Title: Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Airship Syndicate
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release date: October 3, 2017
TL;DR:A great modern take on old-school JRPG classics
Price: Steam: £25/$30
Xbox One £24/$29
PlayStation 4: £25/$30
Family Friendly?: Click here for more information.
I must admit, I didn’t know anything about the development of Battle Chasers: Nightwar, which was nice because I could go in blind. I did, however, want to find out a little more about its development and how it came to be, as one of the selling points of this title is its apparent tip of the hat to the golden era of JRPGs.
So, upon some furious Googling, I was able to ascertain that this is the first game from developers Airship Syndicate, a studio made up of a four-man team, all former employees of Darksiders developer, Vigil Games. With Joe Madureira as the lead, who at one time had a hand in bringing the Battle Chasers comic to life some 15 or so years ago, this game would draw its inspiration from those comics and bring this franchise back to life in the form of a JRPG. Battle Chasers would also be one of the few successes to have actually launched, after a Kickstarter campaign.
With snacks and beverages to one side, I was ready to settle down and have a monster session with Battle Chasers and see if it could capture my imagination like the early JRPGs of my youth. It starts off well with a lush anime intro, setting the visual overtones for the look and feel of the world. I was pleasantly surprised to hear fully voiced acting, and good character acting at that, which again helped to build the fantasy behind the game and give the characters some charisma and depth. Watching how two of the characters, Garrison and Calibretto would argue over what’s best for the young Gully, revealed how a robotic war golem now had feelings, and that the stoic stone-cold persona of Garrison, was out to protect his friend’s daughter by making sure that she could wield her fathers magical battle gauntlets to protect herself in a dangerous world full of nightmarish monsters. There would be numerous little altercations between the characters, showing their personalities and how they react to one another.
Once the intro is over, you are unceremoniously dumped into the world below. Here you start off on your own and must look for the rest of your compatriots. The environments look great; I really love the art style of the scenery, and the animation of the character models is really well done. A good job if we are to be looking at them for a long time to come. The instanced worlds are a top-down isometric affair, with great attention to detail. Objects like old broken robots and crates litter the area, with the rooms having atmospheric shadows or environmental effects like rain and lava, bringing the zones to life.
Outside of the dungeons is the world map, In Battle Chasers it’s called the “Overworld,” and you spend a lot of time traversing this map to get to objectives, to harvest resource nodes for crafting, and battling the enemies which block your route.
Battle Chasers surprisingly has some nice features incorporated in the game, including the likes of crafting, alchemy, fishing, arenas, and monster hunts. You must first purchase recipes from the respective vendors, then craft the items on specific tables that are located inside of the dungeons themselves. Every single enemy you pickpocket or kill drops some kind of useful crafting resource, although I always seem to be struggling to have enough of certain things.
The dungeons are the highlight of the Battle Chasers world for me, offering extra difficulties upon a repeat visit, once completed on Normal or Hard mode. The dungeons are also randomised to a point, so that each time you run the dungeon, the rooms are in a different order with different enemies patrolling, but the puzzles and quests stay the same, which can get a little repetitive. You will find you have to go to the dungeons multiple times to grind experience, money, and resources for your party, as characters not in the battles do not earn experience.
With regards to your party, there are six members; Gully, a 12 year old girl with magic gauntlets inherited from her father, who is primarily a damage sponge and makes a good tank. Calibretto is a war golem resurrected by Knolan the mage; both these guys can heal or put out damage. Then there is Garrison and Red Monika, who use damage over time bleeds and critical hits. Finally Alumon, who is a hybrid and can heal, tank, or DPS. Unfortunately, only three team members can be in use at a time, but you can rotate the team by speaking to the innkeeper. The character customisation and progression is engaging as you manage your inventory and equipped items, but also your individual team members speciality perks, depending on what role they fulfil in your party. My favourite Battle Chaser is Garrison, as later in the game he just starts getting insane critical strikes and one-shotting enemies into oblivion, making the battles a lot quicker and not giving any time for enemy status effects to even tick.
Now to the meat of the game, the battle system. With the self-proclaimed homage to JRPG battle systems of ye olde yesteryear, how does it fare? Well, to be honest, I thought it was fantastic. It was hard to judge at first because the enemies were not a worthy challenge and you have hardly any skills or combat abilities to use. These are unlocked as you progress through the game and level your party members. But it certainly did feel like the old Final Fantasy VII to X battle systems for me, which was an awesome throwback feeling.
Once you get to about level 13 – 15, which is a good 10 hours or so into the game (for me anyway), you start to specialise your team into tanks, healers or DPS roles. You have various abilities unlocked to then cope with the enemy throwing multiple stacking status effects and attacks at you. Some of the most intense and fun fights are in the arena or against some of the boss monsters that you are contracted to hunt as a side quest. The attacks are turn-based, so you have plenty of time to select the appropriate action.
The usual resource management is there in regards of mana, and you have a limit-break type meter called “Burst,” that allows each character to perform their super ability. But what is an interesting addition is the overcharge gauge. You are able to use overcharge instead of mana, and you can build this gauge from using simple attacks; overcharge also has a symbiotic connection to some abilities. allowing them to do extra damage. So, it’s your choice whether to build overcharge or just go mad with the more powerful abilities and burn through your mana bar, and no doubt your mana potions as well.
In summation, the combat is the best part about Battle Chasers: Nightwar. It’s deep and gets more engaging and challenging as you delve further into the game; however, it seems as though the story was not held to the same standards during development. There is an overarching plot, going on behind the scenes involving a big bad necromancer, but it’s not frequent enough or tied into what you’re doing, apart from giving you a reason to go somewhere on the map. I enjoyed the character interaction, but it was just a little lacking for me as the only time the team talk to each other is at the Inn, and I found I didn’t go there often enough to have regular banter. But this was not enough to ruin my enjoyment of this game, and I will be definitely be playing through a new game plus. I highly recommend this title for fans of the genre.
Also, I had some performance issues with the game on the Xbox One, with noticeable framerate drops and a couple of game crashes, but these were not game breaking for me, and will hopefully be rectified with future patch updates.
- Amazing combat system
- Gorgeous art style
- Good character progression and depth
- Repetitive grinding needed to keep all characters levelled
- Story is a little weak
- Some performance issues with framerates
This game is rated PEGI: 16, and ESRB: Teen, as it contains mild alcohol references, blood and gore, fantasy violence, mild language, suggestive themes, and boobie jiggles. This game is suitable for 14 and over.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.