We’ve had our eye on Battle Chasers: Nightwar for some time now. From its early days on Kickstarter to Airship Syndicate’s demo tour at various gaming conventions, everything we’ve seen so far had the makings of a surprise hit. With its launch today, we finally get to judge whether or not the return of Battle Chasers was worth the wait?
BATTLE CHASERS: NIGHTWAR
Developed by: Airship Syndicate
Published by: THQ Nordic
Available on: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, STEAM PC, Nintendo Switch
(Note: Review key provided by publisher)
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a continuation of the Wildstorm published comic book series created by Joe Madureira in the late 90’s, but feels self-contained enough to be enjoyed by anyone born after 1998. It accomplishes this feat by doing what the best comics do; drop the audience in the middle of a story in progress while giving us enough exposition to be caught up. A vibrantly animated cinematic and text crawl re-introduces Gully, Calibretto, Garrison, Knolan, and Red Monika to fans of the comics or people just looking for a new game. Gully, a young girl who inherited a powerful set of magic gauntlets from her father. Garrison, a master swordsman hardened by battle. Calibretto, a giant mechanical golem who protects Gully at all costs. When the group crash lands on a mysterious island, it’s up to these heroes to stop an evil necromancer’s plan to raise an army of the dead.
The story is serviceable, one you can tell was written around the Japanese Role Playing Game style gameplay. As a fan of the comic book series, it was good to see these characters brought to another level with voice actors such as Gavin Hammon (Garrison) and Brianna Knickerbocker (Gully) along with other seasoned performers.
But what really sells Nightwar is the incredibly rich turn-based battle system. One which compares on many levels to games it homages such as Final Fantasy. A three-person group of these Battle Chasers can face single to multiple enemies using basic strikes, stronger attacks, and special abilities unique to each character. For example, in battle, Calibretto can use this arsenal to blast enemies but also has the ability to heal damage to his teammates if y0u make that choice. Nightwar relies heavily on planning out a careful strategy in battle. Each character has a limited amount of magic (or as it’s called Mana) to use abilities and powerful attacks. As you explore the island in search of more mana, players will need to traverse dungeons to defeat boss enemies in order to progress the story. These bosses grow exponentially more difficult with each new dungeon, figuring out your character’s strengths and weaknesses in battle becomes crucial to your strategy.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is an example of what a tolerable grind experience in video games can be. As leveling up your characters can best be done by scavenging exploratory areas of the map and the only way to defeat bosses later in the game is by out leveling them. You’ll spend hours in battles with lesser enemies just to power up enough to defeat a dungeon boss you’re stuck on. Many games in today’s market would simply sell you powerful items to skip the busy work. Battle Chasers believes in its experience, so much so that it wants players to go through its grind. Much of the areas players can rummage are procedurally generated meaning you could go days without encountering the same dungeon twice. It keeps things fresh.
While the game has an excellent audio design that’s complementary to the voiced dialogue, the launch did have some unbalanced sound levels between music and sound effects. I found myself having to ride my TV’s volume controls so it never gets too loud or too soft. There was also some confusion about the voice acting. In some of the dialogue portrait scene, the voice work is spot on and in other scenes that have the same artwork, there’s zero voiced dialogue. As of writing this, Airship Syndicate did not respond to my questions about when I should hear the dialogue or when it’s only text on screen.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a sicker than average Japanese Role Playing Game buttressed by Joe Mad’s visual flair which makes up for some technical hiccups but not all of them. Just like in comics, sometimes an expert astethic alone can satisfy an audience.
These characters and this world transition incredibly naturally to the interactive storytelling medium of video games.While the entire Airship team has put a lot of work into creating a solid title, the game is one lovely piece of Joe Mad art after another that understands the new medium but never loses its comic book soul. Because of its long grind stop-and-go nature, this game is worthwhile on console/PC but a must have for Nintendo Switch owners.
8.0/10– For anyone who loves games like Final Fantasy and Dungeon Siege, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a stellar translation between the language of comics and video games.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is available now.