The Banner Saga 3

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
The Banner Saga 3 Game Poster Image
Nordic fantasy role-playing game presents tough choices.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Players can choose how characters act, but main objective is to save the world from destruction.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroes come in many temperaments, but main characters are well-intentioned heroes looking to prevent apocalypse.

Ease of Play

Strategic thinking is required to be successful in battle, but adjustable difficulty settings keep things manageable. Players need to have played the previous titles in the series to have any sense of what's going on in the story.

Violence

Combat is a key part of gameplay. Blood during battle as players use hand-to-hand weapons, arrows, special abilities. Monsters sometimes explode, but cartoon-style art keeps violence from being too graphic. Some characters die at regular intervals as part of the plot.

Sex

Mildly suggestive/flirty talk among characters; there's also a mention of "getting laid."

Language

Rare curse words in dialogue, including "bitch," "asses," and "dammit."

Consumerism

Last episode of the critically acclaimed The Banner Saga franchise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mentions of alcohol, and one hero character is portrayed as a drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Banner Saga 3 is the final chapter of the three-part Banner Saga strategy role-playing series for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC. Players need to have played the first two games (sold separately) to understand what's going on in this third game, and kids need to be old enough to read a good amount of text. Violence is at the heart of the story, with characters -- both main and secondary -- dying at regular intervals. Combat shows heroes and enemies being cut down by hand-to-hand weapons, ranged attacks, and magic abilities, and there's some blood shown, although the cartoonish presentation limits the impact. References are made to alcohol, and one hero character is an acknowledged drunk. There's some mildly flirty talk and one reference to "getting laid." Mild language occasionally happens in dialogue, including the words "bitch," "dammit," and "ass."

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What's it about?

THE BANNER SAGA 3 completes a three-part tale inspired by Viking lore. It involves a world in jeopardy from both an ancient race called the Dredge and a gathering darkness of indeterminate origin. The final chapter involves two main story threads: one where the human and Varl races (Varl being a race of horned giants) are besieged by an army of Dredge; the other where two powerful mages (called Valka) are trying to undo the source of the darkness. Turn-based combat sequences alternate with dialogue and character interaction. Players select and equip a group of upgradeable warriors and use them in regular and gauntlet-style battle. In gauntlet mode, waves of enemies appear, and players can flee after the first wave or bring reinforcements in and continue fighting. In dialogue sequences, players are presented with choices that profoundly alter loyalties and other critical circumstances. In addition to these choices, players must manage resources to keep their followers safe and fed.

Is it any good?

This engrossing Viking tale finally comes to a close, with characteristic style and tension. The Banner Saga 3 ups the tension of the game's crucial events by making players manage two parallel storylines, both against a constantly ticking timer. The fate of the world hangs in the balance, and your choices have serious consequences. The stress is hard to take sometimes, but only because The Banner Saga 3 makes you care about its characters. Fortunately, its intermittent combat lets you off the emotional hook to destroy opponents.

This final chapter adds gauntlet-style gameplay to the existing turn-based combat system. Rather than fight a single battle, you're faced with multiple waves of enemies. After the first wave, you have the option to flee or fight again; should you risk going further, you can bring in reinforcements. But the reinforcement mechanics happens to be the game's one big misstep. It just isn't well explained, and using it is very confusing in the midst of battle. You might even have to look online to figure it out, or to see how to best take advantage of this feature. That said, once you do get it, it works well. Other than that one hiccup, The Banner Saga 3 does a fine job living up to its predecessors. It presents new characters and enemies, has incredible sound and graphics, and wraps up with a finale that puts a crazy amount of weight on your shoulders as your clan's primary decision-maker. Without doubt, it's one of the year's strongest role-playing games that strategy fans and Viking lore hounds shouldn't miss.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in The Banner Saga 3 affected by the cartoonish look of the game's graphics? Would it be intensified if the game had more realistic, graphic imagery?

  • Have you ever had to make a choice that would change your life forever? How do you make those choices? Do you seek advice, or do you just make the decision on your own?

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