The third instalment of Stoic’s gloomy, Norse-inspired epic shows no mercy to its characters, but offers its players gripping story, hair-raising combat and puzzles of strategy—and a pervasive feeling of dread.
Set in a Scandinavia perpetually stranded in a jagged, purple twilight, The Banner Saga draws on Norse and Viking legends, with a twist of apocalypse worth of George R.R. Martin. Much like another season of Game of Thrones, The Banner Saga 3 plunges you straight back into the mythos and misery. There’s a “previously on” recap but it’s a false courtesy: if you haven’t played through the sprawling first two editions, you’ll be completely at sea here.
As we launch, a quarrelling band of warriors is trying in vain to hold the last human city of Arberrang against a siege of the golem-like Dredge, while a ragtag caravan ventures deep into a landscape consumed by the Darkness, a prophesied fog that consumes everything it touches. But Rook (or Alette, depending on your choices in the previous editions) can hardly man defences, as the besieged city erupts into political squabbles. Its hard not to draw metaphors to our political climate: with enemy forces at the gates, some seriously bad weather swamping battlefields, and the old order, in the form of the king, dying, strong man Rugga has just the lies to whip the masses into a populist frenzy.
The Banner Saga Three matches the complexity of the story with increasingly intricate gameplay. Combat is more strategic and unpredictable, and a burgeoning cast forces you into the skins of strange new characters. And with plot lines hinging on decisions made in the first two instalments, you feel the mounting weight of all choices, present and past.
It isn’t a mood-lifter but The Banner Saga is intricate and immersive, and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.