The classic turn-based RPG was something that I really enjoyed growing up, but I noticed a lot of peers turning their noses up at anything that didn't offer real-time combat. Turn-based games offered their own unique rhythm and a strong sense of strategy to carry you through their battles.
While the genre has been largely absent in recent years, instead favoring more real-time systems, Battle Chasers: Nightwar brings us a classic turn-based RPG with a fresh coat of paint and some unique mechanics. Is it enough to bring yourself back to the grind? Let's find out!
Strong Characters Carry a Slow-Moving Story
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is based on a comic book series created by Joe Madureira. While the comics never truly took hold, the game was kickstarted by a group of developers who used to work on the Darksiders series.
Newly formed studio Airship Syndicate raised the funds needed to bring the Battle Chasers: Nightwar game to life through Kickstarter. I wasn't familiar with the comics when I began playing, but that didn't seem to be an issue.
The game starts out with a bang, quickly introducing the main characters and their role as Gully's protectors. Things quickly turn south and you find yourself separated from them.
You'll quickly come across a gruff swordsman named Garrison, and a mild-mannered golem named Calibretto. The other two characters don't become part of your party, or the story, for several hours.
The story here suffers from some pacing issues, but that's easier to forgive because the moment-to-moment interactions between the main characters in your party goes a long way towards keeping your engaged in the world and the events at hand.
For example, when you rest at an inn, there's always a cutscene where you see them interacting. In one such scene, Calibretto and Garrison argued about Gully's training. Garrison argued that she needed to be pushed and that his heavy-handed way of dealing with her was necessary to make her stronger.
Calibretto argued that she is just a child, that he should go easier on her. It was like two parents arguing, but instead, it was two guardians who both cared about Gully deeply in their own ways.
That's a small moment in a much bigger game, but it illustrates how these characters are extremely well developed and very focused in their presentation. As you get to know them, their personalities become more and more evident.
Gully herself, despite being the focus of their protection, is a strong female character as well. She carries the reputation of her father's great deeds on her back, but she strives to carve her own legacy, and she's quite the fighter in a battle.
While the game's scope starts small, there are some large beats in the story that add more depth and range to the events. The issue I had, was that these big moments were very far apart from one another.
Often you'll be forced to navigate through and conquer dungeons on your way to story moments. These dungeons, while fun, seem like purposeful obstacles in your path instead of compelling pieces to the narrative.
I would have liked to see more consistent development. The game does offer a good chunk of lore to find in the dungeons, and collecting an entire set also offers an in-game reward. I liked this incentive to read and collect lore, as it helped add depth to the world itself.
I would be much more critical of the game's story if it weren't for the heartfelt and sharply written character interactions. As it stands, Battle Chasers: Nightwar offers a story that highlights some great characters, even if the overarching plot doesn't manage to consistently pull you in.
Classic Turn-Based Combat With Modern Twists
The combat in Battle Chasers: Nightwar focuses on classic turn-based options, but it doesn't shy away from trying new things with the genre. The overworld exploration is simple, but offers a good way to get around and spot upcoming battles marked on the map.
Dungeons themselves offer procedurally generated elements that help them feel fleshed out. The isometric view makes it feel like a dungeon crawler with turn-based combat.
When you start a dungeon, you can choose from several difficulties that offer additional loot for the brave souls that choose the higher options. Dungeon exploration is fun, especially with boxes of loot to find, hidden chests and areas, and the aforementioned lore.
Enemies appear in real-time, allowing you to plan your attacks accordingly. Characters each have a dungeon-specific ability that can be used a certain number of times per dungeon.
Whether it's Gully's ability to stun enemies before you enter battle, or Calibretto's ability to heal the party at a moment's notice, these are invaluable skills to have.
Once you enter battle, the game offers a classic view of the action with your allies on the left and enemies on the right. A panel on the left side of the screen shows the order of attacks so you can plan your strategy.
What I also really liked, was the usefulness of every attack and ability. Nothing simply "damages" the enemy. Some attacks will hit more than one target, others will build your overdrive, and still, others will inflict status ailments and buffs.
Abilities are also offered as heroes level up, and these use your standard pool of mana. More variety comes into play here with abilities that offer even more effects or bonuses.
For example, Gully may have a standard attack that allows her to hit two enemies at once. Calibretto could use an attack that allows allies to be healed for a certain amount when the enemy he has hit is further damaged by them.
Each character also has a Battle Surge that can be used when your meter is filled. These character-specific attacks offer some excellent benefits that go beyond simple heals or massive damage attacks.
Outside of combat, you'll equip characters with armor, weapons, and accessories to boost their stats. There's also a perks system that allows you to accrue and assign points to gain new bonuses for your party members. You can reassign and respec these points as you see fit, or as your pool grows.
It's an excellent way to constantly develop and shift your characters as you see fit. All of this contributes to combat that feels heavy and satisfying. Character animations and attacks are smooth, with great feedback and a strong sense of impact.
The only real qualms I have with the combat stem from the erratic difficulty curve, and the need to grind like it's 1995. Grinding is never an easy thing to pitch someone, but in Battle Chasers: Nightwar, there's not a lot of things to do for your grinding needs.
Enemy placements on the overworld don't offer enough to really gain sufficient XP, and bounties suffer from the same issue. This leaves you with the option to run dungeons again, perhaps on a higher difficulty, but that seems like an unneeded amount of repetition. What makes things worse, is the insane amount of XP you need to level up, and the paltry amounts that combat offers in older areas.
The game likes to wildly switch from incredibly difficult fights to simpler and more manageable encounters. It's all over the place to the point where it's hard to tell when things will get easier or harder.
It's a shame that the otherwise excellent combat is marred by the need to grind excessively, and the uneven difficulty, because I really loved everything else about Battle Chasers: Nightwar.
Striking Art Meets Exquisite Animation and Voice Acting
I loved everything about the presentation in Battle Chasers: Nightwar. While not every line is given voiceover, the acting we do have is really solid.
Furthermore, the iconic art offers sharp edges and great lines in the way character designs are portrayed. The dungeons all have their own unique look and feel, and even the overworld has a lot of aesthetic appeal.
The animation during major cutscenes is extremely well done, and the battle animation have a satisfying amount of impact and weight to them.
The soundtrack, composed by Jesper Kyd and Clark Powell is an epic powerhouse that conveys scope and intensity to match, or even succeed, what's happening on screen.
Strong tempos combine with heavy percussion and epic vocals that add to the tracks. The soundtrack isn't afraid to slow things down either, with wandering piano melodies and perfectly plucked guitar strings.
It's an iconic soundtrack that already stands out to me from other titles. When I hear some of these major tracks, I immediately think of Battle Chasers: Nightwar. Their unique composition and strong vision makes this one of the best RPG soundtracks I've had the pleasure of listening to during my hours of combat.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar isn't perfect, and it's let down by some pretty heavy flaws in the pacing, difficulty curve, and grinding department. Even with these things in mind, I still found myself glued to the screen. It really is an excellent title at heart, and I think that anyone who enjoys the classic turn-based RPGs of gaming will find a lot to love here.
Final Score: 8.5/10
A copy of Battle Chasers: Nightwar was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 10/11/17