The Banner Saga 3 - Review

Author: Stefano "Revan" Castagnola
Date: 2020-07-30 23:01:19
It was 2012 when a small independent team came to Kickstarter to ask for a hand in financing their vision and thus to be able to create an interesting hybrid between RPG and strategy, with a strong emphasis on narration and an unmistakable artistic style. The campaign was a success and The Banner Saga was published two years later, obtaining critical acclaim and recording good sales, which allowed Stoic to develop two sequels.

The Banner Saga 3 is the conclusion of the journey started over six years ago, a journey started with the aim of rescuing a father, his daughter and some refugees from a small village destroyed by an ancient and relentless enemy, but who has then transformed into the thankless task of saving what remains of humanity (and a race of mighty giants called Varl) from the imminent end of the world.

Over time, the Stoic boys have then enriched their puzzle with new pieces, with unexpected revelations, mysteries and new protagonists who have gone on to enrich the complex narrative mosaic. If, however, it is not already easy to write an interesting incipit, it is even less easy to be able to satisfactorily close all the narrative lines and get all the knots to the comb, something that the Stoic guys know well having worked for Bioware, whose controversial Mass Effect 3 finale sparked the anger of thousands of disappointed fans. Will the developers of The Banner Saga 3 have learned from their colleagues' mistakes?

Before giving an answer to this question, however, it is good to spend a few words on the game formula. In truth, those who have followed the series so far will already know very well what they will encounter, since the developers' choice was to keep the system already tested with the first two titles, limiting themselves to perfecting the mechanics and introducing just a few novelties in the form of new usable heroes or enemies to face in battle, some of them belonging to previously unpublished races or classes. Also in The Banner Saga 3 we will follow two different groups of characters, guiding them in battle, managing the resources available to us and making difficult decisions that will influence the development of the story, not always in the way we would have hoped.

Compared to the two games that preceded it, the strategic aspect, already quite simple in origin, in The Banner Saga 3 appears to have less weight in the game economy: the system is always based on "fame", which can be used both to buy supplies and feed their caravan and to empower their soldiers, as well as to buy magical artifacts that help the wearer in battle. This time, however, the food needs of our characters is reduced and it will practically never be necessary to ask whether to sacrifice a warrior upgrade to be able to feed the caravan, or rather one of the two groups that we will control does not provide for any food management, leaving thus freedom for the player to spend all his fame on improving his fighters.

The management of clan members or the warriors accompanying their caravan has also been somewhat simplified: as in the predecessors we will gain (or lose) followers based on our choices, but their number has a reduced influence. We will not be able, for example, to use our fighters to thin out a group of enemies and make the battle easier for our heroes, as happened on some occasions in the predecessors and basically the number of varl, warriors and clan members following us will have of great importance only in a given mid-game event.

Those who have already played their predecessors will also know what to expect from the fights. In fact, we find turn-based tactical battles, with each character having a movement and an action, which can be a simple attack or the use of a skill or magic, to be carried out before giving way to one on the opposite side. To control the fighters there are some statistics: the most important are vitality and armor. The first indicates both the strength and health of the character, while the second is his armor and is subtracted from the attacker's vitality to determine the damage suffered by the defender.

The formula is simple but still guarantees a satisfactory degree of tactical depth: it will always be necessary to choose whether to immediately reduce the health and therefore also the offensive potential of an enemy, or if instead it is more convenient to first weaken its defenses, so that it can deal more damage with another character. Also, given that each turn alternates between its own character and an enemy (until only one opponent remains, in which case the "looting mode" starts and you can use all your characters in succession, before the enemy turn) , not always the best strategy will consist in taking out an opponent as soon as possible and then proceeding with the next, but rather every now and then it will be preferable to keep them alive but weakened so that they cannot do much damage. At first it may seem like an unintuitive system, but in reality we adapt early and end up appreciating the efforts of the developers to offer something different than usual.