In this chapter you can find information on the combat mechanics in The Banner Saga 3. This combat mechanic is very similar to the previous games. The goal of this chapter is to remind you the most important aspects and to inform you about the new features before you decide to participate in your first battle.
- Battle preparations
- Moving around a battlefield and the order queue
- Attacking and fighting off enemy forces
- Battles where enemies attack you in waves
- The Horn and the Spear
You can prepare for the majority of the battles - always use this option. The exception to that are, e.g. fights where enemies have managed to ambush the caravan.
Preparations are divided into three areas. The first thing you have to do is to select which heroes will participate in an upcoming battle. Avoid selecting characters with similar abilities. It is much better to have a diverse party that includes melee fighters, ranged characters and those who can support the rest of their allies. In The Banner Saga 3 you can also use Dredges. These characters can be very helpful. However, you should spend a few battles to learn how to use them and to train their rather unique abilities.
The second thing you can do before a battle is to level up your heroes and equip them with better artifacts - these topics are more broadly discussed in Character progression chapter.
Third, placing your party members on the arena is highly important. It is impossible to come up with one perfect tactic because number of tiles differs with each battle. You can, e.g. have less tiles or they can be scattered around an entire battlefield. The general rule is to place Varls and other offensive characters in the front. Ranged and support character should be placed in the back and guarded by more powerful characters. You should also remember about characters' attack range. For example, characters equipped with a spear don't have to stand right next to an enemy because they are able to attack enemies from a distance.
Moving around a battlefield and the order queue
The Banner Saga 3 leaves the general combat rules almost intact. Battles are turn-based where both sides of the conflict make their moves alternately. The bar at the bottom of the screen informs you about the queue order - thanks to that you can easily determine when a given character can make their move or when you can anticipate an attack of a specific enemy. However, this order isn't "untouchable". Certain unique abilities allow both sides to manipulate the queue bar. Furthermore, when there are only two warriors left, the game initiates a special mode where both sides don't have to wait too long for their turn.
Another important information regarding the queue order is that it can display time left for reinforcements to arrive. If you allow a certain number of turns to pass, new enemies will join that fight. You should play more offensive during these battles so you can eliminate all enemies before the turns counter reaches zero.
Just like in the previous The Banner Saga games, you can move your heroes on tiles that are in their reach (marked blue) or you can spend Willpower points to increase their reach (these tiles are marked yellow). Use Willpower only when you really want to reach an enemy as fast as you can in your current turn.
You should also consider terrain obstacles and traps. Obstacles can always be destroyed. However, the game counts this as action which means that your character can't do anything during that turn after they destroy an object. You can also walk around obstacles or treat them as a barrier that hinders your enemies from reaching one of your party members, e.g. a weak archer. Traps differ between the battlefields, e.g. you can encounter fire. Move your cursor over a trap to learn more about it. Walk around dangerous tiles to avoid dealing damage to your heroes. Defeated Warped can leave ashes which are treated as a trap - a hero who touches them loses 1 Willpower point. Remember to avoid them, too.
Willpower's role in The Banner Saga 3 is as important as it was in the previous games from this series. Its base value is based on a hero's stats. However, you can receive additional Willpower points thanks to:
- High morale - Morale at a good level provide you with 1 additional point, morale at a great level give you 2 extra points.
- Using the Horn - Available only to the caravan led by either Rook or Alette.
- Using certain skills or artifacts - Check their descriptions to learn whether they can provide you with Willpower regeneration or not and what requirements you have to meet in order to use this ability.
Willpower has three main uses:
- Extending a hero's movement - Spend Willpower to reach yellow tiles. Do that if you want to reach a particular enemy as fast as you can.
- Increasing a hero's attack strength - You can spend Willpower to fill up the stars that appear when you decide if you want to attack an enemy's health bar or armor. The best moment to spend Willpower is when you need 1-2 damage points to defeat an enemy. Don't try to strengthen every attack - you may lose too much Willpower points that would be useful in the later part of a fight (e.g. to quickly eliminate a particular enemy).
- Using your heroes' unique skills - Again, don't try to use their special abilities during every turn. Use them only when they are necessary.
Attacking and fighting off enemy forces
The system of dealing and receiving damage didn't receive any ground-breaking changes. Below, we remind you about the most important elements of this mechanic:
- Developing Strength doesn't only increase your damage but it also gives you additional health points. Remember that if your hero loses too much health points, their attacks will deal less damage. However, this doesn't concern special abilities that deal a specific amount of damage - even a weakened hero will be able to use a powerful attack.
- Armor is equally important - it allows you to create an additional "wall" that protects your heroes from receiving direct damage. The game allows you to deal damage aimed at Armor or Strength. If an enemy has a lot of armor then your attack aimed at their health will be weaker or it can fail. This mechanic works in both ways - maybe it is a better idea to attack an enemy's armor first.
- An enemy who lost all of his Strength (health) points dies. A hero who lost all of their Strength points falls to the ground. You can't use this character in the current battle but you can continue the fight. A battle is lost when all your characters are unconscious. A hero who was knocked out receives an injury which means that they can participate in battles for a certain period of time. Try to avoid these situations by moving heavily injured heroes from enemies or by restoring their Strength/Armor points with skills. On the high difficulty level, injuries require more time to be healed. Injuries are absent on the easy difficulty.
Battles where enemies attack you in waves
Battles divided into a few phases are an important new feature of The Banner Saga 3. They are more difficult than regular battles. However, winning them grants you more renown points and unique artifacts. Below you can find the most important information regarding these battles:
- There are only a few battles where enemies attack you in waves. The majority of the fights have the usual rules - defeat all enemies to win a battle. Also, these fight don't have the same number of waves. Usually, enemies come in two or three waves.
- After defeating all the enemies in a given wave you have to decide whether you want to flee or to stay and fight. The flee option is recommended only when ALL your heroes are seriously injured. If you flee, you will lose chance to get a lot of renown points and unique artifacts. This can also have negative consequences in the story. However, you have to remember that the next waves can (but necessarily) feature even more powerful enemies which means that you will have even harder time winning.
- After your stay on the battlefield switch injured heroes to healthy ones. The only exception are the circumstances when your hero gets minimum amount of damage and has enough strength and health to survive.
- You can place your units again before the start of another wave. Pay attention to the arrows displayed on the edges of a map - they inform you where your enemies will appear next. Keep that in mind while you are placing your heroes.
- Survive all the waves to receive a unique artifact. This is the main motivation to stay on a battlefield. The received items are usually very powerful and they can make your heroes even stronger. Each battle that features waves of enemies reward you with a different artifact - you can check them in our walkthrough.
The Horn and the Spear
During the fights you can use the Horn and the Spear. These unique items are available to all heroes and they can be helpful in winning a battle. Both items are presented on the top of the screen and you can charge them by killing enemies. They both hold a certain number of charges. Try to use them whenever you can - you can't collect more charges if you have the maximum number of them.
- The Horn is available only to the caravan led by Rook/Alette. It replenishes Willpower. Activate it when, e.g. your currently selected hero needs a few extra Willpower points to kill an enemy.
- Spear is only accessible to Iver/Juno/Eyvind caravans. It works by casting the spell of a chain lightning. Damage is dealt to the attacked enemy and to nearby enemies. Try to target groups of enemies to hit as many of them as you can.