Review: Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Posted 13 May 2018 at 19:30 by Grazza
Comic book buyers at the turn of the last millennium were in for a treat. Battle Chasers, a new title by Joe Madureira, began to appear in shops across the land. With truly amazing artwork and a visual style that expertly straddled the line between fairytale and high fantasy, it was clearly a cut above the rest. However, quality takes time – the comics were completed at a much slower pace than their more mainstream rivals, and only nine issues were ever released. Thus, Battle Chasers seemed destined to remain as legendary a comic book as the events that took place within its pages.
Fast-forward to the present day and the story continues in the form of Battle Chasers: Nightwar. Such was the visual impact of its protagonists, they are instantly recognisable two decades later. There is Gully, a young girl in possession of a pair of mysterious gauntlets, who is chaperoned by the hulking-but-gentle war golem, Calibretto. They are joined by Garrison, the muscular swordsman loyal to Gully’s father, the questionably-motived Red Monika and the wizard, Knolan. To help these characters leap off the page, they have been given voice acting, which is perfectly fitting, as are the music and sound effects, both of which set exactly the right tone.
There are some nice visuals in places, just remember to adjust the gamma a bit.
At the beginning of the game, only the first three are in your party (with the others unlocked later), and we find our heroes stranded in hostile territory. All are very capable, but in this case Calibretto is the healer, Garrison is the attacker and Gully’s gauntlets allow her to be the group’s protector. Each has a skill that gives an advantage when encountering the enemy in a dungeon, such as Gully’s Ground Smash, for example, which allows you to stun a monster before contact. Battles are never random. Instead, enemies are represented by a 3D model in the dungeons, and an icon in the overworld.
Wisely, combat is turn-based but untimed. Whereas cautious RPG players may well go through most titles conserving MP, Battle Chasers: Nightwar has an answer to that. Each character has four Actions (never simply “Attack”, but more often the chance to apply buffs or debuffs), which are free, instant and, depending on type, sometimes generate Overcharge. This is the game’s way of encouraging you to use the more powerful Abilities. Whilst these do indeed consume Mana, if you have any Overcharge, you can spend this on them instead. Overcharge only lasts as long as the battle itself, so make use of it while you can. Some moves activate faster than others, and a bar on the left-hand side informs you of how far down the queue of actions each one will take you. Rounding things off are Burst skills, which accumulate for the team over successive battles, but are spent as individuals.
*Squints* I think we need to go... this way... possibly.
If you’re still not strong enough, you can fall back on Perks – passive skills that become possible to activate as you level-up or accumulate as you defeat certain numbers of monsters. Points can be invested in skill trees, which allow Calibretto to heal at the end of each turn, for instance, or Garrison to start with more attack power.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a veritable RPG smorgasbord, with almost everything a fan of the genre could want. There is crafting, of course, fishing and the ability to level-up weapons, with many variations on the same one (+1, +3 etc). Perhaps best of all is the versatility regarding dungeons. Each time you enter one, you get the option to tackle it on Normal, Heroic or Legendary difficulty levels. Legendary, of courses, gives you the chance to acquire the best loot, which is useful at the time, but does tend to get superceded as the story goes on. Gameplay-wise, it comes across stronger in terms of depth and variety, rather than a particularly impressive game engine or how well the world is built. You cannot, for instance, properly enter shops or inns; instead having to settle for a single background and a chat with a character portrait.
I don't think the enemies are going to enjoy the violence much either, somehow.
Graphically, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a mixed bag. The animated intro is a real treat, as it somehow manages to capture the essence of the comic book in an anime-quality piece. Static character portraits are lifted straight from Joe Madureira’s pencil, and as such remind us why we fell in love with it in the first place. And whilst the loading times can be extremely long, they do give us a chance to appreciate some of the more detailed artwork that has been created for the series. Cut scenes, meanwhile, are perfectly good but are best described as a facsimile of the original style. More pragmatically, battles employ 3D character models, which though not as beautiful as the 2D, nonetheless offer plenty of detail, and fans should still enjoy seeing their heroes in action. Overall, it’s fair to say the game sometimes captures the awe of the franchise but is more often simply reminiscent of it.
This doesn’t become problematic until you encounter the graphics used in the field. Dungeons and exploration areas tend to put detail ahead of clarity, sometimes making it too dark to see the path ahead or the treasure hiding amongst the gloom. You will need to play these sections with the Brightness setting up higher than you might play other games (or indeed, the rest of this one). Equally questionable is the way the overworld is depicted. Your party appears tiny on the screen, which can occasionally lead to confusion regarding which direction to take, especially as some paths require precise input from the analogue stick to access. And though the comic book font used for dialogue is excellent, normal text can be extremely hard to read. Perhaps the game has been designed for bigger screens, but considering a great many people enjoy the Switch as a dedicated handheld, optional visual adjustments would be much appreciated.
That slime creature is looking a little... seasick.
Making a game that truly brought Battle Chasers to life was always going to be a tall task and, poetically, practicalities have once again had to take precedence over ideals. With such a mish-mash of styles, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is not as sophisticated a video game as the comic was in its own medium, but it is one built on a solid foundation. As it stands, visibility issues put a dampener on what is otherwise a good RPG.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Battle Chasers: Nightwar offers an interactive return to a truly revered comic book franchise. The presentation is not always perfect, but it’s all underpinned by some very decent RPG gameplay. Fans of the comic will get most out of it, as well as anyone who enjoys a specifically Western take on a Japanese RPG.
Lots of goals and sidequests
Encourages repeated dungeon crawling
Long loading times
Lack of options