Following the collapse of THQ Joe Madureira and the co-founder of Vigil Games formed a new studio. While many had hoped that the creative visionaries for the Darksiders series would continue their work there, the newly formed Airship Syndicate had other ideas that involved doing something new with an old comics franchise. That “something new” is a video game adaptation of Battle Chasers. Based on the popular comic that was written and penciled by Madureira in the 90’s, Battle Chasers: Nightwar draws gameplay inspiration from the likes of other party-based RPGs like Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, and others.
As those familiar with their previous work will expect, the presentation in Battle Chasers: Nightwar is impressive right from the very start. The art style really catches the eye throughout, consistently pleasing with every cutscene and new dungeon – there’s always a fresh sense to each new place, and the whole game’s comic book style is unique. Even the world map has a charming visual presentation that makes traversing between town and dungeon a joy.
Admittedly, battling on the path between the two with random enemy encounters grates a little, but it does help you figure out enemy stats quicker with the Combat Knowledge system – the more times you defeat a certain enemy, the more insight you’ll have into what attacks they will use pre-emptively, and what their HP is. This allows you to develop a better strategy as the battle unfolds.
Comic Book Worlds
The adventure starts with your crew’s ship gets shot down over an island, believed to be abundant in Mana, and your team is scattered across the isle. Your task for the first few hours is simply to get your team back together, and to find an ally new to the Battle Chasers universe – and after that events go further down the rabbit hole.
Whilst you won’t spends your days and nights grinding with Battle Chasers: Nightwar, you will need to put in some hours to take on the game’s many dungeons.
You’ll figure out pretty soon, on the other hand, that tactically planning out battles against enemies pays off – your actions, abilities and boosts are worth mastering to bolster your stats as you head into battle.
There’s a real balancing act between these three available options in the turn-based combat, to break it down simply:
- Actions require no mana, and generate overcharge, which stacks as extra mana.
- Abilities use mana or overcharge and offer higher level damage and stat boosts.
- Bursts are charged up by both actions and abilities and offer serious damage or stat boosts.
Getting this system into your play style early on will mean you don’t need to grind as much early on, but you will need to fully clear out dungeons before taking on the bosses, and you really need to understand the nuances of the above combat options to take them down.
This is all largely enjoyable, with the game’s bestiary giving you more and more variation and challenge as you progress, but for those who love re-treading dungeons for better rewards, there is a Heroic mode for all dungeons to increase the challenge, and a Legendary mode for the dungeon crawler masochists out there too, which will really push your skills to the limit initially, and eventually become a routine as you need to level up further into the game.
Whilst this is a well thought out system, the game does struggle to keep you entertained. Crafting didn’t often result in better gear, as I’d usually found the better upgrades in loot or in the town (see below) before finding the crafting table in the dungeon, and despite being a great shot at translating a comic into a game, the stretches between cutscenes feels a little hollow as you re-tread dungeons. Even though their design alters each time you go in, and the game tries to mix up the puzzles, it can become somewhat tedious and repetitive despite this attempt to offer more variety.
A big gripe I had with the game was the party system – you can swap between all five characters at any time, but if you leave a character alone for just one dungeon outing, they’ll be too low a level to keep up with the rest of your party upon their return. This lead to me mostly sticking with my roster throughout the game, which was a shame, as there’s a lot of different playstyles to be garnered from using different characters.
A Home from Home
Harm’s Way, the town that serves as the hub for your adventures, has all the staple RPG vendors you need, and all are upgradable to obtain better items.
As long as you buy crafting recipes here, and regularly upgrade the vendors, you will get the odd opportunity to craft something to boost your team’s stats with.
There’s two forms of currency in Harm’s Way – coins, which most shops take, and Shadow Coins. Everyone accepts coins, but the creepy hooded vendor named ’The Collector’ will only deal in artifacts and Shadow Coins. He usually has some seriously high-powered gear, and is probably the best bet for giving your character an extra edge in battle.
The game’s soundtrack got stuck in my head very quickly, and the little melodies following winning battles also became earworms I warmed to. The deeper you get in Nightwar, discovering the right tactics for each boss battle and clearing dungeons without having to recuperate at the inn were definite high points to the experience.
But, this game still failed to truly amaze me with its gameplay – it is a nifty RPG that has a style, a style that really works in its favour, with the story, art, and audio working in tandem to deliver a polished experience, but not one that is truly memorable.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar delivers a satisfying game, but it really shines in moments where it blends a comic book with an RPG seamlessly. Fans of the series will fall in love with it, but it doesn’t revolutionize the genre or come close to reaching the upper echelons of it.