by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
Developed by Airship Syndicate following a successful Kickstarter, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a an extended homage to the role-playing games of the past, where turn-based combat unfolds across a vibrant fantasy world. Though it modernizes many of the systems found in old-school titles, Nightwar holds onto the tried and true trappings of the genre to varying degrees of success, creating an experience that is as compelling as it is frustrating.
Based on a comic series from the late 90’s, Nightwar follows a small group of adventurers after their airship crashes on a mysterious island that is currently beset by an evil necromancer who is plotting to raise an undead army. This is an uninspiring story, following familiar plot beats and offering little in the way of surprises. Fortunately, the cast of characters that comprises your core party are slightly more compelling, even though they fit nicely into tried and true archetypes. For example, Garrison is a hardened, depressed warrior who is mourning the death of his wife but is skilled with a sword, while Gully is a young girl who has acquired a magical set of gauntlets that previously belonged to her father. Simple as their descriptions are, the brief moments of characterization they have in the side stories and main plotline were enough to keep me interested.
The Art Of War
Though the story is uninspiring, the combat system is where the game truly shines. In lieu of using an active time bar or similar method in battle, Nightwar features a set turn order where characters and enemies will act in a certain order. A normal attack will be used instantly, but will be comparatively weak as a result, while abilities and spells use mana and require casting time before they are triggered. It reminds me of the battle system from Final Fantasy X, which is one of my favorite battle systems in RPG’s, and I greatly enjoyed playing with the timing of my abilities so that I could maximise my damage output.
But rather than stick with normal attacks and special abilities in combat, Nightwar has a few additions that make it much more interesting to experiment with. Every time a hero uses a normal attack, they gain overcharge, which acts as disposable mana that will only last for the duration of a battle. The longer a battle, the more resources you have to use, which in turn encouraged me to use abilities more frequently as opposed to saving them all for a particularly tough enemy or boss. In addition, each character has unique skills that can apply different status effects to enemies while also having other skills that increase the amount of bonus damage dealt depending on the debuffs an enemy is currently suffering from. The result is a combat system that is continually engaging to play, and one where I was always looking for new ways to increase my party’s synergy by mixing and matching different abilities.
Quickly Into The Fray
Nightwar introduces all of these different aspects easily and through very little handholding, allowing the opening of the game to unfold at a brisk pace that sets the bar high for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately, the game begins to struggle shortly before the game’s third of eight dungeons, when basic enemies begin to deal dramatically higher damage than they were capable of an hour ago. The change comes suddenly, forcing you to grind out levels with your party to survive the onslaught of damage. The difficulty only increases from there on out, and while the challenge is appreciated, the fact that you have to grind against the same areas with little in the way of reward beyond experience becomes tiresome quickly.
This grind also extends to the gathering of new equipment, which rarely drops from enemies and are rarely found what few treasure chests there are, meaning that you have to grind for equipment by running through the same dungeons again and again in order to get a suitable upgrade. Though you can replay older dungeons and increase their difficulty, the reward does not scale to your current level, giving little incentive to replaying through old content.
Less tiresome are the visuals of Nightwar itself, which do a great job at making the game look and feel like the comic book it is inspired by. The backgrounds look rather flat at first glance, but that is only so that it better juxtaposes both the characters and enemies, who pop out and look fantastic in motion. The environments themselves are also cleverly designed, with each of the regions and dungeons looking unique and containing easily identifiable objects no matter what stage of the game you find yourself in.
As pretty as Nightwar is, the need to continually grind within the game creates an experience that is difficult to force yourself through. This is in spite of the truly engaging battle system, which offers layers of strategic combat that make it stand out from similar turn-based RPG’s. There’s a great world to explore in this game; if only it didn’t take so much grinding to properly enjoy it.
Great style, excellent combat system
Far too much grinding, weak story