To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of Battle Chasers before this game was announced. Starting in the late 90s, the comic—written and penciled by Joe Madureira—managed to slip under the radar for me. However, enough people seem to have remembered the series fondly, as a 30-day Kickstarter for the game managed to reach its funding goal. The development studio behind this title, Airship Syndicate, were the co-founders of the now-defunct Vigil Games, makers of Darksiders 1 & 2. The question is, how well-utilized were the funds of Battle Chasers: Nightwar‘s Kickstarter backers?
Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Publisher: Airship Syndicate
Developer: THQ Nordic
Platform: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: October 3rd, 2017
Players: Single Player
My first impression of Battle Chasers was extremely positive, and it’s easy to see why. The game is totally gorgeous. Environments, character and monster designs—even the UI and menus look sharp and appealing.
At first, I thought a few of the main cast looked a bit derivative (Garrison looks like a carbon copy of Garen from League of Legends, for example), but I quickly reminded myself that the BC comics came out in 1998. Garen is a ripoff of Garrison, not the other way around.
Additionally, the amount of variation in monster designs surprised me. Right off the bat, you’re fighting bandits and Lycelots, who each have about three or four different types between them.
There’s a bandit rogue, but also a brawler, gunslinger, warden, and scout. They’ve also got several different types of war machines that they bring to battle, and all of them have wildly different designs and abilities.
Attacks and skills all have different animations, and feel incredibly satisfying to pull off. Calibretto’s Gut Punch attack, even thirty-or-so odd hours into the game, is still meaty and visually appealing.
Each hero also has unique Burst attacks, which are executed when a meter is filled from attacking and taking damage. They’re all pretty cool, even if some are a lot more useful than others.
Another facet of the game I can’t praise enough is the music. It’s got an Asian flair to it, with Chinese string instruments mixed with catchy drum beats.
I listened through the entire soundtrack and couldn’t find a single song I wasn’t fond of, which is something I can’t say for most games out there. The sound design is also great, with attacks having satisfying thwacks to them, and the voice acting gets a solid pass from me as well.
Speaking of voice acting, one of my complaints about Battle Chasers is how little of it there is. Character development is pretty sparse as well.
You learn details about the main cast here and there, but it’s mostly told through mini-scenes when you’re resting at the inn in Harm’s Way. They’re incredibly fun and endearing little conversations, and I really wish there were more of them.
The narrative is fairly generic: A ragtag group of adventurers team up to take down a lady trying to summon the Big Bad Evil Guy. It’s serviceable, sure, but I wasn’t even remotely engaged by it.
As if that wasn’t yawn-inducing enough, most of the lore in Battle Chasers is found in the form of journals and codex. To the game’s credit, it does compile these in a logbook for you to peruse at your leisure, but games are a visual medium, people. Show me, don’t tell me.
Making up for its lack of compelling story, this title has an insanely fun combat system. Each character has four ‘basic’ actions, which are instant and (mostly) build up Overcharge. Overcharge is essentially extra mana, so your abilities that expend mana will draw from your Overcharge pool first.
There are also abilities which expend overcharge to deal increased damage, as well as character perks that, for example, can heal the most wounded ally a scaling amount for every 10 points of overcharge expended.
To add more depth, there are status effects such as Ignite, Sunder, Arcane Sick, and Poison. These seem relatively standard, but certain party members have abilities that deal more damage, or inflict additional status effects, depending on what ailment their target is suffering from.
This leads to a constant ‘set them up, knock them down’ strategy that just feels incredibly satisfying when it all goes right. The first ten-or-so hours of Battle Chasers was a truly fun and engaging experience, and I was very much enjoying my time with it.
Unfortunately, in the final stretch of the game, it becomes a good deal less entertaining. Enemies start to deal tons of damage, while taking very little themselves.
This is natural, as that’s how most games handle a scaling difficulty—the difference here is that the game shoehorns your party members into either being a glass cannon, or a walking tank that deals very little damage.
Short of the end-game legendary weapons, most of the staves, gauntlets, swords, and guns you’ll unlock heavily favor either defense or offense. The armor and trinkets are the same way.
This starts out being fun, as I had Gully taunting and tanking shots, while one of my party members healed, and the other dealt damage. Attack Power is a general stat, and boosts healing, magic, and physical attacks alike, so both my healer and main DPS character could dole out respectable damage if needed.
The issues with this system are manifold. For starters, your damage dealers are unbelievably squishy, which lead me to permanently designate Gully as a tank-bot due to her taunt ability. I found this fairly effective, especially paired with Alumon’s ridiculously powerful third Burst attack. It deals a massive amount of damage after four turns pass for your enemy.
I realized I was bored after gameplay became a rinse-and-repeat of Taunt, build overcharge on Alumon, and occasionally heal with Calibretto.
Every battle ended up being the same thing over and over, with the rare adjustment for special monster types. Hell, bosses were the easiest of all, since I just turtled up until Alumon’s Burst move was ready, then repeated that until I won.
It’s possible I would have enjoyed the game more if I’d went with a different party, but instead of scaling up with everyone else, your group members stay at the level they were when you last used them. This left me with three level 27-28 characters toward the end of the game, and a smattering of level 13-16 comrades, who are completely useless and a chore to level up.
The dungeons in Battle Chasers are decent, each of them procedurally-generated with a bunch of random events thrown in.
You can run the same dungeon twice and experience totally different puzzles and encounters, making them feel somewhat fresh each time. Additionally, there are scaling difficulty levels, with the highest giving you the most difficult experience, but the best loot.
Unfortunately, the loot in this game is a bit disappointing. I was easily making my way through the dungeons, only having a complete party wipe once or twice in the entire game. Even then, I kept getting loot that was two or three levels higher than what I could equip. By the time I was able to don said gear, I had usually already found something better.
There was also a fishing minigame, as well as a neat crafting system, but they seemed fairly useless to me. The fish, as far as I could tell, were simply able to be traded in for tokens to the mysterious Collector in town. He sold decent enough items, but I found so many trinkets to sell to him during the main game that I had a ridiculous surplus of tokens at all times.
The crafting system was interesting, utilizing materials you pick up from dungeons and enemies to make weapons, armor, accessories, potions, and enchantments. I only regularly worked with the enchantments, as they added useful effects to your weapons and armor.
The rest were used sparsely. I can count the amount of potions I made on one hand, as healing abilities were generally far superior, if a bit slower. Weapons and armor were about the same, the legendary endgame weapons the only ones I can actually remember crafting.
Another black mark on Battle Chasers: Nightwar, albeit a console-specific one, is the performance. I experienced occasional slowdown and major loading times on the PS4 version of this game. I remember once waiting an entire minute for a battle to load, and the Tolkas Arena [which is timed, no less] had the next wave of enemies delayed by about ten seconds on some occasions. I’ve gotten reports that the PC has none of these issues, so play on there!
At the end of the day, Battle Chasers, despite all my grumbling about it, is truly an enjoyable game. Between the main dungeon content and side quests (like the arena and the occasional monster hunt), there’s plenty of stuff to do, and it’s mostly a fun romp throughout. Some failings here and there make it fall just shy of being great, but if the sequel-bait ending is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing more of this series in the future.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar was reviewed on PS4 using a review copy provided by THQ Nordic. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 7.5
- Truly impressive visuals throughout
- Plenty of stuff to do
- Excellent combat system
- Great soundtrack and voice acting
- Barebones story, almost zero character development
- Lategame combat is tedious, leveling is a grind
- Loot drops are disappointing
- Bad performance on PS4