Based upon a widely popular visual novel series from the late ‘90s, Battle Chasers: Nightwar doesn’t follow the already established timeline and instead acts as a self-contained side story. This is important, as the game’s introduction does a wonderful job at introducing the main protagonists and setting the narrative without ever having to read a single page written by comic book legend Joe Madureira. Airship Syndicate, formed by core members of the now defunct Vigil Games (the minds behind the Darksiders series) turned to Kickstarter to fund development, although the game was picked up by the publishing arm THQ Nordic.
The visual style used in Battle Chasers: Nightwar closely resembles a graphic novel, giving off an almost painterly quality, highlighting the detailed environments and giving life to the charismatic and charming characters. The game utilizes classic turn-based role-playing game (RPG) mechanics, featuring one of the most in-depth battle systems that I have seen in years. There is a dedicated turn order that is always shown on screen, letting you plan out the ensuing battle ahead of time. Strategy is the key to victory, especially once you reach the game’s first dungeon, and beyond as the game’s difficulty can be unforgiven. While there aren't any difficulty options for the overall game, you can opt to increase the challenge inside of dungeons for the chance at better rewards.
Every action Battle Chasers: Nightwar takes a set amount of time to complete. Basic attacks are triggered instantly, but using special abilities that burn mana can push your character a few spots down in the encounters turn order. This prevents players from trying to use the most powerful attacks in every engagement, as you may leave yourself vulnerable to enemy attacks, not to mention your burn through your mana faster than you get it recharges. Nothing comes as a surprise as you can see what skills have what effect. Ensuring an ability that can trigger before a boss unleashes its ultimate attack can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
One key component of the battle system that instantly won me over is how all of the protagonist's abilities complement one another. The massive metal robot Calibretto may look tough, but he has a more supporting role, with his healing skills and ability to apply status effects to enemies. His basic attack, while weak, can open up enemies by sundering there defenses. While under this effect, if Garrison triggers his Rupture ability, not only does it deal damage, but it adds a bleed effect over the next five turns. The combat system is full of these complements that transform abilities based on using the unique skills that each member of your party brings. I just wish that I could expand my party past three characters, as I found that strengths in every person that joins your quest.
Although mana is your primary source of energy, you'll gain temporary mana when performing standard attacks, allowing you to use from that pool of mana without having to see your actual mana dwindle during battles. As battles, especially against boss characters, can drag on for quite some time, you’ll generate plenty of this disposable resource. This ensures you are still able to trigger some of your more powerful abilities, and some skills provide additional damage output based on how much overcharge you have at any given moment.
The difficulty spikes as you progress through the narrative quests that take you through various dungeons. I frequently hit a wall, requiring me to play through previous dungeons multiple times at a higher difficulty to not only level up my selected party members but to improve your gear. There are side missions that can be completed, each one providing a boost in experience. After completing a dungeon, you are rewarding with a treasure chest that may contain only a couple of different pieces of equipment. Because of this, and the fact the newly acquired gear isn’t guaranteed to be better than what you are currently using, you’ll be playing through the dungeons multiple times. There are crafting options and upgrade options that use materials gained from battles. While the initial material requirements may be small, if you add more than what is required you’ll have a higher chance at crafting a more powerful version of the item or consumable.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is an insanely good title with classic role-playing game mechanics. The art design and animation are quite unmatched, and it's a pleasure to experience newly discovered areas for that alone. The battle system is more in-depth than most RPGs released today, but it is a shame the sheer amount of grinding you have to do to keep pace with the narrative. I also experience more than a handful crashes and bugs that forced me to quit the game. One, in particular, failed to load the boss for a side mission, not letting me progress any further down the quest chain.
Note: Battle Chasers: Nightwar was reviewed based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.