Real Talk By: Brian DK
Battle Chasers: Nightwar continues the story of a short comic series from the late 90’s. The comics went through a turbulent publishing period (including several company shifts, cancellation, and a defunct movie deal) before the creator launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to bring the series back through another medium.
The game throws you right into the Battle Chasers world which follows Gully and her father’s mysterious gauntlets. Gully, and her impressive group of bodyguards, are on the run when their airship is shot down over an unknown land. The group is separated by the crash and it’s up to Gully to reunite them and help the locals with their typical fantasy world issues.
The game begins as an isometric dungeon-crawler (ala Diablo) but opens up to a large overworld as you progress through the story. The beautifully illustrated map is littered with resources, monsters, and encounters to face between dungeon delves. The main story, and the occasional side quest, will throw you back into the dungeon-crawler mode, but the dungeons are randomized in an attempt to keep things fresh. Cleared dungeons can be reattempted at higher difficulties for increased loot.
Despite the randomization and beautiful scenery the dungeon crawling feels sluggish. Your characters plod along at an excruciating pace and you can find yourself backtracking quite a ways as the game spawns objectives far away from each other. The dungeons are also filled with environmental hazards. Some, such as the spiked floors, blend in extremely well with the artwork and led to some cheap-feeling moments. Enemies also patrol the dungeon floors, and some have unique abilities that can affect your party before combat begins.
The combat is definitely Battle Chasers’ strongest feature. Combat revolves around a cycling turn order, but each action has a cast time that will knock the user down through the cycle. This means you can see major attacks coming and prepare, but it also means your enemies might have a chance to act before you can use your own special abilities. This creates a unique risk/reward system that favors players who think ahead. Do you have enough time to cast a strong healing spell? Or will you have to settle for a weaker version that you can use before the next boss attack.
Combat also revolves around the overcharge system. Each character can build up extra expendable mana, called overcharge, by using basic instant abilities. This extra mana is lost at the end of combat and the system encourages players to create an ebb-and-flow in their combat strategies. There’s a distinct satisfaction from using both combat systems to create devastating combos that cost your party no expendable resources.
Your party is made up of three members, out of a stable of six. The grizzled war veteran, the elderly wizard, the giant war machine/healer, the scantily-clad rogue, and the masked demon hunter. Despite their strong designs, the characters hardly interact with one another outside the occasional conversation that occurs when spending a night at the inn. The game also seems to punish you for not sticking with an established party. Crafting resources, consumable power-boosts, experience, and currency are all fairly limited.
These scarce resources can also create artificial difficulty in the later parts of the game. Shops need to be upgraded with your currency to carry relevant equipment, characters need to grind for experience and equipment. This takes away from the strategic combat, rewarding bigger numbers rather than solid strategy in the late dungeons.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar also feels very much like a Kickstarter game. Several pieces of the game feel tacked on and out of place. Fishing is a barebones mini-game that doesn’t offer much in the way of reward. The central hub has a vendor devoted exclusively to cosmetic items and overpowered consumables. Roaming enemies only appear mid-way through the game as powerful boss fights. Most of these odd mechanics turned out to be stretch rewards unlocked through the Kickstarter campaign. Voice acting was also a stretch goal that wasn’t quite reached, which is a shame, as the small amount of voice acting included is top-notch.
Overall Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a flawed, but not unenjoyable experience. The vibrant comic world, solid combat, and decent dungeon-crawling make up for the mechanical issues. Battle Chasers veterans and RPG fans will both find something to enjoy.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar gets
3 out of 5
+ Beautifully illustrated map
+ Randomized dungeons keep things fresh
+ Combat is on point
– Dungeon crawling can feel sluggish
– Some environmental traps blend in too well with the environment