Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Banner Saga 3: A Quick Review

The Banner Saga 3 brings to close the epic tale steeped in Norse mythology that Stoic Studio began to spin with the original Banner Saga in 2014.

The Banner Saga trilogy has always struck me as a re-imagining of the schoolhouse classic Oregon Trail. Only instead of caulking the wagons and fording the river hoping not to drown or later down the road be killed by dysentery, you're pushing from one town to the next trying to outrun the darkness, and not be killed by the Dredge.

Your Banner grows long on the Oregon Viking Trail.
The Banner Saga 3 begins where your adventure in the Banner Sage 2 ended. While you can play Banner Saga 3 without having played any of the previous entries (there is a short catch up video you can watch) it's really not worth it. I'd recommend you wait until the Banner Saga Trilogy is released in a few days. The game does little in the way of world building and leans heavily on you having played the previous entries.

This is not Frozen the Tactical RPG.
The art style of the Banner Saga is fantastic. From the battle maps to the small vignettes that push the story forward. There is also active art that has slight movement to keep scenes from becoming stale while your characters converse.

Great animation style of vignettes.
Your choices in the Banner Saga 3 continue to have consequences that you'll be held accountable for later on, much like the earlier entries in the saga. To show mercy or to kill a rival? Whether to participate in a battle or not? The outcome is not always what you hoped it would be. This also offers a level of replayability to the game.

The majority of the game plays out with you either on the battlefield or caravanning across town or in the darkness. The caravanning aspect is why I always draw the parallel to the Oregon Trail. Along your way, you can meet people that can join as clansman or fighters. However, these choices will impact your moral and your food reserves. You don't always want to bring everyone along. Sometimes you'll also be forced to leave people behind to reinforce strategic positions.

In combat, you'll position your players along a square grid and attack your enemies with different skills based upon your class. Kill the enemies and earn renown. As you gain enough renown you can promote your characters. One of the key aspects of combat in Banner Saga is whether you attack your enemy and deal damage to their health or break their armor. If you choose to break their armor you can thenlaterr attack them with another character and deal more damage to their health than if both characters did normal attacks against a particular enemy.

Good luck trying to read that small black font on the red background in handheld mode.
For those of you that are going to play the Banner Saga 3 on the Nintendo Switch beware that their are some screens that are difficult to read in handheld mode. Take a look at the last screenshot for an example. Two other minor annoyances for all systems have to deal with the camera. The first being you cannot rotate the camera around the battlefield and this can make it annoying or even difficult to select a target or move without running over a hazard. The second is the camera isn't active and won't move to a character your enemy has targeted and chosen to attack. If you are looking at the wrong part of the screen you can miss it.

The Banner Saga 3 is a good tactical RPG and does a fine job closing out the Banner Saga. If you enjoyed the previous 2 games this is a definite purchase. If this game strikes your fancy but you haven't played any of the others yet wait a few days and pick up the trilogy instead.

7 out of 10.

A review copy of Banner Saga 3 was provided by Versus Evil's PR team for the Nintendo Switch.

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