Inadvertently, I discovered after a blindingly large session of Battle Chasers: Nightwar that I’d sunk in 70.8 hours of game-time. The game told me this and I was somewhat shocked. I mean it’s addictive, but I had no idea just how addictive.
Thankfully at the time, my partner was away and my five year-old is still months off finishing his stints with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or whatever the current version of Skylanders is (I’m so proud of his gaming ability), so distractions were at an all-time low during my review sessions with the game.
What this tells us is, at the very least, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a very good game. Good enough to hook gamers to the screen for hours and hours. But this also comes with some research. The guys who made this are ex-Vigil talent. Those are the peeps who made both Darksiders
and Darksiders 2
and helped with the very awesome Warhammer 40K: Space Marine
. And that talent and collective polish shines through here, despite Battle Chasers: Nightwar being a Kickstarted game that did eventually find its way into the hands of revitalised publisher (in name only), THQ Nordic.
So what is Battle Chasers: Nightwar? The best way to describe it is that it’s an absolutely gorgeous turn-based JRPG-inspired mash-up with Diablo. And we’re not talking over-the-top Final Fantasy-style JRPGs, this borrows heavily from the best in both Namco’s Tales of series (specifically the GameCube’s much-loved Tales of Symphonia), and Fire Emblem. The isometric game-world design in dungeons and explorable areas is simply breathtaking in both art and design, while the dungeons themselves are randomly-generated whenever you freshly restart them, ala Blizzard’s long-running Diablo series.
The game is largely played with your team of three characters (from a possible six), jaunting across an overworld map. It’s not open-world, and paths are strictly linear, but there are various ways you can go. Enemies are highlighted on this overworld map, and depending on your level, you’re required to attack them. In this way, the game does have a grindy side to it, but battles are the meat of the game, and the more you level up and unlock new abilities or gain new, more powerful gear, the more enjoyable these become. It’s also another game from this year’s stock that isn’t afraid to throw down the challenge gauntlet, with some bosses or enemies proving very hard to defeat, requiring players to consider ways to both upgrade their party, as well as level them up. The gameplay loop here is tried and tested, but stands the test of time, and then some.
For those unaware, this franchise isn’t new, either. Battle Chasers is a popular comic book series from Joe Madureira that came out on, well, Joe time (the wait for his art is always worth it though). The characters from the series, and now game, are also reflections of Joe’s inspirations from throughout popular culture. The brooding and cool-looking Garrison, for example, is very much a massive nod to the brilliant manga and anime series from Kentaro Miura, Berserk (one of the abilities you gain for Garrison later in the game is actually called “Berserk”). While the war golem, Calibretto, is clearly inspired by Full Metal Alchemist’s tragic Alphonse character. His and developer Airship Syndicate’s (or Vigil Games 2.0) love of pop-culture is something both parties are happy to wear on their sleeves.
So, outside of the overworld traversal, dungeons largely make up the other half of the game and as mentioned earlier, they randomly form each time you restart one. What this means is you can enter dungeons currently in play and keep their design intact (on the very likely chance that you run into characters or bosses that you need to come back stronger for). Initially you can choose to play through on Normal or Heroic, with the latter obviously offering up bigger and better rewards. However, upon completion of any dungeon on Heroic, you can revisit it and choose to tackle it on Legendary for that ever-coveted Orange-coloured loot. It’s also not a procedural roguelike set-up, as dungeons still come with pretty much the same content, it’s more a modular design system Airship has created, which chops and changes any time you reset a dungeon.
There’s a huge amount of lore to consume throughout the game as well, and each dungeon or explorable space has a set number of lore entries where full completion of a set will reward you with gear or tomes. Tomes need to be read to gain their information or buffs from (usually in the form of Perk Points for all or one character in your party), while crafting recipes and more all also need to be read to activate.
In many ways, Battle Chasers: Nightwar breaks very few rules -- when you jump in here, if you’ve been in these types of games before, it’s all going to be alarmingly familiar. What the game does better than those that came before it though, is up that challenge ante we mentioned earlier. And it’s not just a simple workaround to level up or manage your attack damage. Defense is just as important, alongside understanding what to do in situations where multiple characters are dealing with damaging effects. But as a turn-based game, how you go about addressing the various scenarios the game throws at you, leads to an absolute war of attrition, provided you play it properly. While I mentioned at the beginning of this review that I’d played 70+ hours, at its close, I’ve played some 120 hours. And the space between the two investment revolutions honestly only felt like a couple of hours.
It’s not without its flaws, of course. Some of the UI could have been handled better in terms of comparing gear, and it does hiccup here and there. I played on both PC and Xbox One and found -- for the most part -- it to run satisfactorily, but it does suffer from some long loads and frame-rates can chug a bit if you’ve had it running in any background for too long. But really, those are about the only major concerns overall. It’s delivery of an interesting and new game-world is handled well; inviting newcomers in to learn as much as they can about these “battle chasers” as possible. And with success, there’s bound to be a bigger and better entry in this franchise moving forward. Addictive, challenging and charming in its throwback love, coupled with stunning art, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a gamer’s game. It doesn’t over-promise to under-deliver, and perfectly delivers on its premise. Absolutely worth your investment.