The Banner Saga is a series that has always managed to capture that Scandinavian feeling. The snow covers the tips of the trees in white and the people complain about the lack of sun (and then complain if it's too sunny). Yeah, it's hard not to feel at home in this world. This feeling is still maintained with the third entry - although this time Stoic has dialled it up a notch. The violins are a bit louder, the world a little more damaged, and it's impossible not to feel that the end is nigh. Fitting then, that this will also be the end of The Banner Saga trilogy.
The characters we can choose between in the menu are also marked by the Darkness, a purple substance that's slowly taking over the world. And already we're starting to see signs of decay in some of our favourite characters; Eywin have somehow managed to age at an alarming rate, Juno has done the same, and Bolverk is nowhere to be found. Even though the story was focused on him in the second game. If you haven't played the first or second (and therefore have no save file to transfer over), then you get the opportunity to choose between some of the hardest choices from the first two games. Sort of like you could with Mass Effect 2.
Just as the second game was a continuation of the first, this one seems to follow where the last one left us. The Banner Saga 2 ended with our heroes on the edge of the world. Iver, Juno and Eyvind arrived at Manaherr and started to fight with the local menders before Zefr and Bolverk showed up. Everything ended in chaos and it's in the middle of this chaos that we pick up the controller. The game literally starts with two massive fights near Aberrang's walls. Here we notice the first improvement, and we think that old fans will appreciate the upgrade. Where you earlier had to manually click on every character if you wanted to see how many points in armour and strength they had, you now just have to hold the marker over the character and a box will jump forth with all of the necessary information. It sounds small but it makes everything that much smoother.
Besides that though, the game seems to follow on from the first two. But hey, if it ain't broke, why fix it? We did encounter a couple of bugs - like when time stopped when we entered the map - but that's definitely something they will fix before release later this month. If the world still exists at that point. After having left the fighting in Aberrang, we were treated to a short and typically beautiful cutscene, before assuming control of Iver, Juno and Eyvind, who had just convinced the last Ravens to join them on their cause. It is also here we catch our first glimpse of the new world map, and it shows a twisted and dark place. If you didn't manage to read all the lore in the first two games, then it's too late now. Everything is gone.
As we take control of Iver we see a new addition to the game. Where Iver once had the ability to blow the war horn and give everyone a boost, he now wears a Valka staff, with which he is able to shoot lightning. An effective new tool against the new enemies called Warped if you manage to aim right. We got to enjoy a single fight with our new weapon, and I can already confirm, that this will be another challenge worth your time.
And that is all we're allowed to say at this point. We're overwhelmed in the best possible way, dear reader. Stoic has pushed all the big buttons for the third and final game, and it sounds and feels just as grand as it should. Our only concern is if they lose control over the human and political aspect that was so strong in the first two games. It's exciting that the world is ending, but don't forget the characters we have grown to love. But Stoic has earned our trust, so we're hopeful that The Banner Saga 3 can become one of this year's most epic stories. Be excited for July 26, we know we are.