Battle Chasers: Nightwar PC Review

Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a bundle of JRPG goodness with cool character design.

By Woozie, Posted 03 Oct 2017

The last issue of Battle Chasers saw the light of day in 2001 which, by my calculations, is more than a month ago. Fast forward to today and, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, the graphic novel’s creator, Joe Madureira, alongside Airship Syndicate, founded by ex-Vigil devs, have finished work on Battle Chasers: Nightwar. If anything, the first videogame incarnation of the IP doesn’t forget its roots. Aside from having kept a similar style in drawing the characters, cutscenes are presented as static shots while, outside of them, characters speak through thought bubbles. A bit of Darksiders inspiration is noticeable in the stylized visuals the game employs. From a distance, Garrison does remind of a certain horseman that’s more belligerent. From its visually varied dungeons to great character design, the game looks good, with the exception of certain moments when the camera closes in on a handful of character’s faces.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar, Screenshot, PC, Review

For the most part, Battle Chasers: Nightwar will have you killing lycelots, bandits, undead and other kinds of nasty things inhabiting the island where your ship crashes. The gameplay is sectioned in three big portions. Firstly, there’s the Overworld, an overhead map which allows you to move towards objectives, or back to Harm’s Way, the hub area where you can refill on potions and learn recipes for crafting. The map is split into a couple of areas which are part of the game’s linear story, generally being inhabited by monsters of increasingly higher levels. The overhead map bears some combat but also involves trading, gathering and blink stations for quick travel needs. Exploration zones are smaller areas where you, again, control your party members, however, this time it’s from an isometric perspective. Furthermore, foes can move around and you have access to certain skills which can give boons if used prior to a fight, draw enemies so that you don’t face too many at once, or steal resources from them. Lastly, dungeons are basically large areas comprised of more exploration zones (or rooms) that are filled with a variety of foes, coming in three difficulties. Whenever you pick one of the three difficulties (normal, heroic and legendary) the game will let you know how tough it is for your party, helping you gauge whether or not you should throw yourself into it. It’s worth noting that while lore pieces can be found on all difficulties, the legendary variants of dungeons seem to be the only place to find certain lore snippets as well as some side quest objectives. Moving your character around and drawing foes into favorable fights is still very much possible and, indeed, required in dungeons as well.

The combat in Battle: Chasers Nightwar follows a traditional JRPG pattern. You pick three of the available six characters as party members and fight up to three enemies in a turn-based battle. The attack order is determined by the characters’ haste ratings. Actions always happen on the same turn they’re issued, while Abilities usually take longer but are more powerful or come with varied effects. While the game doesn’t throw “pure” classes your way, every character has specific things it’s good at. Gully, a little girl wearing empowered gloves can dish out damage but also buff allies’ resistances or place shields on them being, effectively, a tank of sorts. Calibretto, the giant wargolem was for the most part my party’s designated healer. That, however, didn’t mean he couldn’t fly into the air and burn foes to a crisp using laser beams. Red Monika plays the outlaw card well, being able to stealth and attack with both pistol and knife leaving her foes suffering from status effects. Aside from their abilities and actions, characters make use of a powerful Battle Burst ability that can be used when the Burst bar is filled. These abilities are obtained through leveling up, with the third one being offered by the beast master upon completing Hunts (killing certain Bosses outside of the story). They also sound and look badass. Furthermore, characters have perks that come in two different trees. These are interchangeable passive skills which enhance stats or abilities giving a small degree of customization. There are a limited number of points to invest, gained either through leveling up, with tomes dropping in dungeons or being purchasable from vendors.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar, Screenshot, PC, Review

Battle Chasers: Nightwar also makes use of an Overcharge mechanic. Actions often give a set amount of Overcharge which can replace mana when casting abilities. This adds another decision factor as you’ll need to pick when you want to sink into the mana reserves and when not to. There’s a lot of variety and things to take into account when going into fights. Aside from timing your moves (the order of attacks is tracked on the left side of your screen) you have to consider the enemy or combination of enemies you’re facing. Sometimes you’re better off focusing one down because it might leech life from you, or buff up its foes. Other times, they just deal insane amounts of damage. All foes are tracked in the Bestiary, a section of the journal which updates information on foes as you defeat more of the same type. Thus, you go from knowing only that the fat hangman who one-shot two of your heroes probably smells, to knowing his abilities, where to find him, how to defeat him and which crafting reagents it drops. Add to this the fact that once you kill a certain number of foes your party receives passive bonuses and there’s a good reason to go by the Bestiary every now and then.

There are also a good number of enemies in Battle Chasers: Nightwar. I’m not normally someone who actively looks for JRPGs, particularly because I find the combat specific to the genre can get tedious fairly quickly. While Battle Chasers: Nightwar does wrestle with being repetitive, particularly towards the end, it manages to ward it off pretty effectively for the most part. This happens due to how leveling up gives you new abilities and perks to unlock but, more importantly, to how enemies require a different approach as you move from one area to the next. Sure, you’re fighting a skeleton that’s colored differently than the one before, but this one actually reduces your attacks effectiveness. Or the slightly bigger spider foregoes a stunning web attack for a web attack that places a DoT debuff on your heroes, dealing high damage after a number of turns. You’re always kept on your toes, sometimes even in fights against mobs of the same level which makes most encounters feel quite intense. You quickly learn to dread encountering certain foes, until you outlevel them, at least. The same goes with the bosses in the dungeons, all which, aside from inheriting the badass character design the game comes with, have their own specific abilities, requiring different approaches. Failing a dungeon means that you can either continue it after respawning in town and losing some gold, or reset it to choose a different difficulty.  Completing a dungeon unlocks its legendary difficulty mode which, while offering greater rewards, automatically resets progress upon your party’s death.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar, Screenshot, PC, Review

I did find myself going back to town a number of times. The dungeons, especially after level 15 or so do seem to be a bit loosely tuned, requiring leveling up by doing the legendary mode of the previous dungeon, the arena (wave based fights) or simply killing mobs in the Overworld. That being said, there was never too much grind required and this is coming from someone who’s not too fond of grinding in general. The deaths that didn’t come from facing powerful foes that overleveled me were fair deaths stemming from my own misuse of abilities or simply not knowing the foe. Yet, the abilities that are great to use, well animated and unlocking at a decent pace, always made me want to go back for that extra push to gain a level or finish a dungeon. Aside from pushing the story forward, you also gain loot in these dungeons. While coming in different rarities, loot is for the most part flat stat upgrades. Occasionally, it’ll come with an enchantment that gives attacks a 10% chance to do something like increase a stat or ignite the enemy, but, to be quite fair, the loot was for the most part fairly unimpressive and lacking variety. Obsolete items can be sold in town for gold; however, you have to sell them one at a time which is a bit clunky.

At your disposal, there’s a party of six characters, five of which are from the comic book, with Alumon being a new addition. Battle Chasers: Nightwar doesn’t require having gone through the comic to understand stuff. Given its low numbers of issues, all that’s done there is basically setting the tone and introducing characters. While they have varying skillsets, the game forces you into picking three and sticking with them if you want to progress through the story without too much grinding. This happens because only characters in your party of 3 get experience, meaning by the time I had finished my first playthrough, Gully was around level 30 while Knolan was still stuck at level 10, as I had used him only briefly when he became available. The level requirements for dungeons also seem to be fairly inconsistent. Up until Deadwatch (level 15), dungeons are doable on heroic without much grinding outside of them. Afterwards, things begin to vary. The next one was marked as Very Hard on the first difficulty and I could only complete it after leveling up one level or two. That’s not to say the grind is excessive, it’s just that these irregularities may seem a bit strange in the larger context. I often gained the required levels by bashing my face against the dungeon as, even when very hard, some packs are doable, while other monsters completely wreck you. When I’d die, I’d either go back and try a different pack, or give the arena a go.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar, Screenshot, PC, Review

The crafting system in Battle Chasers: Nightwar can be a bit daunting. Each area has its own type of resources, some of which are rarer, which can be used to craft their tier of weapons, armor, trinkets or potions. In order to craft these, one must either upgrade vendors in town (which is the sole way of obtaining recipes) or find crafting stations in dungeons. What’s interesting about the system is that you can craft an item of higher quality by pumping more materials into it. That being said, in my playthrough, I’ve only ever used two or three crafted items, aside from potions, as either what I had could still hold up, or dungeon drops simply yielded better things. For those that want to clear every bit of the game, there are a set of legendary weapons for every character obtainable solely through crafting.

As far as the writing goes, the lore entries do a good job of instilling this sense of a larger world. The story itself is alright, following a pretty common and straightforward thread involving a big bad evil and the need to stop it. The relationships between characters, however, are poorly fleshed out. Starting from Alumon, who joins the party without too many questions and continues without ever being suspected of anything, and moving to the others, we only get brief exchanges that reference the comics. To give an example, while resting, Garrison would tell Calibretto how he’s reluctant to “train” Gully. While this does go hand in hand with the comic, it isn’t helping immersion as, for once, all characters “train” with the beast master and, secondly, Gully brings both damage and protection to the table being pretty darn able to not only handle herself but also protect others. Alumon joins the party at a point where his aid is required, so the lack of questions there may be understandable. However, for the remainder of the game, nobody suspects this stranger they joined up with in a foreign land of absolutely anything. It’s fair if the focus is to fall on combat over story. To me, it felt like small interactions like these that fleshed out relationships would have ultimately helped the game quite a lot. The character’s voice acting is quite good, unlike the game’s soundtrack which has little remarkable to it.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar, Screenshot, PC, Review

Battle Chasers: Nightwar gets a good number of things right, however, it’s not without hiccups. While running very smoothly, for the most part, certain dungeon areas, heavier in effects, brought framedrops. At times, using projectile-based dungeon skills could be a tad imprecise. Then, changing perks around makes tracking the actual stat changes difficult as they’re in different journal tabs. A handful of abilities use the same animations as certain actions, which is a bit disappointing, considering the animation quality is quite good. Some side quests don’t show up in the quest tab, requiring one to actually remember (gasp!) where they have to return once they’ve completed the objective.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar brings together some really cool character design with a very enjoyable, intense and, at times, punishing combat system. It’s handling of progression is just right, with maybe a slight slip towards the end, thanks to its stream of new abilities and variants of foes that require a different way of going about punching their faces. There’s enough to do without it feeling overbearing. Time-wise, you’re looking at 25+ hours of gameplay, easily. It’s true that the characters could have used more fleshing out. The story didn’t receive enough attention, either and it stands as the game’s biggest missed opportunity. The inconsistent leveling requirements towards the end may also feel a little strange and put off people looking for a fluid, straightforward experience. However, when drawing the line, Battle Chasers: Nightwar’s stylish approach to visuals and intense, strategic combat make up for these slights, resulting in a bundle of JRPG goodness.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): THQ Nordic
Developer(s): Airship Syndicate
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2017-10-03

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