Turning a graphic novel into a video game always seems like a risque move in this industry. The fandom surrounding some of these series can be very dedicated, which makes it easy for them to know when a studio is aiming for a quick cash grab (see Watchmen: The End Is Nigh).
So when Battle Chasers: Nightwar launched on KickStarter to get financial development assistance from fans, I was a bit hesistant. However, since then I’ve learned of two things that truly sets Battle Chasers: Nightwar apart from any other graphic novel video game adaptation: Airship Syndicate and Joe Madureira.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar has a rather quick introduction with some familiar cast members of the source material. The Battle Chasers crew is being pursued be pirates as they race through the sky on an airship. Within minutes they are shot down and separated, which give the player their first mission objective: find your friends.
Players will first meet Gully, a young fighter who has equipped her father’s magical gauntlets without understanding them too well. She is naive, caring, and is not afraid of tough situations. Battle Chasers: Nightwar keeps the focus on Gully for the most of the story. Character development is mostly shown during events when resting at the inn. Other then a few other moments in the game, this is the only time a felt that the cast expressed themselves without mentioning the current mission.
After meeting up with, Calibretto and Garrison, Gully and the team set out to find their friends, Knolan, Red Monika, and Alumon. However, getting around in this mysterious region isn’t going to be easy since it’s overrun by creatures, bandits, and mysterious Golems. In order to get from place to place, the characters must meet the locals in the town and get information. Unsurprisingly, after getting to know the lay of the land, more missions will become available and the player takes off from there.
I enjoyed the introduction of the game and the way that it allows the player to learn the mechanics and controls on their own. Other than a couple of tutorial slides (which are brief) the game does very little hand holding. However, the overworld is designed in a way that the player should never be confused about where they have to go next. This is shown by large explanation marks that hover over distant mission objects so all that’s required from the player is to head towards that general direction.
Even with these prompts, Battle Chasers: Nightwar balances guiding players as well as allowing them to move at their own pace. This is important because aside from the story, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is full fledged turn based RPG.
Encounters can take place in dungeons and on the world map. Being a turn-based RPG, a meter on the side will show the player who is attacking next. There a bit of background knowledge of the genre required to understand the systems in Battle Chasers: Nightwar because the game starts the player off have with more than just a simple attack. For starters there are multiple defense and attack actions, but there is also an abilities tab that contains a set of its own defense and attack actions. The difference between these two options is that abilities require mana and will need to charge up which could allow for an enemy attack in the mean time.
Here’s the thing, Battle Chasers: Nightwar’s battle system is damn good. There is a fairly high level of difficulty in every encounter and the game is unapologetic if you rush in unprepared. Some of the action and ability options are clearly influences by western RPGs, in the sense that they have long descriptions of what they do when executed. This wasn’t a problem, but the text is rather small and hard to read in the description box. Besides that, the flow of battle is hectic and requires the player to be a couple moves ahead during any encounter.
Another great feature about the battle system is being able to stack debuffs. Whoever thought of adding this to the game was a genius because it made each battle strategically more fun. I often found myself figuring out how to quickly raise the poison or bleed damage counters of bosses to knock off a huge portion of their HP.
Furthermore, the attack animations in Battle Chasers: Nightwar are as gorgeous as they are epic. When an attack is executed it’s followed by a powerful hit that can almost be felt through the television. The force behind every move is mesmerizing and a brilliant display of great design. I also enjoyed that characters don’t level up as quickly as they would in other RPGs because almost every time a character reaches a new level, a new feature or skill is unlocked.
Dungeons in Battle Chasers: Nightwar add a totally new layer of gameplay. Upon entering a dungeon the player will be able to choose the difficulty, with the higher difficulties containing better loot. Each dungeon’s layout will be randomly generated when the player enters, which means you should never see the same dungeon twice. There are branching paths, secret treasure, and many enemies that await in each visit.
This procedurally generated feature feels unlike many turn-based RPGs that I’ve played and also made each visit to a previous dungeon feel new. On top of that, the loot system can be quite addicting — I found myself searching through barrels and boxes anxiously looking for crafting items and new weapons.
Additionally, there are a handful of gimmicks and traps in each dungeon like hidden spikes, spinning blades, and fire balls. This adds a new layer to exploration that requires the player to pay attention to each new room they enter. Throughout my play through, I walked over a great deal of hidden spikes through my game which takes a bit of HP from your party.
There are a few mini-games that are found within Battle Chasers: Nightwar. One of these is a fishing game that has a pretty unique control scheme for catching fish that’s not just the usual “mash X” that I’m used to seeing. Although this isn’t required, catching fish does give out rewards and items. Also, as mentioned, there is a crafting system that can take up a load of time in the later parts of the game when the player is able to craft more items.
Sadly, Battle Chasers: Nightwar isn’t without its faults. My first time playing through the game, my game suffered many crashes and missing cutscenes. At one point, I was almost 20 hours into a playthrough for review when the game crashed and my save was corrupted due to the game’s auto save feature. Since that experience, the game has received a patch and I was able to pass my past position and also get a better look at the procedural generated dungeons.
Lastly, the music in Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a great score and sets the mood for battles and exploring. I’d also like to say the that the voice acting is some of the best I’ve heard from any video game. No joke, whoever played, Garrison (Gavin Hammon), deserves an Emmy or something because he added so much to that character in terms of range and personality that kept me engage to any conversation that he was apart of.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar has one of the greatest turn-based battle systems that I’ve played to come from a western studio. Although the story might seem stale at some points, the characters remain the focus of motivation to see the game until the end. Hopefully, any remaining game breaking bugs will have been patched out by the time the game releases, but at this point I have yet to experience any in my most recent playthrough. There is also plenty of post end game content to dive into, along with exploring dungeons and higher difficulties adding hours to the game’s runtime.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar shows what an independent studio that cares about their graphic novel IP can do. Through hours of RPG combat and dungeon exploring, the game manages to stay interesting and fresh, which makes it difficult to put down. It’s clear that developer Airship Syndicate has created a unique and fun turn-based RPG, but most of all they breathed life in the Battle Chasers universe to expose the series to a new group of fans while satisfying the old ones with a brand new adventure.