Battle Chasers: Nightwar (Xbox One Review)
When I initially seen trailers for Battle Chasers: Nightwar my first thought was that it was going to be another free to play title with typical RPG elements (oblivious to its Kickstarter roots) and didn’t think too much of it. My immediacy to write it off was flawed, as not only does Battle Chasers: Nightwar aspire to be a compelling turn-based RPG but a beautiful one at that. It’s a shame that a lot of things within Battle Chasers: Nightwar falls under a banner of genericism for the genre it’s trying to thrive in.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar opens up to a battle in the sky. Sky pirates, bandits and our very own crew of well garnered and diverse cast of heroes. Staving off an attack mid-air see’s our comrades plummet to their expected demise, but nonetheless they survive. Now trapped in a strange land and they must seek help if they are to continue their voyage, all the while getting mixed up in this mysterious lands own troubles as well. While the opening cutscene does little to fill you in on their backstory it does give off a little exposition in that our main hero Gully has gauntlets past down to her from a former master and that the rest of her band of misfits aim to protect her at all costs.
There is a clear story to be had behind the scenes, one that isn’t explicitly explained in the aforementioned scenes or thereafter. Instead Battle Chasers: Nightwar focuses on events currently unfolding in the land our heroes are now cast into; completing the odd job/quest to see them on their merry way. This may be due to Battle Chasers: Nightwar originating from an comic book series in the late 90’s early 2000’s. I for one cannot be certain if the story is a continuation of said comic books or Battle Chasers story is just poorly constructed. Whatever the case may be, I felt like I was placed into the center of plot that’s already unfolded and i’m witnessing the events that happened afterwards. As if i’m supposed to have an inkling of knowledge of these characters and their hardships before Battle Chasers: Nightwar kicks off. Instead I just felt lost and confused in it all. Grasping to what little exposition I could and focused solely on the gameplay.
It’s not uncommon for RPG’s to often feature turn-based mechanics whereas you and your opponent take turns to best each other through a set of carefully planned decisions, thinking one step ahead of your opponent to best them. Battle Chasers: Nightwar takes this route to gameplay but doesn’t enforce a need for a strong party affinity. By this I mean you can deck out your party in any way you see fit to plan your assault on the enemy without fear that some characters won’t play well with other party members. Each character’s offensive capabilities feeds off their own abilities and not their allies. So a character with the ability to “Sunder” (lower defences) an enemy can then use another ability of his own called “Obliterate” to then do increased damage to an enemy who has been sundered. It’s rare to see other party members that have a corresponding ability to take advantage of such actions, other than the user themselves. Allowing for greater party versatility and not having to worry about who to take with into a fight.
Though to pull of these moves off party members need to expend Mana, a finite resource each character has to perform abilities. Regardless of what RPG you are playing mana or some form of resource meter will be present to ensure characters have limited uses of powerful abilities, and can usually be annoying to continually keep your bar stocked up over time. Battle Chasers: Nightwar has a nifty work around to this in the way of “Overcharge”. This meter will build up for each basic attack performed that does not expend mana. And in turn, Overcharge acts as reserve mana that can be expended in its place. Sometimes acting as a damage buff for some characters that can utilise Overcharge to its maximum potential. An interesting way around the constant need to keep yourself stocked up on Mana Potions, mitigating a lot of back and forth gameplay.
Perk’s also play an important, though not so exigent, role. Perks are small bonuses each character can equip to increase their overall stats – automatically heal a portion of their health after battle or continually generate Overcharge regardless of what move is performed. While these traits are significant to help meld your current party to a playstyle you prefer you can completely ignore Perks altogether if you so choose and will have minimal impact on your experience of Battle Chasers: Nightwar.
Between battles players will need to traverse the overworld map of Battle Chasers: Nightwar. A top down map view of the world with towns, camps, mines and dungeons to discover; with a few battle encounters in between points to keep you leveling. Although the overworld isn’t that big it does take some time to traverse since questing takes you back and forth between dungeons and your resting hub “Harm’s Way”. A small town with a few shops to purchase any needed equipment and resources to continue on. Players also have the choice to craft gear for themselves with ore and other resources they have found on their travels. I ,however, didn’t make use of this as resources needed to craft equipment are far to scarce and by the time you have what you need the equipment you could’ve made is far under your required level, making them almost useless. Fishing is also an optional task you can undertake if you wish, though I found it, in my case, to not work as it should.
Catching fish is extremely simple as all you need to do is hold the opposite direction the fish is trying to flee in order to reel it in – If anyone has played Final Fantasy XV then you know what I i’m getting at. However, when you catch a fish or object in the water you don’t get to keep any of the fish/gear you’ve gathered and all it seems to do is level up your fishing rod, but for what purpose? I don’t get to keep anything from this activity and it doesn’t seem to reward me in any other way. Add this to the fact that you have inventory space exclusively for fishing materials leaves me mighty confused. Either I’m not noticing something that has been explained to me or this fishing activity is straight up broken.
Dungeons is where you’ll be spending most of your time, and there are plenty of them. As you could imagine dungeons are long sets of connected areas isolated from the overworld where players aim to get to the end and defeat the dungeon boss. Choosing to either play it on Normal, Hard or Legendary difficulty for increased rewards There’s also a touch of procedural generation at play here as well, ensuring that no run is the same as the last. But there are still areas that are tethered to that dungeons own story meaning some fights and will be forced upon you regardless of how many times you replay it. Enemy encounters and chests are randomised for the most part which keeps your curiosity alive.
Translating Battle Chasers comic book’s art style to a video game format is evidently clear in a few beholden cutscenes placed through the Battle Chasers: Nightwar as non in-game engine cutscenes take the form of hand drawn comic style animatics with voice overs and ambient music to bring these often colorful stills to life. Though I found myself drawn more towards the in-game animations of my characters and enemies more than I did the comic book storytelling. With 2D backgrounds and 3D characters in play at the same time, both your party members and enemies simply pop out of the screen with animations being buttery smooth and stylish even when performing massive scale attacks. My party of Gully, Calibertto, Garrison, Knolan and Red Monkia have their own dignified appearance in accordance to their own attitude. Garrison is a rough a grizzled paladin with a brooding demeanour and Red Monika is a sassy and cunning outlaw with an optimistic outlook and self-centered motives. Though it’s the generic design of these characters and enemies that fault Battle Chasers: Nightwar.
With Calibertto being an iron golem and Knolan being an old wizard you’d think you may need some descriptive identifiers to clearly make up an informative visual aid in your own head, but you wouldn’t. Each character doesn’t really stand out, appearance wise, than any other character from any given RPG and that goes doubly for the enemies. Often facing off against giant bats and spiders and some werewolves and other elementals from time to time. Everything feels like it’s been pulled out of a guide book on how to make an RPG and tend to be generally uninteresting. But again I cannot fault this too much as it is most likely drawing off of the comic book’s origins and the developers where more than likely trying to stay true to the source material.
At the end of it all, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a novel triumph within the RPG genre with a few glaring faults. Battles are exciting and easy to get a grasp of, i’d even say it’s very welcoming of beginners to the genre due to the lack of need of party diversity and strategy. Its artstyle and animations are great to witness but the lack in enemy distinction and uniqueness bound by comic book roots does not bode well for Battle Chasers: Nightwar to break free from the well of RPG genericism that it finds itself in. If you have the time then you should give Battle Chasers: Nightwar a go, it’s nonetheless engaging but don’t expect anything spectacular.