Developer(s): Airship Syndicate
Publisher(s): THQ Nordic
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac, Linux
Reviewed on: Switch
Release date(s): May 15th, 2018 (Switch) / October 17th, 2017 (Everything else)
Video games and comic books are usually a match made in heaven, as plenty of classic and modern titles have been based around properties like Marvel and D.C. Battlechasers: Nightwar takes a slightly different approach to this, however. For those that don’t know, Battlechasers is a comic book series that began in the late 90s and ended in 2001 on a massive cliffhanger. Fans had been clamoring for more content for years until a Kickstarter was created to bring the franchise back in the form of a video game. Luckily, the franchise transitioned media platforms excellently and has emerged as one of the most interesting turn-based RPGs on the Switch.
One of the best parts of the story in Battlechasers: Nightwar is that there is no prior knowledge required. Gamers that haven’t even heard of the series will have no problems following along with the plot. The story starts with the five heroes separated due to an airship battle. Gully, Calibretto, and Garrison must then venture forth to find their other two partners to complete their team. The plot unfolds very nicely from there, with cutscenes and dialogue segments lasting only a minute or two.
Ripped Right from the Pages
Most of the world building comes from optional journal entries and reading scattered throughout the dungeons. Talking with NPC can also trigger some dialogue options that can reveal more information about the world. These can be completely skipped for the most part, but they’re definitely worth reading. Battlechasers: Nightwar benefits from already having a deep mythos to work from, and it shows throughout all of the little world-building details.
The visual look like they were ripped right out of the pages of the comic series. Environments, character models, and enemies all look incredible while playing in both docked and in handheld mode. Some of the environments tend to look a bit samey, however, this doesn’t become too much of an issue thanks to how detailed they are. Performance is a bit less consistent, however. The majority of the time the game runs well enough, however, some dungeons will drop the framerate on occasion. Loading times can also be a bit on the long side, but these are minor annoyances rather than huge issues.
RPGs can take a variety of different forms in terms of how the player progresses. Battlechasers takes a relatively safe approach by having players access towns and dungeons through a world map that has board game style movement restrictions. Enemies can be encountered here as well, however, they are visible at all times on the board. Not having random encounters is great for a game like this, especially later in the game when the fights become pretty tough.
Once in a dungeon, the player will be able to freely move around. Enemies can be fought, puzzles can be solved, and rare equipment can be found. The dungeons are easily the most enjoyable part of the game, and it’s clear that the development team put a lot of effort into them. Prior to entering each dungeon, the player can select from one of three difficulty levels, with the harder difficulties yielding greater rewards. Be warned though, even regular encounters can result in a party wipe on the harder difficulties.
Complex Combat and Effort in Battlechasers
The combat itself is slightly more complex than most turn-based RPGs. There are regular actions that use no mana, abilities that come with a mana cost, and burst attacks that come from building up enough burst meter. Each regular action will also build up overcharge that can be used in place of mana. This creates a unique scenario in which the player must balance the number of regular actions they do in order to avoid running out of mana, as it doesn’t refill at the end of each battle. It’s an addictive battle system and the game does an excellent job of introducing new mechanics as the player progresses.
Unfortunately, there are a few issues when it comes to the party system. Only three characters can be used at a time, meaning there will always be two that do not gain any experience whatsoever. This may work for other games, but in a game like Battlechasers in which the enemies are already over-leveled, to begin with, it becomes a problem. The player will undoubtedly have to stick with a team simply because it’s what they have been using, as it would take forever for them to keep every party member strong enough for battle. It encourages a ton of grinding rather than experimentation in terms of team comps.
Battlechasers: Nightwar is a fun RPG that benefits from the mythos that the original comics created. The characters are enjoyable, the world is teeming with personality, and the combat is both challenging and rewarding. There’s enough content here to keep most RPG fans happy, especially if they plan to complete the dungeons on the hardest difficulty level. Newcomers to the franchise will have no trouble getting into this one.