As Samuel L. Jackson said in Jurassic Park, ‘Hold onto your butts.’
It’s advice you should follow when playing The Banner Saga 3, it’s a bloody bumpy ride.
Although I’ve only played the first three chapters of the game, The Banner Saga 3 doesn’t waste any time getting you back into the action, nor does it give you any time to catch your breath.
Where The Banner Saga 2 was set a little while after the events of The Banner Saga, the third instalment begins immediately following the second Act. Whatever you chose to do at the conclusion of The Banner Saga 2, you’ll see the effects right away.
The Banner Saga 3
At this point, there’s no time for niceties either. Where the first two games had moments of levity, jokes and some lighthearted conversations, The Banner Saga 3 does not. The world is ending, the darkness is spreading and everything is very fucking bleak.
Which is perfect and where the writing in The Banner Saga shines. The characterisations and detail you’ve come to expect from the series are present, but they’re even stronger than ever. If you’ve played the previous two titles, you’ll have become intimate with the characters and feel like you know them personally.
It’s this connection that Stoic exploits to make The Banner Saga 3 the most powerful and most emotionally impactful of the series. The fact that I feel this way after only three chapters shows you just how full-on this The Banner Saga 3 is.
The situation at Arrberang is rapidly deteriorating and the battle at Manaharr has left Juno and Eyvind weakened. Not to mention that the Ravens are only following because Folka is under the control of Juno as Bolverk has seemingly perished.
Darkest Before the Dawn
There is so much going on, but there’s still more. Rugga is making a play for the throne of Arberrang and the Dredge are still pushing forward, threatening to absolutely overrun the last city of man. And in the midst of all of this, you need to decide who to trust, who to fight and who to save.
All in a day’s work hey?
While the gameplay in Arberrang is very much as you’d expect from The Banner Saga, the characters within the darkness are facing new horrors. The world is being warped and twisted and isn’t safe. It truly does seem as though the end has come.
Following the battle at Manaharr, Iver, Juno, Eyvind and the Ravens have arrived at Strand.
Remember Strand from The Banner Saga?
Well, it’s nothing like that anymore. It’s twisted, broken, cruel and ugly.
Can the World Be Saved?
The party is being protected by a bubble of light created by the menders. It’s the only thing protecting them from the enveloping darkness which is destroying the world as we know it. It’s not just the world outside the light that threatens this party though.
The Ravens have followed under false pretences and once they realise what’s happened, inside the bubble will become as dangerous as outside. However, those inside the bubble are familiar, whether friend or foe. Outside, the darkness has turned man, Dredge and Varl alike into new and terrifying enemies.
These twisted versions are ugly, purple and nasty. When they die they leave behind a pile of ashes that absorbs your Will when stepped on. If one of these creatures steps on the same ashes, they’ll absorb your Will. It’s a nasty new feature to be avoided on the battleground.
At Strand, you’ll meet a party that has somehow survived the darkness. It includes some new and some familiar faces, but most importantly it includes the new Witch class. While I wasn’t able to fully test out the Witch’s abilities, being able to heal for half her Will is a pretty amazing inclusion.
Another great new feature is being able to use Apostate the Sunsinger in your party. Through The Banner Saga and The Banner Saga 2, we learned that the Dredge were sworn enemies. And they still are, but remember the Sunsinger you saved in The Banner Saga 2? He’s on your team now. It’s excellent.
It Comes in Waves
New to The Banner Saga 3 are battles in waves. Here, you’ll face a group of enemies and when you defeat them you’ll have the option to flee or stay and fight.
If you stay and fight you may earn a special item and earn extra renown, but you’ll be facing extra enemies, tough bosses and you’ll be weakened from the first wave. Any fighters that have been KO’ed can be replaced with reinforcements who are fresh. It’s always a balancing act.
Do you risk all the renown you’ve earned and gamble on winning the second wave, or do you flee knowing you’ve been partially successful?
I stayed to fight and was successful, but I get the feeling that as the game progresses, these battles will go longer and chances of success will rapidly reduce.
Because I only played three chapters it was hard to get a handle on the story, but rest assured the storytelling is as strong as it’s ever been. The same goes for the choices you’ll need to make. Right away you’re faced with almost impossible decisions which left me reeling.
For longtime fans, The Banner Saga 3 seems like it’s going to deliver in spades. With a simultaneous release next month on PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One, The Banner Saga is coming to a close, but from what I’ve seen it’s going out with a bang.
Hopefully, the quality that’s been on display for the first two games remains all the way through The Banner Saga 3. If it does, The Banner Saga may very well be the greatest video game trilogy of all time.
That’s not hyperbole. I truly believe it.
The Banner Saga 3 launches on July 26, 2018.
The Banner Saga 3 was previewed on PC using a digital code provided by the developer.