Battle Chasers: Nightwar is based off the cult classic, short lived comic book of the same name. Developer Airship Syndicate is formed from members of the now-defunct Vigil Studios, and Battle Chasers creator and artist Joe Madureira, who worked with Vigil studios on the Darksiders franchise. Now that i’ve gotten a chance to play Battle Chasers: Nightwar, I can firmly say that it’s one of the best crowdfunded titles I’ve ever played.
Nightwar begins with an airship battle where the party is attacked by bandits and ends up crashing on a mysterious island. With the party separated, you must regroup and find a way off the island. They quickly learn that the island is rich in mana resources and has been sought after for quite some time, but most who come to the island never return. The party soon discovers that a sinister plot is afoot to resurrect a demon and raise an army of dead warriors.
The story itself doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from other similar tales, but Nightwars’ cast of characters keeps it unique and interesting, and the amazing motion comics are also a visual joy to look at. Each of the six party members brings their own personality that plays off the others perfectly. Garrison is the strong warrior who’s overly protective of Gully, a young girl who’s able to wield powerful gauntlets that can destroy boulders. Calibretto is a powerful war golem, a last of his kind with a gentle heart. Knolan is a five hundred year old wise cracking wizard and Red Monika, a bounty hunter and childhood friend of Garrison. Alumon is a demon hunter who shares a lot of similarities to Gabriel Belmont from the Lords of Shadow Castlevania titles. Alumon is a new character created specifically for the game after being offered as a stretch goal to the kickstarter.
Each character is unique and plays completely different from each other. It’s not like other role playing games where you will find your favorite and stick with them throughout the game. Each character in Nighwar offers a unique gameplay style and some just fit encounters better than others.
Nightwar is a dungeon crawler in the vein of Diablo and Torchlight. The combat on the other hand is traditional turn-based. The exploration is in two parts. The first comes from the overmap which has a unique pop-up book style where you’ll encounter markers on the map where enemies are, towns and dungeons to enter, as well as harvesting points for crafting.
Nightwar does a great job of indicating what your destination is, and everything is fairly easy to find and explore, so I never really had any problem getting to where I needed. I just wish it was more open for me to explore how i wanted instead of following a path laid out for me like I was playing a board game. There are also plenty of teleportation devices that allow you to quickly fast travel around the overmap.
The overmap also features the only town in the game where you can buy new gear, rest at an inn, and buy potions. You can also craft new weapons and armor from the shops. You can also donate money to upgrade shops which will allow them to carry better equipment for you to buy and craft.
The other portion of exploration comes from dungeons. Dungeons are procedurally generated, so you won’t encounter the same dungeon layout as you did the first time on a revisit. You’ll definitely run into the same rooms, but they just won’t appear in the same order or if at all when you revisit it. Each dungeon is populated with collectable notes to discover that build on the world, some very good puzzles to solve, secret rooms to discover that require certain characters, and traps to halt your progress. It’s great to revisit a dungeon only to find a completely new room you never saw before that houses a cool secret. Secrets in dungeons are a thrill to find, and some take some brain power while others simply have you solving a simple puzzle.
You’ll also make some unique decision about some tiny side activities within dungeons. One for example will ask you create a potion that an alchemist died trying to create all the clues to brew this potion are given to you but you must figure out how to brew it yourself if you fail to brew it it can have a negative effect on you in the dungeon or even affect something that happens deeper in. In a way, it feels like playing Dungeons & Dragons where everything that happens is up to you.
Much like dungeon crawlers like Diablo and Torchlight, you’ll find loot–a lot of loot. Loot will allow you to craft new gear and potions or even upgrade the ones you have with trinkets. Gear comes in different rarity as well. Each time you enter a dungeon, you’ll be able to choose its difficulty, and the higher the difficulty the better loot you’ll get. If you die on the hardest difficulty of that dungeon, you’ll have to start the dungeon from the beginning. On a more positive note, if you leave a dungeon for any reason whatsoever, you can return to the dungeon and pick up right where you left off, allowing you to go restock on potions or even upgrade your equipment. It’s a great feature and saves you a lot of time.
Unfortunately the higher your character’s levels are, each of the dungeons will be set to their initial level and you can breeze right through them. This also becomes a problem because if you want to replay an older dungeon, there really isn’t an reason to, as the gear that drops will be set to that dungeon’s level. So despite its rarity, the gear you get will be useless.
Combat takes a unique turn in Nightwar. You would think that combat in a game like this would be like an action-RPG, but Airship Syndicate has opted for a traditional turn-based combat system. Enemies appear throughout the dungeons and the overmap but must be run into to engage in battle. If you’ve played old-school Japanese role playing games, Nightwar shouldn’t be much of a challenge for you to grasp. You can attack, defend, use your times, or use your abilities. What makes the combat stand out is the unique use of each ability and attack you can pull off. As you level up and unlock new abilities, you’ll quickly see how much your strategy changes in encounters.
You’re simple attack may do good damage but you may want to use a secondary attack that may be much weaker but increases your chance to land critical strikes for three turns. Abilities play off each other incredibly well. Instead of always focusing on doing the most powerful attacks you may want to change it up and hit an enemy with an ability that will cause them to bleed. Another ability will indicate that it will do 125 damage but will do an additional 200 damage if the enemy is bleeding. Every skill and ability is useful in the game as long as you utilize them to full effect.
The other major mechanic is the “Overcharge.” Overcharge builds up if you use abilities that don’t take up any ability points (AP) will build up Overcharge. Overcharge allows you to temporarily increase your AP past your maximum limit. This plays a massive role in Nightwar as it helps you use your abilities without wasting your ability points. Some skills will even use your Overcharge to cause extra damage depending on how much of it you have accumulated.
Bursts are the party’s super attacks. As you battle, you will build up your burst meter which is shared between the three party members. If you choose to use your burst abilities, you can unleash a power attack or launch a great supportive burst. Each character gets three bursts that you must unlock by completing character specific side-quests.
As you level up you’ll of course unlock new abilities but Nightwar also features a unique “Perk” mechanic. You gain Perk points by leveling up and reading item tomes that will grant perk points. Each character has two sections to spend on perk points, an offensive and a supportive one. You can equip perks up to the maximum the character can have. So if a character’s max perk limit is 20, you can only equip perks up to twenty points.
Each perk costs different points depending on what it does. You can grab a perk that will increase your critical chance by one percent which costs two perk points or you can grab a perk that increases the amount of hit points a healing spell will grant, which can cost up to eight points. Thankfully, you can equip and unequip these perks as you see fit whenever you want.
Joe Madureira’s instantly recognizable art style is mesmerizing in Nightwar. Each character is meticulously detailed, and Nightwars’ animations are just as good. Madureira’s distinct style accompanies the entirety of the game with great character portraits and just beautiful backgrounds and dungeons. Jesper Kyd also composes the game’s soundtrack, and just like he did in Darksiders, he created a unique take on the game with softer tunes, especially in combat, that work very well. It’s not my favorite of his soundtracks, but it’s still pretty good.