Battle Chasers: Nightwar is the latest game by Airship Syndicate, a studio comprising of some of the folks behind Darksiders. However, Battle Chasers is as far from Darksiders as you can get, and is a turn based RPG that takes inspirations from popular JRPG classics, and peppers in a good measure of procedural generation. The guy heading the studio, Joe Madureira, is also the same guy behind the Battle Chasers comic book series, and the game is set in the same universe.
While Battle Chasers takes inspirations from older JRPGs, it’s presented in a visually striking manner that’s gorgeous to look at both in and out of combat. The isometric view while exploring the world does a great job of showing you points of interest, and combat encounters happen in a 2D side view manner, with the same area acting as the backdrop. The cinematic sequences have a strong comic book aesthetic to them, and the steampunk tone carried forward throughout the game’s various locales.
The level of detail in both the world and character design is really impressive, and this gives the world of Battle Chasers a very lived in feel to it. All the characters look distinct, and various classes really stand apart from each other. My only complaint here is that they lack much personality, and a little bit of exposition and more backstory for each of them would have been welcome. Maybe that complaint is more because of how weak the overall story feels, which is a classic trope of stopping a bad guy from doing bad things. I have not read the comics, which I assume offers more story and lore, but I would rather see it here within the game itself.
The combat itself is really strong, with a lot of actions and abilities to play around with. Characters have specific skill trees which can be allotted points for upgrades. They play and feel different to each other, however, they only gain experience while participating in combat. Since you can only have up to three members in your party at any given time, you are forced to replay earlier areas and dungeons with some party members to upgrade them in order to make full use of them in harder fights. The saving grace here are the procedurally generated dungeons which offer up some variety every time you enter them. It’s not a drastically new experience always, but varied enough to keep things fresh and enjoyable.
The combat mechanics are the highlight here, and there’s lot to learn here. The game does an absolutely fantastic job of easing the player in and keeps things fairly simple at first, only layering more stuff as you make progress. You have the usual health and mana bars, which deplete as you take damage and use abilities respectively. As you land more successful hits you start building up Overcharge, which can act as temporary extra mana or be used to deal additional damage.
Another aspect is ‘Burst’, which build up across turns, and can be used to perform powerful actions. They take time to build up and are rare, but also have their own animations which look incredible when executed. Speaking of animations, they are really excellent across the board, and make the combat even more enjoyable. If all of this sounds overwhelming to you, don’t worry, the game really does a good job of providing a gradual learning curve. There’s a lot you’ll be doing in Battle Chasers, but it’s all drip fed to you at a slow but steady pace. The combat never gets dull or stale with the incremental ramp up in difficulty and rewards.
For a first attempt, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a strong title, and offers a deep combat system complemented by the gorgeous visuals. Despite the weak story, I was more than compelled to push along in my journey simply because of how much fun the combat encounters were. The procedurally generated dungeons kept things fresh while grinding XP and loot, and the various characters feel varied enough to warrant trying them all out in battles.