At the end of The Banner Saga 2, the pieces are set in place for the end of the world. A group of travelers prepares to step into the ever-encroaching darkness, hoping to stop the end of the world, while another fights desperately to protect the people who were placed in their care. The Banner Saga 3 marks the end of Stoic Studio’s epic trilogy, and it aims to raise the stakes higher than ever before as the story of the residents of Skogr and the mysterious Valka Juno come to a close.
Please note: This preview contains spoilers for The Banner Saga 2.
We’ve gotten a chance to try out the first few chapters of The Banner Saga 3, set to release late in July for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, and the final game in this trilogy pulls no punches in its beginning. Almost immediately, players are thrust into a difficult battle wherein Rook’s (or Allette’s) army must break through the gates of the last bastion of humanity, trying to find safety from the all-consuming darkness. It’s a tense beginning, and it really drives home the desperation of the situation.
Rook’s starting chapters throw a new wrench in the survival of the clan--politics. It’s no longer simply about getting the group to safety and fighting the enemies that get in your way. Now, players have to carefully choose their words well, as the wrong words at the wrong time can have more disastrous effects than a Dredge attack. While a player’s choices and consequences mattered before, they’re even more important now as Rook faces the end of days and the chaos steadily making its way to his doorstep.
This is also reflected in multiple aspects of the early gameplay. In the opening chapters, you as the player don’t really have to worry about supplies or trying to raise morale--morale is generally very low, and everything takes place in a short timespan. The darkness that’s encroaching is always looming, never pausing and absolute in its destruction. As all races flee from its destruction, there is no time to raise spirits in a desperate fight for survival that may be futile.
Even with one of the first chapters of The Banner Saga 3 being dedicated to Juno, the powerful Valka hellbent on stopping the darkness from consuming the world, it’s tough to discern how this risky gambit is going to play out. Juno’s point of view gives us a look into the Darkness itself, and how it warps the people and the very land that couldn’t escape its wrath. It’s clear that even if the Darkness is stopped and the world is saved, things will never be the same.
The unforgiving Darkness gives way to plenty of new gameplay elements too, with a new class of dangerous enemies to overcome and even new battle types. One of the new battle types revealed in these early chapters are Wave Battles, wherein players can choose to fight waves of enemies for extra Renown and items (the latter of which being difficult to get otherwise). However, players can also choose to simply leave after the first wave, and not risk injury.
Unfortunately, the beginning chapter with Juno is very short and the focus shifts back to Rook and his political struggles quickly, but I’m interested to see how this twisted new world will throw wrenches into The Banner Saga’s established gameplay mechanics. No doubt will the most heart-wrenching reveals will come from this half of The Banner Saga 3, and I’m excited to see how this tale comes to an end.
From the first few chapters, it seems The Banner Saga 3 is shaping up to be the proper conclusion to this trilogy. There are a few new mechanics and battle types, but the core of the third game is the same as the first. Only time will tell if the conclusion to The Banner Saga is a satisfying one.