The first time I saw Battle Chasers: Nightwar, I immediately thought it was going to be an Action RPG inspired in games such as Torchlight. But, it turned out to be a different experience based on a Turn Based Combat system. The dungeon crawling aspect was still present, though, but I was unsure about how this was going to play out in the final game. Luckily, the team from Airship Syndicate and THQ Nordic introduces us to a rich and stylish experience that manages to find its own spot in an already RPG crowded year such as 2017.
Battle Chasers was first introduced as a comic book series back in 1998 and continued to a total of 9 issues until 2001. Fourteen years after, the creator Joe Madureira decided to create a Kickstarter campaign to ask for funding of a unique game based on the series. Named as Battle Chasers: Nightwar, the game’s vision was to introduce both veterans and newcomers to this fantasy world, while also bringing back the original characters: Gully (a girl with mechanic gauntlets who’s looking for her father), Garrison (a legendary swordsman who lost his wife), Knolan (a powerful wizard who takes responsibility for Gully’s safety), Calibretto (gentle war golem who joins Knolan in order to take care of Gully) and Red Monika (an intriguing bounty hunter who knows Garrison from years of training alongside him).
At the beginning of the game, this group is divided after an intense battle in the air while they were piloting a ship. Bandits start to attack, breaking the surface and slowly gaining the lead in the battle. In the last moments, Knolan uses a spell to ease the fall of Garrison, Gully and Calibretto, but there are no signs of neither him or Red when the three set foot on the ground. That is when the adventure starts for the heroes who were looking to investigate about these rumoured pools of Mana in the reign.
The game quickly introduces its three main phases to the player: dungeon crawling, the general map and the combat. The first is the most reminiscent to a classic RPG, with an overview camera placement, different rooms with puzzles and traps, and a horde of enemies waiting at every corner. The second is the open world aspect, presented as a huge tabletop map in which you can move freely through the “roads”, and instead of random encounters, you’ll find small icons that show which enemy you will have to face in order to continue your travel to the next dungeon or the town. This is interesting as, later on, the game lets you save some time with a fast travel system with waypoints, and turning the combat encounters optional if you are above the enemy level. It really surprised me, and I realised how necessary it could be in many other games of the genre to avoid pointless battles that grant no reward whatsoever.
Combat, the third and most impressive aspect from Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a such a rewarding experience that manages to bring back some elements from classic RPGs while also adding new things to experiment with. While commanding only three characters, this turn-based combat will have to deal physical and elemental attacks, boosting your party stats like defence or even the health by summoning shields that absorb damage and using everything at your disposal to defeat the enemy. But, here is when things start to get interesting.
For starters, aside from the well-known health and mana bars, there is also an Overcharge bar that will increase by performing certain actions, such as normal attacks or healing at first. This is an addition to mana, and it helps to prevent the player from having to go back to the town to rest or spend all their money on mana potions when you can gain additional bonuses. Also, some special skills will benefit from consuming more Overcharge, to then transform it into a greater attack. Not to mention the almost ridiculous amount of special buffs and debuffs that can happen before and during combat: bleed, poison, sunder, spell sick, cold, stun and ignited are only a handful of them. That is an aspect that can be considered “shared” with the dungeon crawling parts, as each character, aside from combat abilities, have skills that are exclusive for exploration. These can give an advantage in battle, deal damage or a debuff to an enemy before a fight or help you get through traps.
There is much to do in Battle Chasers: Nightwar. Aside from the main story, which is tied to the main campaign that happens throughout eight main dungeons, there are many side tasks to find and complete. For example, one of the first missions that appear in the Town (a hub with stores for each main aspect like equipment, enchantments or skills) is to deal with a spider infestation that is happening right below the town itself, inside the Sewers. This will later become a place that we can visit again to fight a different enemy, with the difference that there will be a mini-boss waiting for us at the end. Once we defeat it, one of the characters we meet in the town will grant us a special reward for it, and soon tell us about different additional hunts that we can complete. These are optional, but grant many rewards and a few coins of a special currency that is separated from your regular gold used in shops. This special currency can only be used in a particular store, and in exchange, we are able to buy some of the finest equipment and items in the game (which is constantly changing), alongside some interesting content like alternative looks for the characters.
If that does not sound enough, a few hours into the game we encounter an arena that can be almost considered a game within the game itself. You are able to select a different set of waves depending on the level of your characters, and you will receive awards depending on how far you are able to survive. But there is a catch, as there is a limited time to complete the arena, so you will have to go through a horde of different sets of enemies as fast as you can.
The game also presents crafting systems with resource gathering. You can find and buy books that unlock different equipment, potions, items and enchantments recipes that you can create once you have collected the necessary components. Fishing is also present in the game, and it makes for an additional task in the dungeons to take a break from spiders and skeletons.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar has two other main aspects that help greatly into the experience. The art style, infused with a comic book style and amazing animations is just a joy to see, and one of the reasons for which the combat never gets tiring. The dungeons are vast and different, and while they are randomly generated each time, there is enough content to keep each playthrough fresh, as special encounters that can either be hard to find or become completely unavailable if you don’t succeed to fulfil the task. Art makes the world interesting and it makes you want to explore every corner to find documents and letters that expand the lore or secret chests behind a waterfall.
But, probably the biggest problem I encountered in Battle Chasers: Nightwar is the character development and how they react to certain narrative points of the game. Those who are acquainted with the comic book series might know their respective backstories and the paths they have gone through, but all that information is non-existent in the game. The few moments in which you can actually see the characters interacting are when you decide to spend the night in the tavern, or in general dialogues when you are progressing through the story. It may be, perhaps, not troublesome at all for some, but I couldn’t care about the characters as much as I would have wanted to. Lastly, in some moments, there were some clear leads about their partner’s whereabouts, but none of them seem to react to it. This might not be tied to the narrative (and were often things that you can easily miss) but the immersion got lost for a few moments.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a well-done RPG, and it feels classic in its purest form. It has been a while since a game from the genre kept me excited to go back to a place to farm for more experience or to try out a dungeon in a new difficulty for new rewards. I did not feel overwhelmed by the amount of side content but happy with it, as it managed to keep things interested at every time. And while the characters might not have the development I’d hope, this is a game that I will keep playing for hours until I can see everything it has to offer.
This copy of Battle Chasers: Nightwar for the Playstation 4 was provided by Evolve Terminals. Diego Argüello spent 20 hours farming for new equipment, searching for secrets and dying in the arena.