The world is ending. All you can do now is huddle down and wait, watch the darkness creep over the horizon, hold back the endless armies of evil. This will be a Pyrrhic victory at best, a last ditch effort to save any part of the world that was.

This is The Banner Saga 3, the conclusion to a tale four years in the telling. Hopefully you’ve made the right choices along the way.

The long and winding road

If there’s one problem with The Banner Saga 3 ($25 on Humble), it’s that it did take four years to tell this story. That won’t matter to newcomers, of course—you’ll just buy all three parts and play them back-to-back. I haven’t played the original Banner Saga since 2014 though, and its sequel since 2016.

The Banner Saga 3 IDG / Hayden Dingman

These aren’t really sequels though, in the traditional sense. Sure, the break-points between chapters are fine, but this is really one long story broken into three parts. It’s a bit disingenuous to act like The Banner Saga 3 is in any way its own self-contained story when anyone who entered at this point would be 100 percent lost on the particulars. Hell, I’ve played the other games and it still took an hour or two for me to slip back into this world, with its Horseborn (centaurs) and Varl (ox-men) and Dredge (stone…people?).

Worse, The Banner Saga 3 constantly references its predecessors in ways big and small. It expects you to have knowledge of events you’ve likely forgotten, or that at the very least are hazy by now. The climax of the game, the penultimate sequence, a character lists off a bunch of the choices you made along the journey and I’ll be honest: I remembered none of them. Not a single one.

The Banner Saga 3 IDG / Hayden Dingman

It’s hard to hold this against The Banner Saga, per se. Stoic did design it as a trilogy, made that fact clear up front. But nevertheless these feel less like sequels and more like an episodic release, stretched across four years.

On the plus side, it means The Banner Saga 3 is the best of the bunch by far. It’s everything a finale should be—the most dire of straits, peril around every corner and death in the wings. All the questions posed by the first two games, answered. All the old grudges, settled.

Finally after four years of cliffhanger endings and meandering setups, catharsis. And it feels good. Not every character gets their deserved payoff—in fact, most don’t. If The Banner Saga 3 has one failing, it’s that an ever-expanding cast across the whole trilogy has left most with barely any room to speak. Only maybe a dozen of the game’s 40-plus characters feel fully realized with a beginning, middle, and end to their arc. The rest, cannon fodder.

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