Review: Battle Chasers: Nightwar
While gorgeous to look at and super fun to play, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a great set of ideas but doesn’t quite feel finished.
I don’t really do comics, but I absolutely love Darksiders, so when I saw Battle Chasers: Nightwar at PAX East this year, I was completely enthralled. I’ve championed this game repeatedly on my Twitter for the past several months, and that’s not an easy task for an indie game to accomplish with me. It’s not that I don’t like indies, I just don’t always cover them the way I’d like to (I still haven’t even finished Undertale.)
After a 15 minute demo at PAX East, I was so excited for Battle Chasers: Nightwar that I intentionally made Josh schedule an appointment to see it because I believed in it so much. Unfortunately, that meeting didn’t go so well, and he only got about five minutes of demo time, but my hype level never once decreased. I needed this in my life as quickly as possible, so I was super elated when I got the email that Battle Chasers: Nightwar was ready for reviews.
As the game begins, you take control of Gully, Calibretto, and Garrison and you’re off in search of your allies – Nolan and Red Monika who have gone ahead to discover the lands on their own. The story isn’t very enthralling, but it does a decent job of setting a tone for the start of what could lead to an epic series of games.
Nightwar involves Gully searching for her father who’s crossed the Grey Line and hasn’t returned. No one has ever returned from the other side of this seemingly impenetrable wall of mist, so it’s up to Gully and the gang to figure out what her father was up to and hopefully return with their lives intact. I would have preferred a little more meat and potatoes to the story, but the gameplay is good enough to keep you moving along.
Combat consists of old-school RPG gameplay elements, including a battle meter and the typical HP/Mana reserve pools. The unique aspect of Nightwar comes from bonus mana which is earned with actions taken. Some characters can defend and generate Overdrive, while others are granted Overdrive from basic attacks. This overdrive allows you to use abilities that you might not have the mana for, which adds a new strategic element to basic RPG turn-based combat. Since your characters don’t regenerate health or mana after battles, learning how to make the best use of your overdrive is critical to success, and you’ll quickly learn to stop wasting mana on AOE attacks for weaker enemies so that you don’t find yourself out of resources inside of a dungeon.
Speaking of dungeons, every dungeon in Battle Chasers: Nightwar is randomized. On top of that, there are traps to avoid and puzzles to figure out while you’re doing battle with progressively stronger enemies. Dungeon exploring never felt so good, as there are normal and heroic difficulties, and once a dungeon has been completed, you can unlock a legendary difficulty which adds replay value and more challenges to get some stronger loot hopefully. You can also do some fishing in some of the dungeons once the enemies have been cleared from each area – though the fishing mini-game is a little clunky.
Clunky is, unfortunately, a large part of Battle Chasers: Nightwar. I ran into repeated technical issues while playing on the PS4 Pro. The game would randomly crash at times, or I’d get exceptionally long loading times for no apparent reason when going into random battles. I also encountered a slime monster in the sewers that simply refused to spawn. I’d stand there, and you’d hear it growl, and the camera would pan to prepare for the encounter, but since the enemy never spawned, it never ran at me, so the game sat there stalled. I still haven’t finished that side quest yet, I just exited the sewer and continued with the story.
When Battle Chasers: Nightwar works correctly, it’s a fantastic game. The art is incredibly well done, and everything is bright and vibrant. There are also some fantastic anime-style cutscenes that play during various parts of the story. With greatness comes sadness though, and because this game was funded on Kickstarter, there are still aspects that feel very incomplete.
The main characters have voice acting sometimes, but it’s not entirely voice acted and the times you don’t want voices are when those voices get really annoying. Gully’s “YAY!” after a victory gets old fast, as you’d hope she’d have more shit to talk since she’s so feisty.
This leads me into my next point: The characters never really get a chance to express themselves and develop fully. Calibretto is a golem who’s meant to be a protector, and Garrison is a knight, but neither have much of a personality. Garrison works better as a full-on attacker despite looking like he’d be a tank, and Calibretto is a decent healer who does sub-par damage, despite his character wanting to be protective of Gully and keep her safe. Gully is sassy AF and seems like she’d be perfect to break faces with, but her kit suits her far better as a tank than a damage dealer which sounds like the complete opposite of the way her character would approach fighting.
Once you get further in the game and unlock Knolan, he’s a better healer than Calibretto, and his magic damage does far more than Calibretto’s attacks (even with his debuffs) – but Nolan’s support options are lacking. Red Monika has the same issues as does the secret character you get after you finish the game. It’s a shame you can’t play with all five characters at once since they all seem to compliment each other instead of breaking them off into a party of three where someone almost always feels like they’re missing something.
I like Battle Chasers: Nightwar a lot, but it feels incomplete. Here’s to hoping we’ll see more game updates as the months continue, or at least if Nightwar is successful, the next entry in the series will get some better funding and we’ll get a more fleshed out experience.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar was played on the PlayStation 4 and was provided for review by Airship Syndicate and THQ Nordic for the purpose of this review.