AirShip Syndicate’s first game Battle Chasers: Nightwar was crowdfunded via KickStarter and received over $800k in funding, reaching many of its stretch goals. The game’s campaign holds many promises and ideas that describe it as an “RPG inspired by the classic console greats”. Yea, I know, we’ve heard this promise before, but if you’re interested in the JRPG genre, I think you should continue reading.
For full disclosure, I didn’t know very much about Battle Chasers: Nightwar when DualShockers received a preview copy, but I was intrigued by the art style and premise. JRPGs make up some of my favorite games of all time, but RPG games from indie studios seem to rely too heavily on nostalgic graphics and tropes that end up falling flat in the end. After my first hour with Battle Chaser: Nightwar, I could easily see that this studio has taken what classic JRPGs created and made it their own.
Of course, while this game’s combat is said to be presented in “in a classic JRPG format,” it wasn’t made in Japan, so it’s not technically a JRPG. Yet, the inspiration is clear, and for once, well executed.
The story premise describes a wall of mist called the Grey Line that hovers over the West Waters. Any adventures that enter the historic monolith never return. A warrior named Aramus attempted this quest and, like the ones before him, never returned. His daughter, Gully, gathers five other adventurers to venture into the mist and attempt to uncover what her father was looking for.
At the beginning of the game, the first thing that caught my eye was the way that the developers chose to represent the dialog scenes, as blown up illustrations with the characters surrounding a text box. The game also chooses to present a comic book style approach to the way conversations take place, which accurately represents the game’s source material, a comic book of the same name published from 1998 to 2001.
I never read the comic book, but after researching the characters and story I’ve got to say that these designs were truly ahead of their time. Reminiscent of overly emphasized characters found in games like Dragon’s Crown, Battle Chaser’s characters have huge muscles and personalities that fit their fighting class. Even the NPC illustrations were something to pause and marvel over.
Towns and dungeons are discovered while exploring the world map. Like the characters themselves, the world map’s illustrations fit the mood of each area perfectly, featuring paths and forests that show the developers truly understood how to create a world based in a fantasy RPG setting. However, one thing not included are random battles encounters on the world map. Instead, battles are now represented by markers placed on paths, which might be a good thing for some fans of the genre, but level grinders will need to find another way to become overpowered, without relying on running in circles for hours.
Once in a battle, the game takes the classic turn based battle system and adds a few unique systems that allow it to stand out. First off, attacks in this game feel extremely satisfying. When an attack lands, the battle animation beautifully displays the power exerted by the character and makes the most basic of attacks feel like a huge event in the battle. Besides a normal Attack, there’s options for Abilities and Burst, this is were you’ll find healing and more powerful skills to use in battle. However, most of these actions take a number of turns to charge up, unlike a normal Attack, which is instant.
Dungeons accessed from the the world map are randomly generated and contain different events and loot. This made each visit feel like a new experience. The randomly generated approach to level design is often found in action dungeon crawlers, but it seems to work quite well in the scope of this game. It helps keep the game from being repetitive, if perhaps, two or more quests ask for something out of a particular dungeon.
During my time with the Battle Chasers: Nightwar I couldn’t find any critical problems with the game. Reading over the original KickStarter pitch, this game is exactly what the developers set out to create. Looking back at their premise quote, “RPG inspired by the classic console greats”, I see many nods to some of my favorite RPG series sprinkled throughout the game while they add to the tried and true systems with new ones that execute perfectly.
Although the jury is still out on how the game handles the higher levels and character development towards the later hours of the story, as for the scope of this preview, I’d say Battle Chasers has made my list for most anticipated games of 2017.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch in 2017.