In spite of the small size of the team behind it, The Banner Saga has made a huge impression. The Stoic Games series was initially a perfect example of just how stunning a crowdfunded game could be, with the ex-BioWare designers delivering a passion project high on quality from both a design and plot perspective.
The first Banner Saga was a triumph, a beautiful game with a real emotional impact, and it was no surprise to see the game see enough success to allow Stoic Games to expand into a trilogy. Thankfully, that level of quality continued into the sequel, with Stoic pulling no punches with another guttural descent into a harsh yet deeply compelling world.
Because of this, expectations were high for the final part of the trilogy. The Banner Saga had the rare title of being a series where decisions made in-game had a genuine impact on characters, much more so than peers like Mass Effect, and as such pulling off a satisfactory finale was of upmost importance. Thankfully, The Banner Saga 3 follows on from its predecessors and maintains the high quality that was expected.
Although The Banner Saga 3 does feel very familiar, there are some changes here to make it feel different from the other parts of the story. In particular, the title paints a picture of a Nordic world on the blink of oblivion, the looming apocalypse of the previous entries now very much apparent. Parties are split between different parts of this dangerous environment, with seemingly unsurmountable odds about stopping the impending death of the world.
In part, this is showcased by the title's stunning art direction. The design quality of The Banner Saga has always shone, with an art style reminiscent of Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth that gives the series a truly unique feel. With The Banner Saga 3, this is once again on point, with lush animated sections and character designs that make it a much more otherworldly experience than even the recent God of War.
Because of the slight change in tone, The Banner Saga 3 also has a new dimension from a design perspective. The game world this time around is that much darker, in a world that is morphing into something terrifying. Whereas The Banner Saga and its sequel were sometimes sparse and devoid of life, there's a smoky density to much of The Banner Saga 3, and its twisted creatures and locales.
It's a subtle change, but one that matches the fantasy and imagination of the series so far. Keeping the intensity going across all three games is a challenge that is difficult for every trilogy, but The Banner Saga 3 barely lets up when it comes to the overall plot. Quite simply, those who expect a breather when starting the game up could be surprised.
From the start, The Banner Saga 3 is full-on. It's a relentless march of battle and drama, with the player having to look out in both the turn-based battles and the crossroad-type decisions that turn up every so often. The Banner Saga 3 is about more than just being a strong tactician; it's also about being a thoughtful leader and acting instinctively, putting those skills learned in the likes of Telltale's The Walking Dead to the test.
Part of this comes down to the use of characters, and once again Stoic Games has balanced it perfectly. The Banner Saga 3 is a game for those that have become entrenched in its lore and cast, and it does great things to build upon its deep roster of characters. It's this relationship management that also makes up one of the best parts of the game, and those who enjoyed that element from the previous titles will find it just as strong here.
However, since the title is such a continuation of the story that it's unlikely to change the minds of those who haven't enjoyed The Banner Saga thus far. Those who haven't gelled with the series won't find much to win them over, and its turn-based tactical RPG combat won't be for everyone. It's perhaps an area where The Banner Saga's uniqueness could be a flaw, as it is very much a trilogy made up of three similar parts.
Nonetheless, The Banner Saga 3 is a game that RPG fans should definitely play. It's a terrific send-off for the trilogy as a whole, hitting all the right notes from a storytelling perspective and delivering that rare video gaming experience: a trilogy that actually delivers a satisfying conclusion.
The Banner Saga 3 is available now for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 code for the purposes of this review.