The Banner Saga 3 on Nintendo Switch
Trailers for The Banner Saga 3 used the phrase “no hero is safe,” and that couldn’t be truer. The latest entry in the narrative strategy series doubles down on the series’ anything can happen style, and it’s a harrowing, emotional journey that’ll keep players of the first two games hooked to their screens until the end.
Much like with the previous two games, The Banner Saga 3 picks up directly where The Banner Saga 2 left off, and your situation can vary depending on the choices you made. Before I dive in let’s make one thing abundantly clear, The Banner Saga 3 is a game that’s supposed to be experienced in tandem with the other two, and it is in no way a standalone experience. This is a series that you really do need to start from the beginning with.
The Banner Saga 3 follows two different stories and two different parties, one with Allette or Rook (depending on previous choices) trying to quell the chaos in Arberrang, and the other with Iver, Juno, and Eyvind journeying into the darkness. The third game has a decidedly darker and more desperate tone than the first two, and the game is rife with difficult decisions that can change the outcome of the story.
Part of what makes The Banner Saga so unique is the fact that Stoic isn’t afraid to take chances with character deaths. There’s no “chosen one” or special hero, just normal people doing their best to deal with horrific situations. As a result, the narrative has a lot of room to breathe, especially in terms of exploring tragedy and death. Despite the world-ending threats, this entry still knows the importance of quiet time, and allows you to get to know some of its characters better through short conversations. The Banner Saga 3 definitely doesn’t pull its punches, and having been invested in the characters and world already, I found myself taking time to consider each and every choice I made, no matter how small it seemed. Despite the world-ending threats, The Banner Saga 3 still knows the importance of quiet
Certain systems used in the past two games don’t play as large of a role here, such as supplies not mattering as much outside of being able to use them in a few decisions. There’s a fascinating system that comes into play later on in the game, however, with the decisions and actions of one party dictating how much time the other party has in their journey. Again without spoiling how this system comes into play, it’s a brilliant mechanic that gives even more weight to some of your decisions. Speaking of decisions, fans should be happy to know that The Banner Saga 3 does an admirable job of bringing up choices you made in the previous two games, and making them matter. Right up until the very end of the game your choices throughout the series will be referenced and can alter events in some interesting ways. Narrative games have struggled for a long time with making choices matter across games, but somehow The Banner Saga 3 manages to pull it off nearly seamlessly.
Combat still uses the same system as before, however, there are a few meaningful additions. Pressing up on the D-pad now displays the stats of all characters on the field, making it much easier to plan your tactics. The biggest addition comes with a new Wave feature, that pressures you to beat a battle quickly and gives you the option to fight more enemies. In many of the battles in the game, a Wave counter appears in the turn order, noting how many turns are left before the next enemy wave comes. Beating the wave in time will let you choose if you want to stay and fight or flee. Beating all the waves rewards you, of course, with more Renown for leveling up your units, and can also nab you a powerful item. Between each wave you can choose new party members to refresh your army, letting you more effectively use a larger amount of characters.
Another addition has been made to the way you can level characters with Heroic Titles, which can be activated at rank 11. You can choose from a number of different titles, each of which can be ranked up five times and drastically increase some aspect of your characters. There are quite a few new characters added into the mix too, each of which have some interesting abilities to play with. Petrus is the guard captain of Arberrang and can summon a fighter to battle for help, Alfrun is a mysterious witch that can cause strength damage from a distance, and few different Dredge heroes can also join your party with their respective unique abilities. The number of different characters and classes in your party allow for a ton of variation in combat, and The Banner Saga 3 does a great job of throwing unique situations and mechanics your way during battle.
These are by far some of the most challenging battles in the trilogy, and especially as you approach the end of the game you’ll need every powerful characters and tactic you can get your hands on, which can make it even more heartbreaking when you lose a cherished hero.
Presentation-wise, The Banner Saga 3 is grander and more beautiful than even the first two games before it. The art style and aesthetic still looks absolutely gorgeous and traveling through the warped and twisted lands within the darkness stands in stark contrast to the beautiful countryside that you passed through before. There are quite a few more animated cutscenes this time around, adding more variety into the mix and highlighting critical moments. Austin Wintory’s new score for the third game is absolutely the best in the trilogy and does a phenomenal job of adding emotion and gravitas to key story moments and battles.
Load times for the game can run a little long, although it’s nothing egregious. With the Switch version of the game I did encounter a couple bugs where a battle just wouldn’t activate for me, but it was an easy enough fix to simply load my last save.
I played through The Banner Saga 3 twice, once with my save carried over from the first two games and once with a fresh slate. The amount of variation in those playthroughs was substantial, even though the basis of the story was the same. The Banner Saga is one of the most fascinating trilogies of games out there right now, and The Banner Saga 3 ties everything together in one neat, albeit heartbreaking, package. The third game feels like something quite different from the previous games, even though it has the same heart. It may not do everything fans wanted, but this is one unforgettable conclusion to an already memorable journey.
Score: 4.5/5 – Great
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