We’ve reached a point where narrative can naturally bleed into other mediums. Such is the case with Battle Chasers: Nightwar, a video game successor to an existing comic book series.
Airship Syndicate, made up of ex-Darksiders developers from the Vigil Games, have worked with Battle Chasers creator and lead artist, Joe Madurelra to bring these characters to life on screen through dazzling cut-scene sequences and beautifully drawn animations.
Logically, they’ve presented this steampunk fantasy in a turn-based JPRG setting with emphasis on story – following on from the events of the comic – and it works an absolute treat.
An Onix-pected pleasure
The story is set years after Aramus vanished, leaving behind his gauntlets of incredible strength. His daughter, Gully, has picked up the gauntlet – so to speak – but also attracted some unwarranted attention from those who seek to abuse that power.
Fortunately, a group of heroes have gathered around Gully to protect her, including a powerful war golem, a stealthy rogue, an expert swordsman, and a master wizard.
As the story picks up, the group find themselves on a quest to learn more about mana in the Crescent Ashe, led there by Knolan the Wizard. But when their ship is boarded unexpectedly and overthrown, it tumbles toward Harm’s Way. The group is split apart and must find their way back to each other.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a game split into three parts. Firstly, there’s explore mode where you can switch out your party member at any point while exploring and interacting with the world as each character has a unique skill. For instance, Calibretto, the war golem – believe it or not – actually heals the party, whereas Gully does a ground smash attack.
In explore mode, you’ll open treasure chests, solve puzzles, look for hidden areas, and discover clues about the lore which is then added to your compendium. During these scenes, you have full movement control over your character and you’ll encounter free-roaming enemies the same. As such, depending on which character you have equipped at the time, you can initiate sneak attacks and try to get the upper hand in battle. The game only enters explore mode during set scenes as Battle Chasers isn’t an open world experience in the traditional sense.
The journeying is mostly done via a large scale map which reminded me partly of the Sorcery series. You move along forked paths and one-way lanes, occasionally picking up the odd bit of loot while jumping between different areas through teleport stones. Again, you can jump into battle with various enemy types, but these scenes aren’t as dynamic as explore modes as enemies won’t chase you down.
As you move to different parts of the map, you’ll also venture into towns where you can rest your party, buy upgrades, get the latest town gossip, tackle side quests, craft items, and further carve out the wider story with dialogue progression.
Where Battle Chasers really starts to open up is in its dungeons, a sort of hybrid between both the explore and map modes. Prior to entering a dungeon, you can adjust the difficulty and challenge mode. The tougher you make it, the more valuable the loot will be if you beat it. And once you beat any dungeon once, you’ll unlock a legendary difficulty for the ultimate prize. Similar to how Blizzard have approached both World of Warcraft and Diablo.
As you might expect, you can revisit dungeons at any point in the game, a nice touch for replayability if you truly want to test yourself against the best Nightwar has to offer. But in each dungeon, there’s various hidden secrets to uncover, some of which can’t be found until you’ve unlocked a particular ability or purchased the necessary upgrade. Some will just be beyond your current skill level, and so revisiting later on when your party is stronger is probably for the best.
In dungeons, enemies are continuously on the prowl, so you’ll need to make sure your guard is always up and that your party is well drilled and fully healed, otherwise you can get caught out by deceptively tough enemies before you realise. Fortunately, once a room is cleared of enemies, it stays that way until the dungeon resets, so the game does afford you to take a bit of a breather.
In fact, most dungeons come with their own fishing pond where you can actually lose a good twenty minutes trying to beat your biggest catch. The mechanics are nowhere near as in-depth as Final Fantasy XV, but the simplicity of throwing out your tackle to land near a catch, then reel them in as fast as you can makes for a surprisingly addictive and refreshing change of pace.
In a game like Battle Chasers, that shift in gears can count for a lot as battles can be more intense than you might like. You’ll soon learn that you can’t spam your parties’ strongest attacks to get to victory as you’ll soon run out of mana, then are forced to settle for basic strikes. But Battle Chasers still does a wonderful job of balancing out the difficulty, never being too hard or ending up too easy.
It’s the usual turn-based RPG-fare. There’s your basic strike, guard, and counter attacks, with another menu for a variety of stronger attacks depending on what you have equipped and what skills you’ve chosen to learn. Each character has two perk trees which you can pick and choose abilities from as you level up and gain XP. For instance, Gully has an Avenger and Guardian tree, with Avenger focusing more critical strikes and gaining combat initiatives and Guardian looking at a more defensive strategy.
Of course, each character has passive skills, like gaining health after every battle or having a certain amount of luck over your allies. What’s great about Battle Chasers is that you’re constantly unlocking new abilities for your characters throughout your journey and each character has a unique base of skills so that the combat is able to stay fresh and enjoyable. Believe me, watching Gully perform one Phenomenal Forearm after another never tires. AJ Styles would be proud!
And it wouldn’t be a good old fashioned JRPG without the equivalent of a Limit Break. In Battle Chasers, each character has a Burst ability which is unlocked once the party has received a shared amount of damage. Only one character can use the Burst ability, though, so choose wisely. It could be you need a health kick from Brello, or powerful swordsplay from Garrison. The choice is yours.
You can stay under my Um-Brello
Battle Chasers: Nightwar really surprised me. Not just because it’s beautiful to look at, but the depth of the mechanics, the strength and intrigue of the lore, the variations in characters and enemies, the amount of content, even the music and voice-acting. This is just an all-round effective package that really shines and harkens back to the golden-age era of the RPG. When a game is still able to keep you hooked and entertained ten hours after you first boot it up, you know you’ve delved into something truly special.
I absolutely adore Battle Chasers: Nightwar, and the fact that 2017 has been full to the brim with spectacular and entertaining games, this debut offering from Airship Syndicate has just made it even harder for me to lock down my Top 5 for the year. Some minor plot padding and side quest simplicity aside, this is a special gaming experience that will stay with me for a long time to come.
+ A true golden age JRPG experience
+ A mostly gripping and compelling story and cast of characters
+ Gorgeous visual direction
+ Lots of depth in mechanics and content
– Plot goes off the boil at times.
– Minor quest repetition and simplicity
Battle Chasers: Nightwar
9 out of 10
Tested on PC