Battle Chasers: Night War is an RPG with interesting tweaks to turn-based combat weighed down by some baffling pacing and interface choices.
Developer: Airship Syndicate
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform: PlayStation 4 (Version reviewed), Switch, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: October 3rd, 2017
Joe Madureira is a talented artist and writer who has had acclaimed runs on comics such as The Uncanny X-Men, and was the creative director of the critically acclaimed Darksiders video game. One of his most popular projects was a comic series he created himself, Battle Chasers.
Battle Chasers was unfortunately plagued with delays and the series was left on a cliffhanger after only nine issues way back in 2001. It might’ve taken 16 years, but Joe Madureira has come back to the world he created with a new RPG titled Battle Chasers: Nightwar that aims to be the kind old-school, turn-based RPG you don’t see as much of these days.
For those of you who might worry that lack of knowledge of the comic book series might leave you clueless, it is not really an issue as the cast of Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a group of entertaining yet stock characters. You have Gully, the plucky orphan; Garrison, the typical stoic knight; Knolan, the cranky old (and a little perverted) wizard; Red Monika, the ridiculously scantily clad rogue; and a mysterious dude named Alamon who claims to be part of a mysterious order that guards the world.
The only character that stood out to me as somewhat of a twist on this fairly generic cast is Calibretto, who is a war golem but actually is a better healer and protector than a fighter both in battle and character traits. He might best be compared to a steampunk version of Baymax from Big Hero Six.
Since the original objective is that your main cast is separated, regroup everybody and get the hell off the island, it might’ve been a nice twist if they actually didn’t give a damn about the potential world-ending scenario at the center of the story. And Battle Chasers: Nightwar has a sense of humor and self-awareness in plenty of the writing so it wouldn’t feel out of place. Instead what we have is a very typical plot with enjoyable enough but mostly trope characters. Maybe the characters and world are better expanded on in the comics, but I shouldn’t have to read supplemental material in order to care.
I do like the art style of Battle Chasers: Nightwar, but at the same time it seems a little too familiar to a lot of other smaller western RPG series such as Torchlight. Maybe it’s because the property is nearly 20 years old and it might’ve influenced more than a few of them, but that doesn’t change the fact that it looks like a bunch of other games released in the last eight years or so.
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The gameplay of Battle Chasers: Nightwar is mainly broken up into three sections: running around the world map, exploring dungeons and traditional turn-based combat. There is only one town in the game but several areas that eventually open up as you progress, These areas contain story dungeons, some optional areas, and enemy encounters at fixed points along the map. Once defeated these enemies stay dead until you rest at an inn and then they reset. It’s fixed what make-up of enemies you’ll encounter or where on the map they’ll be. One time you could be facing a giant spider in one spot, then rest at the inn and come back to find three slimes. One nice time/resource-saving feature is that if you are actually too high a level to benefit from fighting monsters at all, you can just walk right by those encounters on your way to fights that are at least somewhat worth your time.
Dungeon exploration is easily the main crux of Battle Chasers: Nightwar. Dungeons handily tell you their difficulty relative to your level, and it’s pretty accurate. You might win a few battles if you enter an “impossible” or “very hard” dungeon, but odds are most encounters will wipe the floor with you and you stand no chance against the boss. The dungeon layouts are randomized and you can re-enter at higher difficulties. Dungeons not only feature enemies but also traps such as statues that shoot fire, spinning blades and spikes that stick up from the ground…and fishing, because every game has to have fishing now.
To help against traps and enemies, each character in your party has a couple of limited-use special skills they can use such as stunning enemies before battle or healing the party or even a shield to just run through traps rather than trying to avoid them. Once an enemy is dead in the dungeon, they stay dead until you reset the dungeon for another run, even if you stay at an inn. This essentially means you can get as far as you possibly can in a dungeon, leave, rest at the inn, re-stock items and get new equipment if possible and just continue on from where you left off. It’s a nice feature that relieves a lot of the pressure of trying to finish a dungeon in one go.
Combat in Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a very standard turn-based affair with a few tweaks. First, you have a super meter that can build over time to unleash a kind of super move. This ranges from big damage to heals that also restore spell points to shields against damage from attacks and so on. There is also “overcharge” where attacking regularly can give you a little extra boost of mp so your spells either cost less or you can perform them when you are otherwise too low. It definitely adds a layer of strategy beyond your typical turn-based affairs.
Finally one aspect of combat in Battle Chasers: Nightwar that some may find a turn-off is that there is a big emphasis on statuses, buffs, and debuffs. These are common in RPGs, but in many, they only give at best a slight edge. In this game, they are key to strategy and often the difference between winning and losing any even mildly challenging battle. Enemies can stack several damaging statuses on you that can wipe you out in a turn. If you are appropriately leveled and have a good stock of the right potions, that’s enough to get through the majority of battles, but this is definitely one of the more challenging RPGs I have played in a long time.
A good chunk of your time in Battle Chasers: Nightwar is going to be spent grinding and crafting. Buying much-needed potions is prohibitively expensive and gold is scarce, so you’ll want to scrounge every resource you can all the time. But actually crafting potions is ridiculously tedious work. I have enough materials for say 20 group healing potions. Can I just make them with a push of a button? No. I have to hold down a button for several seconds for each individual potion. It can literally take longer to make a good stock of potions than to finish a dungeon, which is completely ridiculous.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar crashed more than any game I’ve played in years, online or off.
That’s just the start of some baffling interface decisions in the game. You can only have three members of your crew in your party at a time and can only switch them either at the one inn or at a dungeon entrance. I don’t have an issue with not being able to switch out party member once you enter a dungeon, that makes perfect sense. But on the world map, you should be able to switch them out whenever you want. The biggest problem is that this extends to equipment as well. Get a weapon or new piece of armor for someone not in your party? Oh sorry, you can’t equip it on them unless you switch them in by going to the single inn or a dungeon entrance. That’s pretty inexcusable for a game in 2017.
Then there is saving. It’s pretty standard in RPGs to have at least one actual save slot. Maybe the game auto-saves as well, but you have at least one slot for a save state you can go back to. Battle Chasers auto-saves all the time but doesn’t have that separate save slot. I’m not asking to have tons of slots available, I’ve rarely used more than one in any RPG. But you should have one available if just for those times when you throw everything you had at a boss including most of your potions that you spent maybe two hours just crafting (much less the time gathering the resources) so you don’t lose all that. It’s just demoralizing.
Grinding levels in Battle Chasers: Nightwar can feel even like more of a chore than usual too. Often when you come across a brand new dungeon, you are far too low-level to attempt it right away. So you grind. But enemies, especially ones that give decent experience, are few and far between on the map. The most efficient way to level is to run the previous dungeon at a higher difficulty. You’ll be running the same dungeon and fighting the same enemies for hours and hours and while the layout may change a little bit, even listening to podcasts/music it just becomes mind-numbingly dull and feels like artificial padding to an extreme. I’m not adverse to grinding, but the dungeons and combat in Battle Chasers: Nightwar are just not interesting enough to carry it for long sessions like this.
Finally, maybe it was just the particular version I played, but Battle Chasers: Nightwar crashed more than any game I’ve played in years, online or off. And it’s a single-player RPG with no online component to my knowledge. To its credit, the game seemingly autosaves in the event of a crash so I lost little if any progress each time, but it literally crashed every couple hours and it actually takes a long time to just load the game. Maybe this will be fixed in a future update, but it was very annoying and gave me little reason to keep playing if it would just crash in the middle of a dungeon.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.