The Banner Saga 3 Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Independent
Developer:Stoic
Release Date:2018-07-24
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Strategy
Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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Introduction

The Banner Saga 3 is the conclusion to Stoic Studio's tactical RPG trilogy, which began with The Banner Saga (2014) and continued with The Banner Saga 2 (2016).  It picks up right where the previous game ended, with an unnatural darkness spreading over the land (think The Mist, if you're a Stephen King fan), and a giant serpent lurking around.

You're in control of two groups of characters: one is holed up at the human capital, just trying to survive, while the other is venturing through the darkness trying to put things to rights.  The question soon becomes: can your second group cleanse the world quickly enough to save the first?  Unlike The Banner Saga 2, where almost nobody died (and you had to try hard, even for that), characters can die left and right in the finale, so there's lots of tension, especially at the end when a timer starts ticking down.

Nicely, The Banner Saga 3 is a true conclusion to the trilogy.  It doesn't leave a lot of hooks and unanswered questions hanging around (except for what happened to Vognir at the start of the trilogy).  It wraps everything up and deals with the darkness -- or not; there are bad endings, too -- and it provides a good stopping point if Stoic wants to move on to a different world or a different kind of game.

As was the case in The Banner Saga 2, you can either import a save when starting The Banner Saga 3, or you can decide who between Rook and Alette survived at the end of The Banner Saga, and leave everything else to the "canon" version of the world.  Importing is much better since your characters, equipment, renown, and the state of the world are carried over, and any character who didn't reach level 8 is advanced to that level.  Plus, starting a game from scratch and only being allowed to make one decision from the first two titles is just strange (considering that you make dozens of decisions in each game).  It's sort of like Stoic is saying, "Hey, doofus, the first two games are really short; just re-play them," and they decided not to put any effort into the playing-from-scratch option (unlike, say, Obsidian Entertainment with Pillars of Eternity II).

Characters

In The Banner Saga 3, you don't create your own character.  Instead, you make decisions for the main characters of the story as events unfold, and you also control them in battle.  That means all of the characters are defined by a regular collection of RPG stats and abilities.  For stats, they have Strength (which determines the amount of damage they do and also acts as their health), Armor (which protects them from Strength attacks), Break (which can be used to damage Armor), Exertion (which can be added to skills or attacks for extra damage), and Willpower (which powers skills and Exertion).

Along with the stats, characters also have multiple abilities.  They start with one active and passive ability, and they gain a second active ability at level 6.  Some of the abilities include Insult (which sends an enemy to the end of the initiative queue), Mend (which restores Armor), and Pig Sticker (which increases a character's critical chance with the more adjacent allies there are).  Depending on your decisions during the trilogy, you might have two dozen or more characters available, giving you lots of abilities to choose between when picking out the six characters who participate in battles for you.  This sort of versatility and freedom of choice is always welcome.