Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 02.10.2017 4

Review for Battle Chasers: Nightwar on PlayStation 4

Anyone who has been a fan of Joe Madureira's works, whether it is his comics or his video game projects, he has always worn his influences on his sleeve. Both Darksiders titles were very much inspired by the likes of Ocarina of Time, Soul Reaver and Devil May Cry, which were all tied together by Madureira's very distinct style. Darksiders 1 and 2 were decently popular games and filled the void that people craved left from the aforementioned titles. His stint into video game development meant that his beloved comic book series, Battle Chasers, was effectively put on an indefinite hiatus. Over 15 years later, Madureira has returned to the comic that started his career, but in the form of a turn-based RPG adventure: Battle Chasers: Nightwar.

Joe Madureira has finally found his true calling. The first two Darksiders were functional, but also derivative. The only quality about them that saved them from being completely forgettable was Madureira's art, which has been ripped off by Blizzard's World of Warcraft. Battle Chasers: Nightwar, on the other hand, has finally proven the comic artist has truly evolved into a very capable and clever RPG designer. The team at Airship Syndicate managed to craft a pretty epic RPG with limited crowdfunding at just over $850,000, and while the limitations are sometimes felt, such as how portraits are completely static with no changes in expression, Nightwar always manages to remain engaging.

After an airship battle, the heroes get separated and stranded on a place known as "The Lost Continent," an island full of roaming brigands, monsters and fishing holes. Gully, one of the main heroes, was already on a quest to find her lost father prior to the opening airship battle. She wears comically large gauntlets that grant the wearer great power and in battle, and this spunky girl serves a tank role who specializes in defensive buffs. Garrison, who is in no way inspired by Berserk's Guts, is the mercenary who has sworn to defend Gully. He is one of the more well-written and developed characters in the story and gives the narrative an emotional weight. In battle, Garrison is as brutal as he is fragile: a hard hitter who can't take too many hits. Callibretto's role is similar to that of a paladin's. He can be best described as a large mech who is in touch with nature and speaks softly with the candour of Francis Assisi.

Screenshot for Battle Chasers: Nightwar on PlayStation 4

For the first seven to eight hours, these three characters is how Nightwar will teach the nuances of the battle system. Eventually, Knolan the elderly mage re-joins the team, and his elemental area of effect spells make him handy against multiple enemies. Red Monika (who is in no way a rip-off of Red Sonja) is the swift thief class character who can debuff enemies. Alumon, the last joinable character, is a demon hunter and is an all-new character created for Nightwar.

For many, turn-based battles are key for an enjoyable role-playing experience, since they have the capacity to offer an unparalleled degree of control and strategy. Nightwar has strategy in spades. Each character and enemy is very carefully considered and balanced so that every move has purpose. Most turn-based RPGs will usually end up with people mashing through the basic "attack" command through a majority of battles. This won't be the case in Battle Chasers. Each of the six characters will learn a multitude of MP-using special attacks and basic "free action" attacks.

The way in which Nightwar handles MP is interesting, since there is an emphasis on survival while exploring the Lost Continent. All basic free action attacks will gain some "overcharge," which is MP that is not saved after the battle ends. Being able to leverage this free MP is key to survival in really long dungeons and traversal on the world map. Naturally, people are going to want to save their actual MP for emergencies (of which there will be many) and rely more so on the overcharged MP. This makes regular battles interesting, since enemies can be balanced to be a bit more powerful than average mooks seen in other RPGs, and allows for strategies where much more powerful and costly abilities can be more frequently used.

Another key strategic element to Nightwar's combat is the queue, which has been seen before to great effect in Final Fantasy X. The battles in this game provide so many moments where careful consideration must be taken into account, as so many actions can have effects on future actions - for better and for worse.

Screenshot for Battle Chasers: Nightwar on PlayStation 4

The Lost Continent's geography somewhat resembles a board game with its many nodes and how players will frequently loop back to Harm's Way, the game's sole town. The way in which the overworld is depicted in Nightwar is one of the less impressive aspects of the game, though. It is also slightly frustrating how party leaders can't be switched while on the map, nor can character abilities be used at all. Calibretto, for instance, has a very useful healing move that comes at a cost of a charge, but cannot be used at all on the map. In dungeons, this useful healing ability can be used, but for some reason, the developers do not allow characters to use their out-of-battle moves when traversing the overworld.

The dungeons themselves come in two varieties: developer designed and randomly generated. Airship Syndicate made a wise choice to find a healthy balance to best utilize the strengths of both varieties so that things manage to stay fresh and interesting, but also have well-thought out layouts for key moments that make for a more memorable experience. One feature worth mentioning is how each dungeon has its own difficulty mode that makes for excellent replay value and the opportunity to reap some amazing drops.

Nightwar is a pretty lengthy game, but it would be quite shorter if it weren't for some egregious load times. Going between areas is especially bad, with waiting times hitting about 30-40 seconds long. The absolute worst is the initial boot-up, which is over a minute long. Even some battle initiations are not without load times and they can be very inconsistent, with some being quick, whilst others are so long, they will have their own loading bar. Performance is smooth for the most part, but there will be times when the frame rate will buckle hard - usually during the start of a battle with multiple foes.

Screenshot for Battle Chasers: Nightwar on PlayStation 4

Another annoyance that can come up is that party members can only be swapped out in the town of Harm's Way, which can be extremely limiting and also means having to make a long and tedious trek. The reason why this is a problem is because each character fulfils a very specific role in battle, and too often the party will end up in a dire situation where the team needs to be reconsidered if there will be any hope to survive. Nightwar is also a pretty buggy game, and it isn't too uncommon for the characters to completely lose the ability to interact with everything. It isn't anything a restart can't fix, but that also means enduring the brutally long boot-up again. Thankfully, Airship Syndicate will have some fixes ready for a day-one patch, though the lengthy loading will still be a problem.

Aesthetically, Nightwar is pure Joe Madureira - for better and for worse. Madureira is a phenomena artist; the man can draw like no one's business, but he is also capable of some baffling design choices. Gully is supposed to be nine-year-old girl, but she's drawn like she is a teenager, and the gauntlets she wears are overdesigned in a way that look absurdly too big for her. When a little girl has fingers that have roughly the same thickness as her neck, maybe it's time to reconsider the design... Absurd and larger than life designs work okay for some characters, such as the mechanical Callibretto, because he is a large and heavy robot, but for a character who should resemble a child, it is best to attempt to make them look child-like and not like a large-handed monstrosity.

Some of the overdesigned aesthetics are not limited to just Gully; it happens in the world, too, which can make some areas a visual and confusing mess. Some animated scenes are hardly animated, coming off as an incomplete motion comic and aren't even fully coloured. They are fully voiced, but if Airship Syndicate is going to go through the effort of making motion comic-style cutscenes, it would have been better if the scenes were fully coloured and had speech bubbles without voice acting. This would have lent itself more naturally for Nightwar, since it is a continuation of a comic book and voices could still be left to the imagination of the long-time fans. Joe Madureira's designs are great for the most part; he just sometimes goes overboard.

Screenshot for Battle Chasers: Nightwar on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Battle Chasers: Nightwar is very much like the PlayStation JRPGs that it is influenced by. There are elements from Final Fantasy, Suikoden, and even some Diablo. It is a shining example of why people love turn-based RPGs, thanks to the emphasis on character building, management and strategy. The presentation ties everything together with a strong sense of adventure and atmosphere without any hint of cynicism or pretension. This is a game that keeps on giving due to a slew of content that invites people to keep on playing way past the 40-hour mark, and because of the carefully constructed and balanced battle system, it is always exciting to travel this long and tense road. It may have a few rough and inconsistent spots here and there, yet Nightwar remains amazing in spite of its flaws and comes highly recommended to any fan of RPGs.

Developer

Airship Syndicate

Publisher

THQ Nordic

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Like the look of this. One to pick up on sale sometime.

i wonder if the switch version will have shorter load times...

this is definitely the kind of game to take around with you, given its scope and high replayability.

How long do battles take?  I was excited for this, bu watching a battle it looks very SLOW.

depends on the situation.

 

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