Inspired by yesterday, extraordinary today, Battle Chasers is a challenging and stylish RPG that shouldn’t be missed.
After an unanticipated 65 hours with Battle Chasers: Nightwar, I was only left wanting more after beating its final boss. Despite offering an enticing New Game+ mode when the credits finished rolling, I decided to turn the game off and save it for a future replay. As much as I would have enjoyed trying the new “Mythic” mode, messing around with my crew’s 100+ Perk Points, and unleashing their fully unlocked arsenal of abilities, I think that 65 hours was enough time to spend before moving on to a different game.
Perhaps part of the reason I wanted to keep playing was because the ending left me wanting more. The storyline was fairly generic, but it was so well written and presented that I was excited to see what would happen next. It begins when a small airship crew is blasted out of the sky and separated on the eerie Crescent Isle. The first part of the story focuses on reuniting everyone, but it quickly turns into something more. There is more than meets the eye on Crescent Isle, and the crew knows that their airship was attacked for a reason. As they uncover more about the history of the island and the dark secrets it keeps, the crew soon realize that they are the best and only hope to keep the evils at bay. The ending was rather unsatisfying, as all the prior buildup concluded with a single boss fight, tons of loose threads, and a somewhat frustrating cliffhanger. Here’s hoping a sequel is in the works, because I would really like to see what happens.
The story may be generic, but the presentation and characters make it much more interesting than you’d expect. Each member of our main crew of five (eventually six) has his or her own unique personality, and you can quickly tell that they’ve known each other for a long time. Gully is the closest we get to a protagonist, and she is as young and innocent as she is dangerous. Garrison, a brooding swordsman with a dark history, Calibretto, a war golem who hates war, and Knolan, a feisty mage with zero tolerance for BS, have sworn to watch over Gully as she searches for answers about her long lost father. We also have Red Monika, an outlaw who loves fame and fortune more than anything else, and Alumon, a supernatural fighter who lives to protect Crescent Isle. These six characters have great chemistry and are quite memorable for their very distinct methods of operating.
The presentation in Battle Chasers is also so strong because of its overall atmosphere. Its gorgeous and colorful comic book art style transitions perfectly between characters’ portaits, graphic novel cutscenes, and fully polygonal in-game graphics. With this exceptional art style, Battle Chasers constantly evokes an ominous sense of grit and gloom. Whether you’re in Harm’s Way (ironically, the game’s “main hub”), traversing through the bandits’ hideout, or wandering the beautiful world map, Battle Chasers is a perfect blend of awe and dread. It is all supported by a uniquely subtle soundtrack that blends lonely pianos and acoustic guitars with dubsteppy drumbeats.
Its presentation is definitely a highlight, but the main reason I devoted 65 hours to Battle Chasers is because of its addicting battle system and how your characters grow. First of all, I need to say that it would be a big mistake if you do what I did at first and only focus on the first three characters. It got incredibly boring, almost to the point of me shelving the game entirely. The fact that the game awards XP so conservatively doesn’t help. But once the original trio had levels in the 25-26 range (the max level is 30), I decided it was time to make a change. I replaced Gully with Knolan, and watched his XP at a measly level 13 shoot up much faster than I expected. Soon after, the original trio was fully replaced by the other three characters, and any boredom I had was long gone. All six characters are vastly different in combat and will complement each other in different ways depending on your party makeup. That said, I believe that in order to have the most fun in Battle Chasers you have to always be switching your party members around. While Garrison hits hard, Gully can tank, and Calibretto can heal. Monika is a sort of blend between Gully and Garrison, albeit with her own unique twist, while Knolan and Alumon are both magic users with very different approaches. Despite these descriptions, none of the characters are set in their ways, so to speak.
You see, as characters level up, they unlock new Abilities and Perks. For example, at first I used Calibretto almost exclusively to heal. But by the end of the game, I assigned him Perks that made him purely offensive. It was a blast to use him in such a drastically different way than I was used to. Each character’s Perks are different, and they each have two separate sets of them. Basically, you could consider one set of Perks to be more offensive-focused, and the other to be defensive. Overall, I’d say I had the most fun with Knolan. His fire and ice magic made messing with the enemies too satisfying to deny.
Battles play out in a classic turn-based style. They are typically pretty slow-paced, but for most of the game the battles are tough, especially when entering a new area. Enemies show no mercy and will even trash-talk your team as the battle goes on (your team will respond in kind). The difficulty spikes can at times be insane, but with patience you will get your team where you want them. When the team is wiped out, you lose some money and get sent back to Harm’s Way, but thankfully no progress is lost. Strategy is key, and you will fail if you don’t plan ahead and observe your enemies. Brute force isn’t usually enough to win, as status ailments, damage shields, and speed can make or break a battle—both for your team and the enemies. Normal actions happen instantly and build Overdrive, which is basically a cushion for your limited magic points. Special skills use up any Overdrive and remaining magic points you have, and are much more powerful. The catch is that they take longer to activate, which is why planning ahead is so important. A victory against a tough opponent is insanely satisfying—even when the XP, money, and loot are paltry, the simple fact that you won is rewarding in and of itself. Even by late-game the strategizing and satisfaction never left. There is much more to building characters and the battle system than I can get into (Battle Burst, Class Mastery, Passive Skills, non-combat skills, Bestiary, etc.), but the fact of the matter is that the enjoyment and potential is unlimited, especially when you take the time to play around with all six characters.
Exploration is another key aspect to gameplay in Battle Chasers, and the randomly-generated dungeons may scare some of you away. I wasn’t too savvy about it at first either, but I quickly grew to appreciate it. You can also set the difficulty of the dungeons, and a harder difficulty means greater rewards. Dungeons are never a straight A-to-B run. Traps, puzzles, hidden rooms, and much more will make them more challenging and interesting. Because of the random-generation of the dungeons, you will most likely need to redo each dungeon at least one time in order to uncover all of its secrets. Furthermore, you may need to redo them out of necessity anyway in order to grind your characters’ levels (yes, this can be a grindy RPG). Redoing dungeons is, admittedly, a bit annoying, especially because a couple dungeons are long slogs and the characters run pretty slowly. But again, that’s why I think it’s so important to keep changing your party around—although the dungeons may get stale, at least your team of three will keep things fresh in battle.
Redoing dungeons is probably the most prominent annoyance in Battle Chasers, but it isn’t the only one. Despite the game practically shoving the crafting and alchemy in my face, it never really caught on. The best items and weapons could be found in sidequests and dungeons, and by the end of the game I had literally hundreds of components that never needed to be used despite the game wanting me to use them (aside from the Legendary equipment, which is its own sidequest anyway). Furthermore, the fishing minigame was easy, boring and unobtrusive, but sadly necessary in order to take advantage of the game’s black market, which had too many great rewards to ignore. Regarding technical issues, the game crashed on me twice during my 65 hours. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I was allowed to manually save without quitting the game entirely, but the only other way to save is by entering/exiting an area, completing a battle, or resting. In particular, the first crash happened in the middle of a long shopping spree and menu management session, so I lost about a half-hour of progress. Loading times also aren’t the best in Battle Chasers, but aren’t so bad to make the game unplayable.
Putting 65 hours into an RPG is nothing new for me, and neither is the desire to jump right back into one despite spending all that time on it. Like its comic book series, the Battle Chasers game ends, but doesn’t conclude, and it leaves me wanting more. If what I read about the comic series is anything to go on, then I shouldn’t get my hopes up for a sequel. Nonetheless, I got what I expected when I first went into Battle Chasers: Nightwar: a fun throwback RPG that hearkens back to my favorite turn-based battle systems from the late 90’s and early 00’s. As you can tell, I got much more out of it, too. With its fantastic presentation, amazing characters, challenging battle system, and addictive leveling system, I strongly recommend Battle Chasers: Nightwar to any RPG fan looking for something that feels familiar but manages to be extremely unique at the same time.
8 out of 10