Battle Chasers: Nightwar - Technical Issues Aside, This Beautiful Turn-Based RPG Is A Must Play | A Short Pause Review-in-Progress
As you’re paging through the various reviews available right now for Battle Chasers: Nightwar, the debut title from the team at Airship Syndicate, you may stumble across this one. I would love to have a full blown review for you to read, but unfortunately, my 36 hours of progress were lost to a corrupted save file. Now, in most circumstances, I’d consider 36 hours enough time invested to issue a thorough review and score based on what I could get through during that time. Given how much I have fallen in love with Nightwar, however, I didn’t feel scoring and finalizing this review would be fair to either party. The game is in need of its day one patch (which was not live as of the time of this writing) to address the multitude of crashes and bugs that I’ve encountered over the course of my journey, in addition to the threat of save corruption that lurks around the corner each time that dreaded blue crash screen rears its ugly head. The guys at Airship have assured me that these issues have largely been fixed, and that the day one patch will indeed be a game changer. So, for all intents and purposes, I don’t want to dwell on the issues that have plagued some of my time with the title. I’d rather spend my time discussing how — even after losing so many hours — I still feel compelled to restart and complete Battle Chasers: Nightwar.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a love letter to classic JRPGs from some of the core ex-Vigil Games team — namely Joe Madureira and Ryan Stefanelli — who have a knack for creating games in the same vein as the classics that inspired them, while also adding their own unique style and addictive gameplay wrinkles to the proceedings. Battle Chasers itself is a popular comic series Madureira created in the late 1990s. While the game follows the exploits of the characters from the comic series, it is not a continuation of that storyline, serving more as a jumping on point for franchise newcomers such as myself.
Nightwar kicks off with a comic book-style cinematic showing our heroes being shot down by a band of pirates that separates some of the team. Gully — a young kid whose father has vanished and is left in possession of some mysteriously powerful gauntlets — Garrison — a skilled swordsman who wields a unique blade — and Calibretto — a peaceful war golem —collect themselves in the woods and find their way to the main city of Harm’s Way. From there, players learn of some strange happenings on the island and set out to find the remaining members of the crew in Knolan — a wise-ass 500-year old wizard — and Red Monika — an outlaw who trained Garrison when they were younger. Joining the group later on is Alumon, a series newcomer and demon hunter.
Players can have up to three party members with them at a time. Each character brings a unique characteristic to the battlefield and mastering, or at the very least having a basic understanding of, these strengths will be the key to enjoying the game’s quick-paced, turn-based battle system. Each character has a set of instant actions that can deal damage or increase protection and gain Overcharge meter — more on this in a moment. Abilities are much more powerful actions that deal extra damage or provide more healing and damage reduction capabilities, but at the cost of time and mana. Aiding players during lengthier encounters is the aforementioned Overcharge meter, which serves as an extension to a character’s mana pool. There is a cap per character and the meter doesn’t carry over into the next encounter (except for Knolan’s), so it’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re looking for a little more oomph with that next attack. Players may also use items such as potions or meals to restore health, replenish mana, or add buffs to increase damage or defense for a few turns.
Rounding out the combat is arguably one of the game’s coolest mechanics: Burst. As characters level up and overcome specific challenges, they’re granted Burst abilities. These are attacks with their own mini-cutscenes that can turn the tide of battle and help give you the upper hand. Each character has three abilities to choose from, with the third tier capable of wreaking the most havoc on your foes. The Burst meter fills with each attack or defensive maneuver performed by your party in combat and is shared, so timing and deciding which Burst attack will be the most beneficial is the key to deploying these in an intense battle situation. Unlike Overcharge, the Burst meter does not deplete between encounters, so if you want to save up a Level 3 Burst for Red Monika to unleash on the boss of a dungeon, you totally can (and should because dungeon bosses deserve your entire wrath)!
Increasing your odds of getting that sweet, sweet victory tune at the end of each battle are perks. Each character has their own perk trees to help spec them to their fullest potential. There are two trees per character, and skill points can be re-assigned at any time between them. This gives you the opportunity to decide if taking away the four points invested in adding a 2.15% defense boost is worth the trade off for the 18 points needed to up your attack damage by 8%, or other decisions of this ilk. As you progress, more skills will unlock as your characters make their way to level 30. Each character also has dungeon abilities that can add pre-existing buffs to encounters triggered in dungeons like stunning enemies, upping your teams defensive stats, or even restoring health.
The bulk of your time in Nightwar will be spent conquering the eight dungeons littered throughout the world. Each one offers a unique setting based on the region it's located in, as well as procedurally generated rooms so that upon returning, you won’t face the same challenges on your way to the boss room. NPCs and other random enemies also rotate in as you reset or attempt higher difficulty modifiers on the completed dungeons. Some can take upwards of a few hours to clear out as you explore every room in search of lore books, chests, enemies, and even some hidden entrances that a character’s dungeon skill can reveal.
I'd be doing Battle Chasers a huge disservice by not discussing the game’s visuals, so I’m going to gush about them now. Nightwar oozes style as Madureira's character designs shine. Enemy variants are more than just mild re-skins, as you'll notice things like a skull design appearing on the rear bulb of massive spider enemies as you enter the southeastern Moors area on the map. The heroes are beautifully replicated from the pages of the comics and many of the areas are gorgeously detailed. One moment you’ll find yourself in the tropical landfill of Junktown, and the next you're in the suitably creepy Deadwatch roaming a massive graveyard at night during an intense thunderstorm. You should have no qualms wanting to explore every area you encounter as you eat up the lovingly crafted details in each room. Rounding things out, Jesper Kyd's outstanding soundtrack completes the overall experience.
As you can see, Nightwar has much to offer. Sporting an addictive, turn-based combat system and some extremely beautiful level design that can only be compared to the excellent Bastion, Airship Syndicate has definitely outdone themselves with the amount of content on display here. We haven't even touched on side activities like the Beast Hunts or the Combat Arena which offer an even greater challenge and more lucrative rewards for completing. I look forward to conquering all of these other activities when I restart my game, even though I'd already done more than half of the hunts and arena waves by the time my save file was corrupted. The thrill of success and the sense of adventure imparted here offer one of the most addictive gaming experiences of the year. I didn't groan or even get angry about seeing my progress go up in flames, and that's saying a lot as there are tons of games in the backlog that I could have moved on to after this happened. I see this as an opportunity to apply many of the lessons I've learned throughout my first play through of the game. I’m ready to handle some of the game’s situations more efficiently, and I’ll be even be better prepared for the dangers lurking behind some of Nightwar’s seemingly harmless deeds. I look forward to discussing these aspects deeper in my full review — after I'm able to say I've successfully reached the end credits — but until then, I hope those of you longing for a game that tickles your itch for a JRPG of yesteryear do not sleep on Nightwar. I have no qualms in claiming that, after spending 36 hours engrossed in the world of Battle Chasers: Nightwar, it is indeed a diamond in the rough.
Thanks to our friends at Evolve for providing us with a digital copy of Battle Chasers: Nightwar for PlayStation 4.