The release of The Banner Saga 3 meant the conclusion of a series four years in the making, and it couldn’t have been a better ending. The series has been known for its intriguing and heart-wrenching high stakes plot that is influenced by player choice, and The Banner Saga 3 continues on that tradition.
The game continues to feature its Oregon Trail-like gameplay, mixed with turn-based combat. In terms of mechanics, some new characters, including dredge, who had been the enemies of the previous two installments, are now playable. A new feature that involves waves of enemies and a boss at the end of the battles adds a twist to the gameplay. Players also have the options of fleeing the battle if they didn’t want to endure the next wave of enemies, or if they ran out of characters that could fight back. Personally, I never felt the need to do flee since I played on the easiest difficulty, so that sense of urgency was lost for me in the turn-based combat. However, the decisions made during the journey portions of the game certainly did make everything feel scary and urgent.
Since this is the conclusion of the series, the stakes in the story could not be any higher. With the impending doom at hand, every decision that the player makes feels even bigger and filled with tougher consequences than the last. Previous installments had me thinking over decisions for a few seconds, while The Banner Saga 3 had me staring at my screen with dread for several minutes. The atmosphere and narrative of the game successfully made me feel like I had to take extra about what I did and said.
Sometimes, I felt like the game punished me for being kind. In the last two games, sometimes being nice came back to bite me, but it never led to any semblance of a disaster. However in this game, particularly in the beginning, I found myself in worsening situations that I couldn’t help but think could’ve gone better had I been crueler.
The Banner Saga 3 is significantly darker than the previous installments, but it’s a change that was pulled off really well. It made me feel nostalgic for moments from the earlier games when things seemed so simple. The dredge were the enemies trying to destroy everything in their path like invaders, and the story was more straightforward; there weren’t any major surprises. Then it turned out the dredge weren’t the enemies all along, but that they were simply fleeing from the evil that spelled the end of the world, and that that very evil was unleashed by an ally you had since the first game. I was left to wonder how could it all have gone so wrong, but also made me try even harder to keep the characters alive.
One of the biggest moments in The Banner Saga 3 for me was the death of Alette in my game. I wanted to embrace the enemies of the previous two games after learning that they had been trying to flee impending doom the entire time and that we would need their aid to fight back the end of everything. However, it resulted in riots, the death of Alette, one of the main characters throughout the series. It was at this moment that the feeling “oh shit this is it” came upon me.
While Alette is not the first main character to have died in the series. In fact, the whole trilogy frequently featured main characters dying, more so if you made the wrong decisions. However, her death had a bigger impact on me because I had known the character throughout the entire trilogy. I had personally seen her go from the worried daughter to a mourning warrior, to a leader who would try to keep everyone together. I felt as though she was untouchable. I couldn’t have been any more wrong. Her death, and the subsequent counter of days Arberrang had left before its doom reinforced that in this game, no one was safe decisions had to be taken seriously now more than ever.
The Banner Saga 3 to me was the perfect ending to a perfect trilogy. I loved every installment, but this one was by far the best entry of the series. The Banner Saga 3 had great pacing did an excellent job at making the urgency of the story and the decisions I could make were extremely important. It had a strong narrative, fun gameplay and I thought it was a brilliant conclusion. It was amazing to see how the story developed and matured over the course of three games, and see how the characters changed over time too, even if that meant my heart would be broken sometimes.