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No GravatarBattle Chasers: Nightwar is a game that promises turn-based old-school RPG battles, crafting, exploration and randomly generated dungeons with multiple difficulty levels. But do these elements embrace the glory of old-school RPG glory, or feel dated and old?

Title: Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Developer: Airship Syndicate
Available For: PS4, Steam (Windows/Mac), Xbox One, Switch

Battle Chasers: Nightwar kicks off with an epic air battle that crashes your ship and strands you on an island. You’re told that the aggressors that took you down and nearly killed you were random pirates, but the longer you’re there the more you learn of a deeper, wicked plot that must be stopped, and pirates are actually the least of your problems!

The game draws inspiration from the “90’s cult comic book” as well as the glory days of turn-based RPGs. Everything you’d expect from an RPG is here – turn-based battle, various equipment, grinding for experience and loot, side quests and even a fishing minigame – and while most of these don’t offer much new, the incredibly polished, gorgeous art makes up for it. Normally I couldn’t care less about art in a game, but the art here is stunning, the animations smooth and sharp, and even 30+ hours into the game I was amazed at how much I focused on watching the good guys and bad guys attack one another.

Because it’s what you’ll spend most of your time doing, the battle system is the cornerstone of Battle Chasers. I played nearly every RPG that existed on the NES, SNES and PS1-2, and while I used to love grinding out levels and getting that next piece of loot, the advent of action-RPGs made me nervous that I wouldn’t enjoy a turn-based RPG anymore. I was pleasantly surprised that the way Battle Chasers handles it, I still really enjoyed it! You’ll only ever fight enemies when you run into them on the screen, and one enemy on the screen is always exactly one actual enemy to fight; often when you get near them there will be a chain icon above two or three of them, and touching one initiates combat with all of them at once. This makes it so that you always know what you’ll be up against and allows you to plan accordingly. Each of your three-person party also has limited use dungeon skills that allow you to have an upper hand before entering battle: Calibretto the ancient war mech, for example, Calibretto can fire a bullet at an enemy and weaken them a bit before you even start combat. Gully can smash the ground, making nearby enemies stunned at the beginning of the battle. She also has a skill called “Stoneskin” that adds a little defense while making party members immune to damage from traps in the dungeon temporarily. These skills can really come in handy against the more difficult dungeon foes, and they can even be used to avoid damage from dungeon traps while exploring.

Once you touch an enemy, a turn-based battle begins. Based on speed/haste, allies and foes take turns battling. Each ally gets one action a turn and has two different sets of options to choose from – Actions and Abilities. The Actions are instant and typically generate overcharge, whereas the Abilities use up overcharge/mana. Overcharge is an incredibly unique twist and it definitely added a layer of strategy to battles. Each character has a max amount of mana, but they can also gain overcharge which is used in place of mana. So if you want to use an attack that uses 20 mana and have 30 overcharge, you won’t touch your actual mana reserves whatsoever. Unless you’ve selected skills that retain overcharge between battles, this amount goes away after each battle so there’s no reason not to use it when you can! The other side of this coin is that while the Actions are instant, the Abilities range from “Very Fast” to “Slow”, meaning the bigger, more epic attacks may take a while and allow enemies to attack first. Even the “Very Fast” attacks technically count as another turn, which can be beneficial when you have a buff that heals you every turn or negative when you have a debuff that hurts you every turn. Finally, there’s a Boost meter that’s shared by all available party members, and as the battle goes on it fills up. You can get this up to three tiers of boost, and each character has boost abilities that use between 1-3 tiers. These range from healing the entire party to doing massive damage, so it’s vital to have it as full as possible for a big boss fight!

After each battle you’ll gain experience (which is split evenly between all 3 characters currently in your party), gold and sweet, sweet loot. Most of this loot is used for crafting and selling, but sometimes you’ll just get a straight-up piece of gear. While there isn’t a huge loot pool, crafting and loot become more interesting through the use of rarities – most pieces of gear can be either standard, heroic or legendary, and each level of rarity adds to the attack/defense/etc of it. While crafting, each item has a minimal requirement, but if you add more of those items you can raise your odds of successfully crafting an item from 100-300%, with each 100% adding a level of rarity. You can also try to make something with as few as a 1-2% chance of success but, as you’d expect, if it fails you’ll lose your crafting materials.

The meat of the game takes place inside one of the game’s eight dungeons. Each dungeon is randomly generated to some extent, but the overall goals, potential enemies and boss are the same. As you explore you’ll come across loot, light puzzles, lore (text) and enemies. At the beginning of each dungeon you can choose your difficulty – Normal or Heroic – and once you’ve completed the dungeon the first time you can re-run it on Legendary difficulty. Legendary difficulty not only has higher level enemies, it also resets if you get wiped out (Normal or Heroic  merely return you to the Inn and Tavern, fully healed with some gold missing, and you can easily return to the boss fight any time). After the boss is completed you’ll get a random loot box based on the difficulty, but the real reward is the experience – the higher difficulty enemies are vital as experience drops off rather quickly once you’re a level or two above the enemies.

As with any good RPG, Battle Chasers offers up side quests. While you’re exploring the overworld you’ll come across several places that just can’t be finished at the time, and returning later can grant some great rewards. These are often hinted at through varying hunts that have you tracking down some special, difficult side boss for unique, specific rewards. These also often have specific requirements to “summon” them, like lighting lots of torches with single-use, rare flint or exploring for hidden triggers at a cemetery. The more I played, the harder these hunts became, and I even got entirely stomped on by one or two of the bosses which is VERY reminiscent of the hidden bosses in older RPGs.

Unfortunately, these side-quests really don’t grant a great deal of experience, so the vast majority of the game so far has been exploring, doing what I can, beating a dungeon, returning to town to rest and sell extra loot, returning to the same dungeon and beating it on legendary difficulty, returning to town to sell stuff, and then repeating in the next area. This got old pretty quick, especially when I was expecting lots of side quests and unique things to do, and has me worried for the remaining 3 dungeons since each dungeon has required more and more grinding before successfully beating it. Will I have to run the same dungeon on Legendary 2-3 times in a row for the last couple dungeons? Older dungeons also don’t get any tougher with your levels, so if you’ve already beaten the second dungeon there’s no reason to go back to the first aside from completing your bestiary.

The bestiary was a nice touch. When you first encounter an enemy their HP and upcoming attacks are unknown, marked by question marks. However, as you defeat the same enemy repeatedly you’ll get to see these specifics, so you’ll know if your attack that does 80 damage will finish them off before they do their crazy charged attack or not. Killing even more of the same enemy (or any enemies of a particular type or a particular area) grant bonuses to your entire party, like those shown above. This at least gives you some reason to go back to old areas if you haven’t completed one of these challenges, and it guarantees a slight boost to different stats for your entire party as you continue throughout the game.

Speaking of the characters, you quickly get a party of three and then discover other party members who you can swap out until you’ve gathered all six. You’ll only gain experience for the three currently in your party, however, so if you really want all six characters to be equally powerful you’ll need to grind twice as long. While I tried swapping characters out a bit, I ended up sticking to the original 3 since grinding was getting dull as it was. You’re also only allowed to change characters at very limited times – while entering a dungeon and while at the Inn and Tavern for example – and you can’t check the skills or equipment of characters not in your party, so I often sold items that would have been beneficial to them, but by that point my main 3 characters were a good 4 or 5 levels ahead of the rest anyway. Each of the characters is interesting, and as someone who never read the original comics it was interesting learning about them. I really liked that the main character is a girl named Gully who’s a little badass and isn’t the one who heals the party (oddly enough, the giant war mech Calibretto is!). I was loving all of the characters until the fifth: a woman named Red Monika. Normally she’d probably have been my favorite – she’s a rogue fugitive who’s quick with a gun and constantly on the lookout for fame and fortune. However, her character is also barely covered with clothing, to such an extent that I’d be embarrassed if anyone caught her on the screen. As such, I purposely never put her in my party and never got to hear her wit in the heat of battle, which is a real shame. Surely this isn’t the developer’s fault as the characters were already designed, but I still wish I could’ve thrown a robe on her or something!

However, while the game was fun overall, the worst part of all was just how often it crashed. The first time it happened I had just finished a dungeon and was paranoid the autosave hadn’t kicked in, so I would have to redo at least the brutal boss fight. I was so relieved when I found out that wasn’t the case – getting back into the game put me back on the main menu with all of my hard fought loot. This was far from the only crash though – crashes were so frequent that every time I returned to the overworld map from dungeons and small areas I was paranoid it would happen again. I never lost progress, thank goodness, but crashes had other terrible effects – every time the game starts you’re forced to watch a good 10-30 seconds of the intro movie before it can be skipped, and then the first several battles take a while to load (sometimes upwards of 10-20 seconds each!). The longer you play, the less time the battles take to load until they’re instant, but if you have to restart the game every two or three hours those load times can get rather brutal. [Reviewer note: I quickly tested the game out after a month of updates since this review was written and noticed the battle load times have been entirely removed, which is AWESOME! I haven’t been able to test for crashes, but the intro movie still takes just as long to skip.]

Overall I did have a good time with Battle Chasers. I still plan on playing and finishing it, and even now I’m itching to grind enough to beat another hunt. The game utilizes strategy far more than I’d have expected: one boss annihilated me my first try, then I went in again (without any leveling up) and destroyed him with a better strategy. It’s also amazing that this was a Kickstarter game, and it’s easily the best Kickstarter title I’ve ever played as far as I’m aware of. As soon as the glitches are fixed, this will definitely be a game to check out, especially if you’re itching for the good old days of RPGs.

 

Disclaimer: A review key was provided by the publisher