Battle Chasers: Nightwar is an RPG that’s based off the comic book series of the same name, something I doubt I’m alone in when I say that I’ve never heard of the source material. Following a successful run on the crowd funding Kickstarter platform, Battle Chasers: Nightwar swiftly caught the attention of many fans that appreciate the core formula, as well as naturally appealing to those that followed the comic books. There’s certainly no shortage of games on the Xbox One Store that have been given life thanks to crowd funding, such as the acclaimed Yooka-Laylee and the less than pleasant Mighty No. 9, but where does Nightwar sit in regards to quality, content and execution? After plugging in several hours worth of play time, let me tell you that with absolute certainty, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is arguably one of the best games to come from any form of crowd funding. It’s intriguing, it’s unique and it’s thoroughly entertaining.
Nightwar wastes absolutely no time at getting you straight into the action. The game begins with a battle against a group of bandits on an airship, which results in a crash landing on a strange and mysterious island. Channelling inspiration from the source material, the opening to the game is relayed to you via well detailed comic style art clips. It becomes immediately apparent that this fascinating island is home to a great deal of mana, an understandably highly sought after resource. It doesn’t take long at all to discover that everything isn’t as it seems and that there’s a dark and powerful force that aims to bring forward an army of the dead. I wont spoil any more of the story for you but what I will say is that if the plot in Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a representation of the comic series, I’m surprised that the material isn’t as well known as it could have been. I found it to be quite interesting and immersive. Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t go above and beyond in comparison to other RPG games, but it certainly stands its own ground.
The core cast bolsters the level of immersion even further, collectively offering up unique personalities and traits. There’s a young orphan, a swordsman, a bounty hunter, a demon hunter, a wizard and a golum. Each of these characters have been well designed and play key roles in the adventure at hand, but the real joy of the game is watching them engage and evolve throughout the entirety of play. They’re introduced in such a way that you cant help but beg to get to know them better. Furthermore the game practically forces you to play as each character due to certain party members being better suited for specific situations and encounters. This isn’t a bad thing by any means because each of the cast members come with their own play-style and abilities, which helps to keep the several hours worth of story content fresh and inviting.
There isn’t much exploration in regards to an open world, being that the overworld is presented to you in the form of a map that’s connected by a number of pathways and points of interest such as towns, enemies and dungeons. You can visit the town to stock up on new gear and supplies as well as the option to rest up at the local inn. The ability to invest some hard earned coins will enable you to upgrade shops, which will in turn offer up better equipment for you to purchase. Much of your time spent in Battle Chasers: Nightwar will consist of taking on the previously mentioned dungeons, which will randomly generate once you select them from the overworld. There’s much more emphasis on exploration when you find yourself in a dungeon, but most of your visits will typically rely on battling the countless foes that inhabit each area within.
You can indeed select what difficulty you would like each dungeon to play out like, but the trade-off here is that you’re better rewarded for tackling higher difficulty tiers. The random generated content ensures that repeat runs, which is massively helpful for grinding XP, never feels old or repetitive. My only gripe is that I felt like I was forced to play the game how the game wanted to be played, rather than giving me the freedom to explore the world however I wanted to. The option to fast travel around the overworld is present, but due to how simplistic it is to navigate, I never really saw any relevance in relying on this mechanic. Nevertheless it’s better to have something present and not need it, rather then to not have it and need it I guess.
Despite the fact that dungeons are randomly generated each dungeon houses interesting puzzles and secrets to overcome. Often you will find that secret rooms tend to require specific characters to access them, which again helps in encouraging you to mix up your play-style. Puzzles on the other hand can vary in complexity regardless as to what your chosen difficulty tier is, some are simple and straight forward, whereas other puzzles require more forward thinking and perseverance. The inclusion of optional side quests will either amply benefit you or see you suffering for failing the requirements, but again, this all goes hand in hand to ensure that each visit (regardless of the layout and difficulty) feels engaging and immersive. There’s a lot of risk vs. reward in the dungeons being that if you die on the toughest difficulty, you’re required to start the whole dungeon again from scratch. On the flip-side you’ll eagerly be chasing down the best and rarest gear, which as alluded to above can only be obtained on harder difficulties. Mercifully you can voluntarily leave a dungeon to resupply at the town, and return to pick up precisely where you left off.
Combat in Battle Chasers: Nightwar is turn-based, meaning that you and your party of characters will engage in combat with enemies, but will take turns at hitting each other instead of the more modern concept found in (let’s say) Final Fantasy XV. Attacks are broken down into several sets. Utilising a normal attack will hit the selected opponent and will also fill up your overdrive gauge as a result. At first I thought that Overdrive would have been the equivalent to Final Fantasy VII’s Limit Break, but it’s arguably more interesting in Nightwar, and certainly more helpful. Overdrive will constantly replenish your mana pool which allows you to build up your magical abilities swiftly, even if you find yourself running out. Normal attacks are typically the weakest attacks you can dish out, but they’re also instant. Magic attacks on the other hand take a small while before they’re launched, but are more powerful than your normal attacks and can hit multiple opponents. Using magic attacks will naturally withdraw from your mana and Overdrive, which offers a solid balance between both forms of attack throughout each encounter.
Status effects play a key role in Battle Chasers: Nightwar but not so much that they stand out. It often just means that you’ll need to pay attention to the motion of a battle and keep an eye on positive and negative effects. To help you on your journey you can unlock offensive and supportive skills for your party and apply them in any order you like. Skills will require points to apply, but the game does well at handing out how many points you can use as you level up throughout the duration of the campaign. It’s certainly helpful to make use of any aid you can get your hands on, because Nightwar can be a pretty tough game to contend with. Enemies can dish out a heap of damage, and the boss battles prove to be lengthy and tense. Burst attacks, which can be unlocked by completing character specific quests, will allow you to slam out super attacks. Burst gauges will fill up as you engage in combat but is shared between all three party members. These are very handy tools and can easily turn the tide of a battle in the blink of an eye.
The information on-screen will constantly keep you in the loop as to what’s going on, but hell, the font is really small. I had to sit closer to the TV to make out what was what, so it would have been helpful to have some sort of font-size slider in place to make it easier to read. That’s not a particularly large criticism, but it’s something I wanted to make a note about for those of you that play on smaller TV’s. When you’re not navigating the overworld, paying a visit to the local town to stock up and buy new supplies, or dungeon diving, there are other activities that you can take to stumble off the beaten path. None of these prove to be time consuming, nor do they weigh up and stand alongside the main content servings in terms of quality, but it’s a neat implementation to say the least. It goes without saying that the best portions of the game are when you’re neck deep in combat in the middle of a vast dungeon. There’s something incredibly alluring to levelling up your characters, meeting new party members, levelling those characters up, and unlocking a wealth of new abilities along the way. It helps of course that the art style and the design of the game is so well struck, serving you with a visual delight for each and every new piece of content that you unearth.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a solid RPG and certainly one of the best crowd-funded games that I’ve played on Xbox One. I didn’t quite appreciate the lack of freedom when navigating the overworld, and I witnessed a handful of issues that resulted in a crash to the home-screen, but when all is said and done there’s a great deal of content within to keep fans engaged for several hours on end. The combat is well balanced and challenging, the enemy and boss variety is top notch, the randomly generated dungeons ensures that puzzle solving and secret seeking never feels repetitive or bland, and everything in between is just as commendable. It helps that the whole package is well designed and offers up some gorgeous visuals to enjoy, all of which is tied to a decent plot that bolsters the overall experience. Safe to say that if you enjoy a traditional RPG, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is certainly for you.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.