Battle Chasers: Nightwar Preview - E3 2017
We get some hands-on time with the upcoming RPG
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is an indie game from Airship Syndicate, and was initially funded via Kickstarter. This new studio includes several former Darksiders developers, and comic book artist Joe Madureira. It blends elements of procedurally generated dungeon crawling, with a classic JRPG battle system, all presented with some gorgeous, hand drawn visuals. The game was running on a couple of Xbox One consoles over at Microsoft’s booth, and I ended up stumbling upon it while having a walk around at E3 2017. Immediately intrigued (I’m a sucker for JRPGs), I couldn’t help myself from checking out a little of its dungeon crawling and a boss battle.
There is a distinct western flavour to the visuals and overall mythos in Battle Chasers: Nightwar. It verges on medieval/steam-punk, with its strange golem that is one of your playable characters, as well as some of the tech in the world (crystals, portals, etc).
I took control of three characters for the dungeon crawling mode: a golem, a quick rouge-like fighter, and a mage. I delved into the depths of a crumbling mine, taking the elevator into the dark. Your save points function as stations where you can craft various items such as weapons, armor, and items. However, seen as though I vaguely knew the gameplay basics, I didn’t bother navigating the long lists to see what may buff my characters a tiny increment. But it’s clear that what you collect from chests and loot drops will be useful in crafting yourself better items.
Visually, a mine is pretty much what you would expect: rock walls, lots of dark cubbies and paths, but there is no denying that it looks extremely well put together. Where the art shines, however, is in combat. Turn-based combat could be considered rather old-school now, but I still have a soft spot for it. What Battle Chasers: Nightwar does well is inject it with the old and the new. There is a layer of technicality deeper than what many may be used to. Each character’s moves and abilities can interact with each other, whether it’s setting someone up to heal on attack, or a status ailment/state that can be exploited by different characters. Battles take a bit of planning and forethought to get used to. If you just head in and attack then you’ll come off worse, so you need to a plan for the different enemies you encounter, whether it’s a werewolf or slime.
Character animations and models look fantastic. Every attack, magic ability—whether friend or foe—is fluid and a joy to watch. When the golem rushes forward and whacks an enemy with his fist, or the mage lets loose a spell attack, there is a real weight to each strike. Each character has their special move/limit break, and when it lands, it goes with a real crunch.
The abundance of choice was quite overwhelming at first. I’d like to think I’m no novice, but being presented with a long list of abilities right off the bat led to a steep learning curve and several near death experiences. Battle Chases: Nightwar certainly doesn’t pull any punches and, in the demo, I was expected to learn swiftly or perish. This tactical approach is rewarding when you discover a killer combination of abilities—putting an enemy in an “ignite” state with one character’s move, then having the mage detonate them, spraying damage everywhere.
The demo was also peppered with lore in the form of journals, which you could find scattered about on the ground. I honestly never bother with reading it, regardless of the game, but if you like thumbing through digital pages to enhance your knowledge of the world, then it’s there waiting for you.
Unfortunately, not being familiar with the game (which I think may be comic book in origin), I had no idea why I was in the mine or what I was supposed to be doing. It did not hinder my enjoyment, however, and it would have been easy to lose myself in the battles and hunt for chests for quite some time.
Taking a break from dungeon crawling, I decided to tackle the boss mode. Here, I had the golem, a warrior, and the rogue from before, taking on a large werewolf and its soldiers. If I had thought the minions in the mine were difficult, this furry critter was on another level. The fight itself was an archetypal boss battle in which you have one of two choices: focus on the boss solely and ignore its minions, or take out the minions (which respawn after a certain number of turns), then launch a quick barrage of powerful moves. Obviously, I went for the second option, not knowing the thralls would respawn. That little surprise, as well as trying to figure out the right combination for tackling the monster, made the fight extremely difficult. The challenge, however, was welcomed and refreshing. It’s great to see the emphasis on planning and execution, and not being afraid to force you to think smarter and try harder to accomplish victory.
From a game I knew nothing about a couple of weeks ago, to one I am eagerly looking forward to now, Battle Chasers: Nightwar has me sold. I want to dig a little deeper into its overall story and follow where its adventure will take me. Luckily, it’s not too far away; it releases October 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, and is also coming to Nintendo Switch at some point.