Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is an interesting marriage of an obscure fantasy comic book with the sort of gameplay one sees in early Final Fantasy games. Since JRPGsand comics are character driven, it seems at first glance to be a good fit. Battle Chasers disposes of the anime style art and child like characters of Japanese RPGsin favor of a hand drawn and painted comic book style which appeals to players like me, who play JRPGsdespite their art direction. And even though the game has procedural dungeons, crafting, and random loot, it is in many ways a nostalgic game.
The painted landscapes your characters traverse are impressive
I've never been one to put all too much value on presentation, but Battle Chasers really stands out here. Whether one finds the comic book style appealing or not, its well executed. The characters run across beautifully hand painted backgrounds. Story segments are presented in scenes that actually look like they could come from the pages of comic book, and both the character models and monsters are skillfully brought to life. Also the animations are dramatic and memorable. Even after you've seen Gully's quakefist or Red Monika's assassination attacks 100 times, they still look good. The game's cut scenes also look like frames of a comic book. Since World of Warcraft we've seen a lot of comic style art, but few games actually seem to even come close to the quality of artwork of a modern comic book or graphic novel. Battlechasers presents some of the best comic book style art I've seen in a computer game.
Story and Atmosphere
JRPGs present their story and characters like a storybook. There is no branching dialogue and no real choice in how the story is told. We are presented with a predetermined set of characters and follow them through their adventure. The advantage to this lack of choice and freedom is that we play well fleshed out characters with their own motivations, backgrounds, and relationships. This seems like a good match for a comic book, since a comic book's appeal is in its story and characters. Battle Chasers started as a comic book, and follows the story of Gully, a girl on the edge of puberty who has inherited the magical gauntlets of her father, a hero of legend. Her father's friend Garrison, a veteran warrior, acts as her mentor and protector along with the wizard Knolan, and Callibretto, the ancient war golem Knolan salvaged and rebuilt. Filling out the cast is the rogue Red Monika, and Alumon, a templar devoted to destroying undead and demons. At first glance this would appear to be an interesting cast of characters. Unfortunately, I never really grew close to them. Their interaction with one another is actually surprisingly limited. You occasionally get a vignette when resting at the inn, but in general their relationships and backgrounds or only hinted at. This story was probably well described in the Battle Chasers comic books, but I couldn't help feeling being plopped into the middle of a story without having read the beginning.
As it is, Gully and her friends start together on an airship which is shot down by pirates. They crash land, separated, on a strange island and find out that darker forces are behind the pirates. The story of Nightwar is pretty standard fantasy faire and is not particularly interesting or well written. The villains are much more interesting in their appearance than in their motivations or character. The protagonists also don't shine in the story, and the only character we really find about a decent amount about is Red Monika, who gets a lot of lore entries in the dungeon where she first rejoins her friends. This feels like a lot of wasted potential, especially since the better JRPGs, like the Valkyria Chronicles, Final Fantasy X, or Legends of Heroes: Trails in the Sky have such memorable stories and characters whom one really grows to care about in the span of their stories. Nightwar in contrast left me pretty cold. Not really good for a genre that thrives on good stories and characters.
We very rarely get insights into the characters and their motivations. I for one would have liked to know more about Gully's father
Typical of a JRPG, you start Battle Chasers with only Gully and Callibretto, and gradually they are joined by the other characters until your party is six characters strong. You can only have three of them in your party at any given time, and those you don't adventure with don't gain experience. This encourages you to decide on a fixed party once all of the characters are on your team. There is no "must play" character. For example, even though Callibretto is the group's best healer, he can easily be replaced by Alumon, who is a slightly better fighter, but who has a full range of healing skills. Or you can play with both Red Monika and Knolan, who together have enough healing skills to get a group through combat. I ended up discarding Knolan because I found him annoying, and Garrison, because I didn't like him as well as Red Monika, and not for any mechanical reason.
Each character has a set of standard actions, which are fast basic attacks and defences, as well as slow put powerful abilities, and burst attacks which are fueled by a group gauge which fills with each hit and attack. They also have their own map skills, which are noncombat skills. For example, Red Monika can become invisible 30 total seconds between each rest and evade monsters. In addition each character gets perk points as they level up. Perks can be used to improve stats or improve specific skills. For example, once I decided to make Alumon the group's healer, I concentrated on perks which improved his healing skills and allowed him to heal the group at the end of combat. This means even though each character has their own distinct skills, you can tweek them to function better in a particular direction. Gully is a defensive fighter who can both shield the group and dish out good damage. You can develop her either way depending on what sort of strategy you think will work best in your team.
Each character has perks which lets you customize them. Alumon can be an impressive damage dealer, but I've invested heavily in his healing abilites
Battle Chasers also has a comprehensive crafting system. You can smith, enchant, and brew potions. A large portion of the treasure you find in the game are crafting components. The only way you can actually enchant items is through crafting and buying potions when you can craft them is very expensive, so there is no way around it. Luckily the system is pretty straightforward. You have a book of blueprints, and each one shows you whether you have the necessary materials. You can actually try to craft an item if you're missing one of the materials, but the chance of success is quite low.
The slime here is a classical trash opponent. Its easy to kill and at best a minor annoyance that will strip away some health. The vampire ghoul on the other hand shouldn't be underestimated.
Battle Chasers has a lot of components typical of classical JRPGs. You sport 3 heroes, your opponent fields 1-3 monsters. There are some battles with 2-3 waves of monsters. Monsters can basically be sorted into three types. First there are trash opponents like slimes, bats, and some categories of spider or undead. These aren't really much of a challenge even if they are a couple of levels more powerful than your character. Then there are tougher opponents like golems, some undead, and some pirates. These creatures can severely damage or even destroy your party if you meet too many, or they are a multiple levels higher than your party. Then there are boss monsters who you usually meet at the end of each level.
In Battle Chasers you slowly develop a large arsenal of ways to deal with battles. These are divided into actions, which are basically immediate attacks or defences. At high level you have 4 of these and using them creates overcharge, which is basically temporary mana. Then you have abilities which are slower and more powerful but consume mana. Lastly you have burst abilities which use a burst meter, which slowly rises every time you hit an enemy or are hit. Bursts are very powerful abilities, which can change the course of the battle.
I would say the fights in Battle Chasers are in general pretty fun, even though like in many RPGs I relied on maybe half of my abilities and favored 2 of my 4 actions and rarely used the others. Still there are a lot of battles in the game, and many of them are against trash mobs. You can use these battles to fill your burst gauge and to heal (at least if you are using Callibretto or Alumon who have perks which give you free healing before and/or after a fight) so they aren't totally a waste of time.
Burst attacks are truly powerful. Red Monica's Love Bomb is incredibly powerful against groups of strong monsters, while her assassinate ability is a great against a lone powerful monster.
Success in battle is largely determined by your level. Non-trash enemies, more than two levels higher than your group can be quite challenging. If they are more than two levels lower, you can often destroy them with two or three basic attacks. A boss who outlevels you by 3+ levels can often one shot your characters, and even more powerful attacks often only put small dents in their health. Still in challenging battles, your choice of character attacks can determine victory or defeat, and these battles are quite entertaining.
I'd like to point out here, you only have one save, and while you can save and exit anywhere in the game, if you fail in combat you are returned to the inn, and all wandering monsters (luckily only outside, not in the dungeons) are respawned. Monsters who are too weak to give you XP will flee rather than fight you, but you might still have to fight through some opponents to get back to a dungeon if you die.
The world map is unfortunately the weakest part of the game, mostly populated by trash mobs and crafting resources
Like good JRPGs of old, Battle Chasers has a large world map, which opens up as you progress. Unfortunately for the most part, the outside world is quite boring. The map is broken up into regions. Each region has a teleporter, a major story dungeon, and usually a side dungeon (or rarely 2). The game features one town with an inn and a number of upgradable shops. Other than that there are combat encounters and crafting materials. So basically, you move around, fight mostly trash mobs and pick up much needed crafting materials.
The story dungeons in contrast are fairly interesting. The dungeons are to a certain point random. That is the first and last room of the dungeon are always the same, but the rest of the layout can be completely different, though the rooms themselves have the same traps, obstacles, and scripted events regardless of where they appear in the dungeon. Monsters can vary a little, but mostly there is a set list in any dungeon, and the monsters in certain rooms appear to be fixed. Dungeons have a lot to do in them. There are puzzles, riddles, crafting stations, lore books, fishing pools (Fish can be sold for shadow coins, a kind of currency that one gets otherwise only from slaying boss monsters. This does not make fishing mandatory though.), treasures, and triggered events with and without cut scenes, and some of the game's more interesting battles. The level design in the dungeons is for the most part well done, and they are the most interesting part of the game.
As long as you stay on the rune you can see where the spike traps are on the floor, but you actually have to traverse the trap in the dark. One of the clever ideas in this dungeon.
You can theoretically enter story dungeons multiple times. Each time you beat a story dungeon it opens up the next harder level. But would you want to do this? My answer is mostly no. The dungeon gives you better loot and is harder on higher levels. Apparently, some things randomly appear in dungeons, so you could miss something if you go through it only once. I actually had to replay a story dungeon once, because I was drastically underleveled after about finishing 2/3th of the game. It helped me to get through the next area, gave me some extra cash, and I found one item not present in my initial run. This item let me summon a boss in a side dungeon, and from him I got a very powerful weapon, and the result was that I didn't actually have to run through another dungeon twice, at least all the way up to the final boss (who, I admit, I did not bother to beat, as it would have required another dungeon run for experience, and gathering more materials to craft better equipment). I suppose replaying a dungeon was better than grinding random monsters, but running through the same dungeon twice, even with a slightly different floor plan, wasn't all that fun for me. I think I have less tolerance for repetition than a lot of players on this site do, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I also want to note at this point that the XP your characters gain in any battle is scaled to how difficult the battle is. If your characters outlevel the monsters XP gains are small. If you are lower level you can gain levels more quickly, if you survive.
In contrast to the story dungeons, the side dungeons always hold some unique twist. Some of them require an item from a story dungeon. Others hold puzzles, unique crafting recipes or the like. The ones which I could actually activate and play through were pretty interesting and well designed, and certainly offer the completionist something to strive towards.
This side dungeon is a race through a maze. Another clever idea that's a fun, but totally optional challenge.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar presents an interesting idea. Take a comic book story and mix it with classic gameplay from JRPG classics. The designers understood, for the most part, what mechanics made these games fun. You have interesting abilities, a well thought out crafting system, and flexible character development where your mechanical choices actually matter. The combat system is at its core fun, even if there are a few too many trash combats for my taste, but its no different in any of the turn based Final Fantasy games, so one can't fault the developers too much there. The level design is also well done outside of the rather drab world map. Despite all of those good things, in the end Battle Chasers is a game which entertained me enough to play through once, and which will fade from my memory. I feel there was potential in this game for something more. But neither the characters nor the story gripped me. The mechanics alone certainly aren't interesting enough for a replay and neither are the random dungeons. The visuals stand out for me as a highlight, but Battle Chasers is neither a walking simulator nor an open world game where you feel yourself getting lost in some imaginary world. Can I recommend it? If you like classical JRPGs for their mechanics, or always wanted to try out a JRPG, but can't stomache anime art, or if you love comic book art, then Battle Chasers: Nightwar certainly provides an entertaining experience for around 30 hours and potentially more if you don't mind replaying dungeons to discover all of the game's secrets. For me Battle Chasers is "only" a solid game and a reminder that truly great games are more than the sum of their parts.
Information aboutBattle Chasers: Nightwar
Developer: Airship Syndicate
Play-time: 20-40 hours
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2017-10-03
· Publisher: THQ Nordic
- Beautiful hand painted graphics
- Interesting dungeons
- Good crafting system
- Super animations
- Story standard fantasy fare
- Characters hardly fleshed out
- Lots of trash mobs.
- Some grinding for non experts