story to a satisfying conclusion. Furthermore, the decisions one has made throughout the series carry on, and not without paying off. For this reason, most decisions made within this third installment come with a heavy burden, being resolved almost immediately, and sometimes with dire consequences. But that is not necessarily a bad thing; to be honest, the game feels fair when it comes to dealing with these decisions. Choose poorly and you will face terrible consequences. Those consequences never come out of the blue, though, being announced or telegraphed in some way; you’ll definitely feel like you should’ve listened to the warnings of a seasoned character or have chosen a more rational approach. This, of course, adds a layer of much needed replayability to the game, especially given how it can be finished in around eight hours.

The Banner Saga 3,PlayStation 4,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Stoic,Battles,Strategies,Trophies

As with other entries in the series, The Banner Saga 3 can be played from two different perspectives, with two different main characters for which the story and events unfold differently. Each character comes with a new set of decisions and different outcomes, so maybe a short campaign was needed in order to create this dual storytelling device. There is however a sentiment that lingers on once you finish the game. Because of its brevity, you’ll end up wanting more. The decisions and its consequences, although rewarding, flee rapidly once the end credits start rolling and that may be one of The Banner Saga 3’s biggest flaws. This is a problem that was also present in the previous installment, roughly lasting the same amount of time. A story this immersive can run like water once you’re deep inside, and it ends just in a moment. We understand the limitations of an independent studio but that does not help the feeling that something is owed to us in the end.

Aesthetically, The Banner Saga 3 is as powerful as ever. The hand drawn style is still a constant reminder of the importance of good art design in a game and how much effort can be put in such an endeavor.  The game’s cutscenes still look as something taken directly out of the Disney handbook of 90’s animation or even classics like The Land Before Time. The series already innovated with its first iteration and now, two games later, it is nice to see that quality has not been reduced and that the animation team behind the game still has got it.

The Banner Saga 3,PlayStation 4,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Stoic,Battles,Strategies,Which Witch,Trophies

Although it is not exactly the same as the previous game, and that may not necessarily be for the better, the gameplay also continues along similar lines. The turn based combat is still present and, for some, is still one of its main attractions. Choose between your available characters, try to make their skills match and gain advantage using the grid system in each scenario. It is worth noticing characters can only inflict damage only after piercing the armor of the opponent, so a good debilitating strategy is always useful in order to deliver that final blow against a powerful enemy. Take into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of each character, as that can be the difference between success and inevitable doom. For instance, when facing a horde of Dredge, it’s best to have couple of Varl (Hakon and Fasolt are my personal favorites) in the team. 

The main addition is the possibility to make battles last longer in order to get better rewards. This new horde system allows you to lengthen some fights so that more enemies approach. If you manage to finish the fight after a few rounds, then the chance for better items dropping increases; however, stay too long and it might result in a useful character getting wounded. Overall, this mechanic is barely of any use. The risk is too high next to the rewards because, due to the game progression system, most characters will not even benefit from these long encounters because most will be too powerful already and better loot will not represent a significant improvement. Besides, combat is not the real reason players keep coming back to the series, if anything, despite being entertaining, it impedes from continuing with the story, the real prowess in the Banner Saga series.

The Banner Saga 3,PlayStation 4,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Stoic,Battles,Strategies,Trophies

It is good to see most good things about the Banner Saga series remain the same: the beautiful animation, the ominous and apocalyptic landscapes, the heartwarming and immersive story in which you actually feel there is something at stake, the organic integration of the theme and the elements present in the game that constantly shout “disaster”, “despair” and “death”. But it is also important to note that most problems with the series were not addressed whatsoever. The combat system remains the same, good at best but nothing to get excited about. The  sometimes unnecessary inclusion of minor characters that are never truly fleshed out, the short duration of the campaign, and the everlasting going from left to right of the screen – although it is where important plot points happen and where a lot of the intense decisions are made –, they’re all still there.

Nevertheless, the game is definitively a fitting conclusion to a story that needed to be told. If you’ve been playing The Banner Saga since the beginning, then there is no way you will want to miss this one out; if, instead, this is your first approach to the series, we recommend you start from the beginning and immerse yourself in this excellent trilogy.

Sarwar Ron, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Versus Evil
Developer(s): Stoic Studio
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Turn-Based Strategy, Fantasy
Release Date: 2018-07-26

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