Those gamers looking for a traditional turn based RPG are left with fewer and fewer options as the biggest names of the genre shift towards more action oriented combat styles. As a result, the indie, digital and budget release markets must be more heavily relied on in order to find that fix. This is where Battle Chasers: Nightwar comes in, a title developed with all the best of the genres nostalgia in mind but with a respectful effort to modernize it towards the current generation of gaming.
The element that immediately stood out to me was the graphical presentation. The use of bold colours and dark outlines were so well done that it was no surprise this game was based on a fantasy comic book series. The cut scenes could easily be their own anime and the imagery of the avatars in dialogue looked like they were pulled right off of their news stand counterparts. If there was one gripe it would be that when transitioned into the combat sequences the graphical fidelity lost a bit of its sharpness and appeared a bit fuzzier than intended for the larger displays used today. That small complaint aside, there is so much to enjoy from the flashy special attacks, dungeon lighting and so much more that you will never be left wanting in the visuals department.
The other big kudos has to go to the combat. It’s not just that they use a type that is less common these days but that they also do it really well. What initially seems to lack depth, only offering basic attack and heal options, continuously grows throughout the adventure. As the individual characters level they gain new abilities that lean towards their predetermined roles such as tanks or healers. Before you know it you will be mitigating damage with taunts and dodges will also throwing out debuffs and cleansing status ailments on your party. Burst abilities will also be gained as you improve your training which allow for very big effects that will only be available once the required meter is filled. If properly saved and utilized these moves can sway even the direst situations into your favor.
Keep in mind however that you can only have three party members active and to switch them out will require you to head back to the one town that is in the game. So the decision on who to take with you as you venture off to a dungeon will be just as important strategically as what abilities they use in combat or what gear you equip them with.
The fact that there is only one town and how the world map that houses it actually functions are another thing that gamers might find not quite ideal.
First the map, all the travel takes place on linear paths that can’t be deviated from. For that you take the good with the bad. While exploration takes a hit, enemies’ locations are visible on the map and only respawn when the party sleeps. This means that if you find yourself in a dire situation and low on supplies you can back track the way you came and safely make it to town. Full exploration and randomized monster encounters might be preferred by some but then resource management would require some adjusting and ultimately the improvement might only be viewed as marginal.
Now onto the town, since there is only one it requires upgrading. The blacksmith won’t just have better gear available as you level, you will need to pay gold in order to upgrade his forge. On the surface this is fine since you will seldom run low on currency since the game will require grinding but you have to upgrade each facility separately. Want more potent potions? Pay up. Need to improve the trainer for stronger burst abilities and side mission hunts? Dig into your pockets please. All of this becomes an arbitrary practice of unnecessary town management.
I touched on it but we need to explore the required grinding. You will need to grind for gold and leveling as you would expect in any RPG however in this game there are some absolute road blocks on progression. Every time you head into a new zone you will be met with enemies that are substantially tougher than what you were just fighting. However, due to diminished experience gains grinding the previous zone enemies will take forever. What this ultimately means is that you will need to go to the new zone, do a couple fights hoping to stay alive and then return to town to rest and reset until you can gain the couple of levels required to make it through the zone and dungeon unscathed.
Another way to improve your characters that takes some grinding is the bestiary. It logs in how many times you have killed a specific enemy type and the required amount to reach a passive bonus to your entire party. So for example, you may need to kill 100 bandits in order to gain a permanent increase of 1% to your critical strikes. Again this is a fine idea in theory but when you complete a zone and its dungeon with about 30 kills but need 100 it can get overly repetitive and will weigh on you the more you do it or you will just skip it entirely.
No sense in sugar coating it, the one substantial drop off in quality belongs to the story. The game begins with your party pre-assembled, meaning no backstory, flying over a mysterious island when they are shot down and separated. It only takes a few steps to conveniently gather three of them together to have a full party and set off on a quest to locate the others. The events that take place from here on out are very standard fantasy faire that while not bad are pretty paint by the numbers. This would be forgivable if it was more possible to connect with the characters and their individual plights but there is no real level of development throughout. If it is required to know the source material to really dive into the motivations then consider the ball thoroughly dropped because that information should really be provided in game.
The dungeons however, will give you the motivation to keep pushing forward. Do not confuse these with the explorable areas that just add a bit of flavor to your journey with some plot development or a couple lootables and not much more. You will know you are embarking on one of the eight dungeons when you attempt to enter it and are met with a difficulty option. These multi room areas which are filled with their own mechanics, puzzles and bosses can be replayed. Naturally, the higher the difficulty you select when entering, the higher the enemies strength, experience gains and loot quality obtained. There is a slight randomization to the rooms but it doesn’t add much. Needless to say, if you are grinding in this game, this is where you want to do it.
Before I close off, I should mention that there is a fishing mini game as well as item crafting. They are there and feel about as tacked on as my mention of them. Easily could have done without them but at least it’s something else to have to do in game.
Battle Chasers is clearly made for people who want to dive into some dungeons and experience a turn based combat system that just might be the best the genre has had to offer in years. On the other hand, those that are looking for the next epic narrative experience will not find that here. Even still, with the game releasing at a budget price, I still find it easy to recommend to any fan of the genre regardless of which side of the fence their expectations fall on.