If you read comic books in the late 1990’s you knew who Joe Madureira was. His art style was cartoonish but still very detailed and unlike anything we had seen previously. After a run with Marvel on the Uncanny X-men, Joe Mad decided to join many other creators at the time with Image Comics. Thus in 1998 was born one of my all time favorite, yet short lived, comic books, Battle Chasers. In it, a young girl named Gully must discover her destiny after inheriting her father’s magic gauntlets. Teaming with a huge mechanical golem named Calibretto and wizard, Knolan, she sets off toward adventure.
A few years later, Mr. Madureira left comic books to pursue his dreams of designing video games. Eventually he found his way to THQ and gave us the amazing Darksiders series. Now with the help of Kickstarter, his new studio, Airship Syndicate, has brought Battle Chasers to the video game world as Battle Chasers: Nightwar. I can finally play as the characters I loved so much and first read about almost 20 years ago!
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a an old school RPG perfected. Played much the same way as the Final Fantasy games in the 1990’s. Players control three heroes in classic turn based combat. Using the menus, you can choose from various attacks and spells, or just defend that round. A nice little guide on the left side of the screen shows each “turn” as your characters and enemies go back and forth in battle. This should all be very familiar to anyone who grew up playing RPG’s. Each character has specialized abilities, be it healing, defensive, or damage dealing. Combat looks fantastic as each ability and attack has a cool animation. There are also fun dialog interactions in word bubbles between heroes and even enemies. I loved this little addition.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar adds some interesting features to the standard RPG combat, my favorite being the “Overcharge” system. Characters have multiple basic attacks that will generate overcharge, basically extra ability points to spend before your spells and attacks eat into your base points. This creates a balancing act of knowing when to use overcharge generating skills and when to spend those added points. Some will trigger more damage based on your surplus of overcharge. Overcharge points are a “use or lose it” and disappear after combat.
Instead of the “limit breaks” like we saw in Final Fantasy, Battle Chasers: Nightwar uses a similar system called “burst attacks” These meters will build up as your team takes and generates damage, sharing them as a group, it is up to the player to decide what characters burst to use, and each have three different ones, creating some great situational use. Burst can heal your team or deal a ton of damage, turning the tide of combat. Plus they all just look awesome, going into a 3D camera animation to show off the intensity!
Out of combat, players move around the world map and dungeons in a slightly overhead view that has also become a staple of these games. In the world map there are set paths players follow with dots along the way, some guarded by enemies. In dungeons each character has a couple unique out of combat abilities to deal with enemies as they patrol around or circumvent a trap. Most will give a bonus to combat if applied correctly beforehand, but are limited in number and only recharge after staying at an inn. Gully has one that will open hidden walls for treasures, so keep an eye out! Dungeons themselves are randomly generated maps with options for higher difficulty and better rewards. Teleporters, or “Blinkstations” open up as you progress, making travel much easier in and out of dungeons.
A must with any RPG is a great story. What’s the point of all this fighting without a good quest to keep you moving? Battle Chasers: Nightwar has a great one, right from the comics. I won’t ruin it for anyone but it’s on par with some of the best stories I have ever played. As you progress, more playable characters are discovered and the story pulls you right in. Chat with residents of the local town and pick up side quests. Vendors will provide everything from armor and weapons, to training for new powers, to enchantments and potions. Items can be found all over dungeons, in barrels and boxes, chests and books. Battle Chasers: Nightwar will reward you for your hunting as well, handing out gold and rewards for finding all the hidden lore books. You will also be rewarded for grinding, or leveling up while repeating fights, as you learn more about each enemy and are rewarded for meeting goals related to enemy types.
The graphics for Battle Chasers: Nightwar are basic in some ways, like the burst animations, but still look great in combat and dungeons. It helps that the art is done by the master himself, Joe Mad. The animated intro is a sight to behold and left me wanting a movie or show done in his artwork. Music is also superb, as composer Jesper Kyd (Darksiders) adds a moody and emotional score, with a little asian flair at times, of a quality that you wouldn’t expect in an indie game. Voice work is also amazing, the actors nail all of the characters perfectly. Ambient noise is a small thing I also loved. When in town you will hear the hush talking of villagers and banging hammer of the blacksmith.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar has a plethora of additional things to do that I enjoyed. There is a fishing mini-game that is a great way to get coins to buy powerful items. Trade the fish to the Fishmonger for nice perks as well. Also included is a hearty crafting system for flasks, gear, and enchantments. Players can buy recipies but rarer ones are found in dungeons. The customization of the characters is robust but not overly complicated. Two different trees are available for these “perk points”, each favoring a different role for that character. Sort of like World of Warcraft and other games, you can choose their role this way, specializing in healing, defense, or damage.
The only design issue I had with Battle Chasers: Nightwar was its combat speed, a way to fast forward combat or option to speed it up would’ve been welcome. After so many years of these games, I move fast, planning ahead and picking my actions quickly, only to wait for a character animation I have seen 100+ times already. Unfortunately I was also greeted with lots of crashes and odd bugs, but these I expect will be patched soon hopefully.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is everything I hoped it would be after following along with the comic and the Kickstarter campaign for all these years. It has a compelling story, amazing animation and graphics, and fun and familiar gameplay. If not for some bugs and my preference for a speed change option, I would’ve given it a perfect score. At an MSRP of only $29.99, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is must own for any fan of the classic JRPG genre.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided for that purpose.