Nineteen years ago, a fellow by the name of Joe Madureira’s created Battle Chasers. It was an exciting and fun comic that focused on a rag-tag team of members and their adventures. Sadly, it didn’t last as the final issue was released in Sept. 2001. Joe had promptly exited the comic book industry and decided he wanted to work on video games instead. This left a huge following of Battle Chaser fans pretty frustrated. This story doesn’t end there – it just gets more complicated. While Joe Mad’s original company didn’t last long, eventually, he ended up at THQ and went on to work on the Darksiders series. Then in 2015, Joe Mad ended up forming another gaming studio called Airship Syndicate. It would be here that Joe announced that not only would he continue his ill-fated Battle Chasers comic, but also a video game based in the very same universe.
This is that video game, 16 years after the end of the Battle Chasers comic.
Game Name: Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Publisher(s): THQ Nordic
Developer(s): Airship Syndicate
Release Date: Oct. 3rd, 2017
What’s going on?
If there’s one thing about Battle Chasers: Nightwar, it’s that the game doesn’t waste any time. As soon as you start up the game, you’re introduced to your rag-tag team, compromised of the following members – Gully, Garrison, Knowlan, Calibretto, and Red Monika. You’re attacked by some unknown group and some yet known reason. Blasted out of the sky, you narrowly escape capture or, worse, death. Sometime later, you awaken on an unknown land, referred to as “The Lost Continent.” It’s here that the game begins, and you start your journey. There’s also an extra character created solely for the game – Alumon, who’ll join up with you eventually. He’s a total badass, no question about it.
Anyway, getting back to the story. You need to find your friends, but of course, it’s never that easy. No, instead, you find yourself caught up in something that threatens the existence of everyone. So, heroes – are you going to let everyone down? Or are you going to do the right thing? Oh, there’s gold and some other stuff involved as well. Are you interested? Of course, you are.
To be perfectly honest, the story isn’t too special. While it doesn’t really stand out, what it does is how every character is portrayed. Everyone has a specific reason for being where they are or what they do. So not only does progression play a big part, but it also devolves deeper into everyone’s backstory. A nice touch worth mentioning is when you head to a town’s inn for the night or to rest. While I can’t say what happens, let’s just say you’ll want to visit the inn as much as possible.
On the surface, Battle Chasers: Nightwar looks like any other ordinary RPG. However, once you start playing the game, you realize that it’s so much more. The development of this title has taken certain liberties to make it stand apart from other RPG titles. In fact, the game strikes me as a combination of Blizzard’s Diablo and SuperGiant Games Bastion. Maybe it’s the isometric layout. Perhaps it’s that the world is so vivid and so heavily based on fantasy that my inner geek has been going non-stop.
The world you’ll explore is similar to a board game. The map is linear, meaning you’re only able to travel on preset routes. This does take the fun out of exploration, but I understand the reasoning. Getting you to point A to point B, is needed to progress the story. RPGs are story-driven, and this game is no exception. You’ll occasionally see resources used to crafting items pop up on the map. Unlike most RPG games, you’re able to see the enemies you’re going to fight. On the map as well. There aren’t any random fights here. In addition, you can clearly see the enemies you’re about to fight, which can give you time to prepare for them. Once you hit a certain level, enemies on the overworld map won’t even want to harass you. You’ll just walk on by them – unless you want to attack them. Still, it’s not worth the time as lower-ranked enemies don’t award much loot or experience points. I did miss the conventional and random fights from other RPGs. However, I did warm up to the approach, and now I don’t know how I did without it.
There’s plenty here for lovers of loot as well. Not only will you find a vast amount of loot in dungeons, but you can also acquire it via shops. Every shop sells various gear, lower levels at first. Once you upgrade those shops, you can pick up a higher quality of gear. You can also craft your gear, from weapons, armors, accessories, and even potions. This is accomplished by picking up materials during your journey – and they are more than plentiful. The only downside is at the beginning, the only way to craft items is in dungeons. You’ll unlock other means of crafting midway in the game.
The dungeons, where you’ll spend most of your time with the game, are actually interesting. Not only are they procedural generated, but they also offer you several different levels of challenge – Normal, Heroic, and Legendary. Similar to a certain MMORPG, these challenges will alter the dungeons. Choosing normal will present little challenge and is best suited for people who aren’t used to RPGs, where Heroic ramps things up and introduces harder enemies. Legendary, being the ultimate challenge will force you to start from the beginning of the dungeon; if you die – everything will be reset. They’re also locked until you run the dungeon at least once. Each difficulty will provide you with a cache of loot at the end of the dungeon. Normal dungeons will give green loot; Heroic will award you with purples and the Legendaries… well, I won’t spoil all the surprises.
Inside the dungeons, you’ll need to solve puzzles and avoid traps in the form of guns, poison, spikes, and other deadly means. That also includes various amounts of baddies who don’t want you to make it out alive. But they aren’t the only thing you’ll find, as the game has another trick up its sleeves. Bountiful items such as crafting tables and workstations can be found throughout the areas. Giving you a chance to craft some new gear, potions for an upcoming fight, spots to go fishing, and more. There’s even a box that you provide an item to, and it transports around the dungeon. Finding the box will present you with an upgrade piece of gear. Early on, I gave the box a green weapon and was treated to an upgraded purple item for my curiosity. Transportation pads lay within that can be used to quickly move through areas that you’ve already passed through before.
The combat is another area where Battle Chasers: Nightwar shines. Sure, it’s still a turn-based system, but why change what works? Well, I shouldn’t say that, as there is quite a bit of change here. While everyone has the basic attack/defend/free option, but have other means. Certain characters excel at healing the group, while others are either the tank role or DPS role, and as, such they have abilities that are suited to their roles. Garrison, for example, can dish out the damage but is still as fragile as an egg. While Gully, the energetic youngster, functions as the team tank and can take a ton of damage. What? You thought the giant golem was the tank? Would you believe me if I said he’s actually the healer? Yeah, that’s what I said!
While you’re only able to carry three characters at any time during the game, it really doesn’t matter. The way that the game flows, every character works so well with each other. You can come up with multiple strategies for taking down baddies and even bosses. Tank and spank, or maybe you just want a healer and DPS – anything goes. If it gets too rough, you can always go back to the trinity of RPGs – Tank, DPS, and Heals. Characters also have access to a skill tree. Here you can spend points between two different specs. You can go full in or pick and choose what works for you. It’s not as in-depth as other games, but it works very well.
A new mechanic, and one I absolutely enjoyed, is the Overcharge system. Overcharge is built when standard attacks (attacks that don’t use mana) are able to hit their mark. This acts as a reserve for the mana gauge, but only for the fight that the Overcharge was earned – unless you spec your characters to carry this over from previous battles. Out of mana during a fight? Then simply doing a few attacks or other functions will fill up the Overcharge and allow you to use it in place of mana. In addition, characters can use Overcharge to boost their attack—a nice addition to the tried and true turn-based combat system.
You also have access to what is called the “Burst.” During combat, you’ll build a meter by performing attacks and getting attacked. Once this meter is filled, you’ll be able to do the burst move. This will let you perform an ability that is specific to each character. The nice thing about the Burst is that it isn’t typed to any character. Meaning if you build it up, anyone character can use it. You’re not limited to a specific burst move, as characters can learn up to three different moves.
Both Burst and Overcharge definitely help make the combat sessions easily some of the best I’ve played in an RPG. Still, once you’ve seen the Burst animations a few times, you’ll wish you could skip them. Adding to that, I wish there was an auto-attack option. Some fights require nothing more than a few standard attacks, and an auto option would allow you to breeze right through them.
Graphically, the game looks amazing. At first glance, it looks like some generic isometric title. However, there’s a lot going on here. The entire world is heavily detailed – everything here looks great. The character and enemy models are also top-notch, as is the animation. Boosting the experience is the use of some quality sound. I did not expect the game to include voiced lines, but it did. Just about every major conversation is voiced. Those that really deliver home the emotion. Especially Calibretto’s robot voice loved it! I just wished the game included more voiced lines as I enjoyed those voice-actors. Then there’s the music, which includes a nice amount of fast-paced themes. Every track is a banger, especially the themes that start playing when you’re fighting against a boss. I really hope a soundtrack for this is released at some point.
The game is pretty long as well. I logged about 42 hours in total. — not counting the side quests that I skipped. There are quite a few of those, so completionists should be happy about that. Now I’m going through and attempting to beat those high-end dungeons on legendary mode – I want those phat loots.
During my first playthrough, I did experience a few frame rate drops. This was typical when there were multiple enemies on the board. It didn’t happen frequently, but when it did, it was very noticeable. That the only issue that plagued my game as I encountered several crashes. In fact, during a 30-hour stretch, I’ve encountered 12 random crashes. Most of them taking place during a quest or at the end of it, which caused me a bit of stress. Thankfully they were right after my game had been saved. This is a point of concern as the build I received is the retail version.
The game also has some pretty bad load times. Loading into a dungeon can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. Battles also have some loading time; I encountered fights that took upwards of 45 seconds. There’s nothing more anti-climaxing than getting ready to jump into a fight, only to wait upwards of a minute before it starts. Needless to say, I hope that these issues are addressed in a patch, and the sooner, the better.
Review Disclosure Statement: Battle Chasers: Nightwar was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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I’m glad that Battle Chasers: Nightwar was finally released, despite never being on my radar. This title is a breath of fresh air with several innovative battle mechanics, enjoyable characters and a return to my beloved turn-based gaming. The story could have been better, but for those looking for more Battle Chasers, you’re going to be in love with it.
Outside of the slow loading and crashes I experienced, I had a blast with this game. As far as recommendations go, this has been one of most fun RPGs that I’ve played in while. Easily one of my favorite games to date. Good job on your first showing, Airship Syndicate. I can’t wait to see what you do next.