Review: Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Introduction

Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a turn-based RPG developed by Airship Syndicate and published by THQ Nordic. It was originally released in October 2017 for the PC, Mac, PS4 and XBox One and made its way to the Nintendo Switch and Linux in May 2018. Me, being late to everything, grabbed this for my Nintendo Switch and played through the story and most of the other content before writing this review.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar kicks off with a nifty cut scene where you and your party get attacked by air pirates in some zeppelin v. zeppelin action. Your party consists of Gully, who possesses her father’s gauntlets that grant immense power, Knolan, the mighty wizard, Calibretto, the war golem, Garrision the swordsman and Red Monika the rogue.

battle-chasers-nightwar-story-panel
Battle Chasers features a great art style overall, especially during cut scenes like the above.

First impression was a bit tilted to be honest. When I took control of Gully at the very start of the game, I experienced lag doing basic movements, the sound stuttered at times and she even disappeared at one point. I’d like to say these issues went away completely, but they did persist throughout the game to some degree which I go into detail more as the review continues.

Combat

At the start, things are straightforward for a turn based RPG. You have your standard physical attacks, magic attacks and abilities along with the usual health and mana bars. Additionally, a feature that separates Battle Chasers from the norm, is overcharging. While your characters land their basic attacks, they gain overcharge. This overcharge can be used in place of mana during the course of your battles.

For example, if your character has 100 mana and 20 overcharge and you use an ability that cost 25 mana, your character now has 95 mana and the ability to gain that overcharge back through more basic attacks. Longer battles or dungeons sort of turn into this dance between when to use overcharge and when not to and gets rather strategic at times.

battle-chasers-nightwar-burst-attacks
You can see the full orange burst bar on the bottom left of the screen. When this is full, you can unleash a burst attacks on your enemies, or give your party a heal/buff.

As you level, more features unlock in a steady stream, giving you enough time to familiarize yourself with one mechanic before being introduced to the next. First, you’ll learn new abilities to use in battle at a rate of one new ability every two levels. Next, you’ll gain access to perks which are passive abilities that you are able change whenever you choose. Lastly, you’ll grab Burst attacks, which become usable via a ‘burst bar’ as your party takes damage in battle.

I enjoyed the way the aforementioned features unfolded in Battle Chasers. Some games throw a LOT at you at once such as Xenoblade Chronicles 2, to the point to where you don’t have time to understand and utilize one thing before another is thrown right at you. You won’t have that issue here.

Dungeons

Throughout the game, you’ll encounter eight different dungeons which end up being the bulk of the content. Dungeons are set up in a sort of grid format. Each screen is largely just one cube with pathways to different sections of the dungeons (more cubes). Don’t let that fool you though, each of these cubes is packed full of content ranging from mini-games, fishing holes, lore texts, item chests, mini-quests, puzzles and more.

The eight dungeons in Battle Chasers have three different difficulty levels with increasingly great rewards depending on which you choose. The first two difficulties give you the option to leave (or die) and continue where you left off, while the greatest difficulty requires you to fully commit and not die in the process.

battle-chasers-nightwar-dungeon-map
Example of what the first dungeon, The Iron Outpost, looks like in game. Each cube has lots of content packed in for the player to discover.

When I saw the three difficulties, I wrongly assumed that this added to replayability. For example, Normal would be best done at level 5, Heroic at 15 and Legendary at 25. I went back around level 10 to check out the first dungeon, The Iron Outpost. No matter what difficulty I chose, it listed the option as very easy. I jumped into legendary and was one shotting a lot of the enemies because their levels hadn’t changed. These challenges are really meant to be done as you encounter them rather than replaying them later. The rewards were fantastic, but the difficulty won’t be there unless you jump in at the appropriate levels.

The variety of setting, tone and challenge made dungeons the most enjoyable part of the game for me.

Party Member Experience

I usually have an issue with games regarding how characters that aren’t in your active party gain experience. Some games will give those characters some experience just for being there, other games won’t do anything. The problem I have with this approach, is that it feels like play time is being artificially increased by not leveling non-active party members at the same time. Are you stuck with your current party and want to try this other character you haven’t used in ten levels? Get ready to grind that character up for however much time it takes just to get them to a near-median level with your other party members.

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A glimpse into the menu system with the first perks unlocked for Garrison.

Battle Chasers does something a bit different. They don’t level characters that aren’t in your party, but when you do send them to your party, they gain an increased percentage of experience points from every battle with the intention of having them catch up sooner and bringing grinding to a manageable level. However, there’s still grinding in these cases and it largely doesn’t feel fun to switch back to characters you had replaced earlier in the game.

Difficulty

Overall, I feel that Battle Chasers has a fair difficulty. What’s confusing, is that there are time where it feels like normal battles become ridiculous because of how heavy hitting some attacks are.

At the time of reaching the Deadwatch dungeon, my characters were level 16/17, each with over 1500 health. Towards the end of the dungeon, I hit a pack of three enemies, all of which have the ability to use a heavy hitting attack for over 900 damage, and much more than that if it crits. I lost all three of my characters in a two turn clip due to these attacks, one of them critting which one shot one member of my party. This wasn’t a hunt, or dungeon boss, or even a mini-boss, this was just a regular pack of enemies of equal level in a ‘normal’ difficulty dungeon. It just felt off.

This happened one other time with a boss that I won’t go into too much detail about. The fight in general felt more like trial and error, waiting for a particular attack to not crit, or waiting for a spell to be cast on a particular party member to survive. It wasn’t difficult, but if one thing went wrong, even out of your control, the party was wiped.

Other Points

World Map: Traversing the world map is actually fun and interesting. You have fixed pathways that you are able to travel, but similarly to dungeons, it’s chock full of content from extra explorable locations, item pickups, chest, monster battles and airships. As you progress, you also have the option to completely walk by lower level enemies which is much appreciated, especially as you want to explore and work on side quests.

battle-chasers-nightwar-world-map
The world map screen has fixed pathways, but was enjoyable overall to traverse.

Menu System: If there’s one thing I love in my RPGs, it’s a clean and direct menu system. Battle Chasers has a straightforward way of showing your party, inventory, bestiary, crafting options, fishing stats, journal entries and more. The common downside to this, is that switching from menu to menu has a noticeable amount of lag. I felt this was more apparent later in the game when more information was being stored on each page, but still something that I audibly sighed at as I tried traversing through the menu.

battle-chasers-nightwar-menu-screen
On the left side of the screen, you can see eight different options to look through in this menu system. Besides your party, you can look at your inventory, bestiary and others.

Bestiary and Beast Perks: Battle Chasers features an in depth bestiary noting every monster you’ll encounter in the game. You’ll be able to see monster drops, abilities and locations the more you defeat that particular monster. The best part of this are the beast perks. One example could be “Kill 100 Bandits” and the reward will be an extra 1% attack power across the board to all of your characters. There are dozens of bonuses like this for you to unlock through general progress in the game. It was always exciting to see that new beast perk message pop up on the screen, even if it seems like a minimal reward for the effort.

battle-chasers-nightwar-bestiary
One entry in the bestiary. You can see examples of best perks on the bottom right.

Arena: There’s also a fun arena type battle system in the game. You select one of the difficulties, then are met with 8-9 waves of enemies/bosses that you must complete within a 20 minute time frame. You’re awarded points for each victory, which corresponds to awards for various totals. I found out way too late in the game that this was the perfect place to level and round off some of your beast perks that you’re lacking on.

Unfortunately, and I know I keep coming back to this, the lag interferes. After you defeat a wave of monsters, the next wave has to join in. Almost every time I waited for a new wave of monsters, I had a 5-10 second wait before I was able to begin my attack; and the timer does not stop. It may not seem like a lot for a 20 minute fight, but multiply that by nine on the highest challenge and things can become more difficult for the wrong reason.

Loading Times/Crashes/Lag: I typically won’t touch on this aspect of games as it doesn’t usually bother me, but I felt it was worth noting for Battle Chasers. Load times are long, and often. What caught me by surprise, were load bars when entering typical battles. Almost every time you enter a fight, you’re met with a red loading bar. It’s strange, and not common for a game like this.

battle-chasers-nightwar-battle-lag
One of the loading bars you will see constantly if you decide to play Battle Chasers: Nightwar.

I crashed multiple times during my playthrough. They were always when I was in the middle of a dungeon which required a full reboot of the game. Because of the issues with loading, every crash meant I had to wait at least five minutes before I was able to get back into that dungeon; load time at game boot, load time once selecting my file to load, load screen getting back into the dungeon and then walking back to where I was at the time of the crash. It’s a downer and more than once, made me put down the game.

I also encountered on more than one occasion, getting stuck on terrain in dungeons. This required me to quit out and endure multiple load screens to get back into the dungeon as previously mentioned.

There’s much more that I didn’t touch on such as the crafting system, vendors, lhunts, egendary weapons and fishing which tells you how much content is packed into this RPG.

Final Thoughts

Battle Chasers: Nightwar has everything going for it as a turn-based RPG. The combat is gratifying, the graphics fit the world it is set in, the menu system is clean and there is enough unique content to warrant dozens of hours of investment. However, the overall speed of the game took its toll on me as I progressed. There’s lag when too many objects are on the screen, lag entering battles, lag changing menus, lag selecting attacks during battles at times. It all catches up to you the more you get into it and definitely took away some of my enjoyment from the experience. If you can look past issues with speed, and the occasional crash in the middle of a dungeon, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a fun, traditional turn-based RPG waiting for you to dive into.

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