When I booted up Battle Chasers: Nightwar and was greeted with a beautiful hand drawn cinematic, a smile appeared on my face. As I made it to the main menu three things immediately
stood out to me: 1) this game is gorgeous, 2) I love the character designs and 3) this music is amazing. Starting the game met me with another stunning cutscene, taking the pages of a comic to life right before my eyes. But while Battle Chasers‘s characters and settings feel inspired and look gorgeous, it falls short in many gameplay aspects.
BC: Nightwar introduces us to a young girl named Gully, whose pair of magical bracers
gives her the ability to punch and fight huge monsters. According to the opening cutscene, Gully and her party are searching for her father, a friend to this group of adventurers. As she calls out for her squad, it feels as though we’re expected to already know the names she’s mentioning. Battle Chasers was a short-lived but popular comic book by Joe Madureira in the late 90s, but it hasn’t made an appearance since 2001, so new fans to the series may not be familiar with the canon. The game starts with a lot of these kinds of references, and though I had question I didn’t let that deter me from continuing the game. I enjoyed what I saw and liked the character designs, but as I pushed on through hours and hours of gameplay my smile slowly began to disappear.
Battle Chasers is designed like a home brew D&D campaign and a JRPG in battle mechanics, and a sort of bootleg Diablo in the dungeons. The characters all come across as super interesting and unique in their abilities that mix up what we typically know of classes. The big armored mech
, Libretto, is actually the healer of the party, and the main striker at the beginning is the small girl, Gully.
When exploring the overworld there are set paths to go down, lines laid out on a map for you to follow. Sometimes these lines branch off to a rock where you can collect materials for crafting armor, rings, weapons, etc., or to rundown shacks or cities that might have a book in it for your characters to read and catch up on the lore. The game’s world is structured in such a way that it feels deliberately strict from a design perspective with no room for any exploration. Like, going to a town will trigger a story event and a character will tell you that you can go do X side quest or talk to X person, and that’s it. Both outcomes will end right when the conversation ends, or you’ll fight some monster in the sewers. It’s all very restrictive and constantly pushing towards the main story. Above all, I feel like the map design is tremendously suffocating. Overworld battles pop up when the characters touch specific spots along the game map’s road.
Combat in Battle Chasers feels…. cumbersome, lacking any moment it where it pushes something exciting, fresh or even fun. I got through most of the beginning encounters by hitting the basic attack button, resulting in nice but slow animations. The concepts are smart, but not fleshed out. The special attacks COULD be something unique and fun to use in a battle but they have less presence over a normal attack. A normal attack might hit 45 points and up, while a special attack might hit 23 points and do bleeding damage, resulting in a balance that tips in the favor of just grinding through fights. Plus, the battles are so long and laborious that I want them to be over as quick as possible. Mashing A became my strategy through most of the game.
The main meat of Battle Chasers is in its dungeons. There are 8 in total, with each a long and grueling trek. Every room is randomly generated and each dungeon has a different set of baddies in it. Like most RPG’s before it, the encounters are based on a certain set of elements or debilitating effects — there’s a poison dungeon, ice dungeon, electricity, etc. Unlike past RPGs, Battle Chasers increases its difficulty almost at random. Going from dungeon 3 to dungeon 4 is a huge
shift in hardship. Where enemies used to deal 100 HP with every punch, now they deal 200-250. The random increases wouldn’t be a huge problem if the game actually gave you a legitimate way to grind and level up. No matter what level you are every enemy will always give you the same amount of XP, which ends up being divided by three and given to the members of your party. On top of that, dungeons don’t seem to replenish enemies and the overworld only spits out trash mobs.
Dungeon navigation lets us free roam with our characters, much like Diablo. We clear a room and continue on to the next until we reach the end. Each character in the party has a special ability they can use in the dungeon or overworld, allowing us to pass certain puzzles or obstacles. Gully, for example, can punch the ground and injure bad guys before they come at us, and Liberetto can heal the party if we’re injured. We have a limited amount of uses every time
we enter a dungeon, so if we run out we have to leave and go all the way back to an inn to get our uses recharged. Battle Chasers is tough, slow and sticks by its difficulty to a fault.
Shopping in the game requires gold, obviously, but at the same time, gold is super hard to come by. I found myself many times wanting a healing potion but
I had no gold to buy one, and had to trek all the way back to a city just to sleep at an inn. A lot of the time spent with the game ends up being filler and cushioned by these menial systems. Furthermore, there are balances issues with the equipment and a lackluster story that feels dated.
Battle Chasers starts out promising but ends up tripping over itself. So much of the game had me saying, “Man this would be good if _____” or “why is this so bad,” leaving me often rolling my eyes.
It’s such a missed opportunity because the art is so rich and the designs are so great. There are some amazing characters trapped in this game, and relying on a nearly 20-year old comic leaves them devoid of being explored within the software itself. I’d love to sink a hundred hours or so with my whole party, but the game is tied to its past so much that it’s preventing me from ever coming close.
A Steam code for Battle Chasers: Nightwar was provided to SideQuesting by the publisher.