Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review

By Kevin Tavore, 2 months ago
If you'd prefer to see the game in action, check out our short and sweet video review below. You'll see the game's beautiful art style yourself and get a feel for the flow of combat to see if it's up your alley. After you watch, drop us a line in the comments and let us know what you think of the video! We're on a mission to provide video content you want to see.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar is the star of today’s review, but the series got its start over a decade ago in the Battle Chasers comic book series. Eventually ending on a cliffhanger, the series introduced us to a young girl named Gully and her companions as they embarked on adventures in a fantasy world. It hits all the right tropes but it was also unique in some ways; these characters were absurdly powerful compared to most of their foes, for one. Most of all, it had beautiful artwork that stands among some of the best in all comics. Those two strengths seem perfect to lend themselves to a game and that’s exactly what the developer behind Battle Chasers: Nightwar has tried to do.

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The story is approachable. On the face of it, it’s just your standard “mysterious land with a huge villain trying to take over the world” storyline, but where it lacks in originality in premise it makes up twofold in characterization. Players are quickly introduced to all five members of Gully’s team. Each has their own unique personality and they play off each other well, feeling like a real team that's been through the worst together. It’s not their interactions in the story that are important so much as their interactions in the downtime. Each time you rest, the characters will engage in short skits told entirely with dialogue. It’s here that you’ll really get to know these characters and they’ll quickly become endearing. These heroes have heart and that carries the story a long way.

Closely tied to the story is another of the game's strongest assets: its art style. Nightwar blasts each scene with color, creating a world that feels magical and exciting. From snowy peaks and mines to pirate-filled port towns, each location is vibrant and clearly designed with passion from the ground up. Cutscenes are a comic style using pen and ink. The frames move at a quick pace and they successfully impart a feeling of watching a comic. The character and enemy design is, of course, wonderfully drawn and animated giving the whole game a high quality feel.

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The game’s combat style is turn-based JRPG and it’s undoubtedly the star of the show. The tactical decision-making required in Nightwar is second to none — this is certainly the most tactical JRPG available on any Xbox console. You’ll have an attack order that you can plan around and will pick abilities to use each turn. Some cost mana, some generate temporary overcharge mana, and others are functionally super powers. The character’s abilities also feature a host of buffs and debuffs that can be applied to change the way combat works. At first, this is incredibly simple but the game quickly ramps up in difficulty and in strategy required to earn your desired outcome.

Heroes and enemies both have large health pools, which means glass cannon builds simply do not work. While you can slowly pound through normal enemies using basic attacks, there are many trickier enemies where strategy will be required. You’ll need to set up your party with ample healing, tanking and damage capabilities to handle what’s coming. There are many combinations that can work, but finding what’s right for you is great fun and it’s rewarding when you put together a party that can handle everything that’s coming.

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The depth in combat comes from carefully using buffs and debuffs and managing your overcharge. You can debuff enemies with poison, fire and bleed to deal increasing damage over time. Abilities deal magic or physical damage, each of which comes with their own buffs. These mechanics come together to add further depth regarding when to use which abilities. You might have to choose whether to heal or whether to apply a physical damage increase debuff to the enemy, and that choice could slowly determine whether you were successful throughout the battle. Each turn requires a careful decision because each hero is capable of multiple different benefits on any given turn. When you finally get to a boss, you'll be able to refill all your resources and you'll need it, as these epic battles will test your skills on all levels. There’s deep strategy here and it’s what makes the combat so excellent.

Managing overcharge mana ties in with dungeon exploration. Aside from using your limited supply of potions, you cannot regenerate mana in a dungeon. Each hero will only have so much and once it runs out, you might quickly find yourself at a disadvantage. That’s where your basic abilities come in. Each hero has four that do a variety of tasks and they generate overcharge. Overcharge can be used in place of mana and it allows heroes to stay at or near the mana cap in each fight without burning through the precious resource. It adds another layer of decision-making to the combat process and it’s welcome, since it makes even small fights relevant as you may run out of mana for the bigger fights.

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Dungeons themselves are built for replayability. They’re composed of various linked “rooms” — think small, open areas, not four-walled areas — that are mostly randomized each time you enter a dungeon. These dungeons are not particularly challenging to navigate, but the roguelite elements are welcome since the game encourages you to replay dungeons at higher difficulties for better loot and more experience. The only negative is that even "Legendary" difficulty does not scale up particularly high, so you'll quickly out-level a given dungeon. It may have been better to have that final difficulty scale up higher to encourage players to return to dungeons long after they were completed for the first time. On the plus side, dungeons themselves are filled with lore books that give rewards while also expanding upon the story, a variety of enemies, and lots of side activities to earn additional loot. There's so much to do you'll spend 30 minutes to an hour in each visit if you want to see everything.

Outside of the dungeons, there's a sufficient number of side activities. There are hunts, which task you with killing a variety of bosses in smaller "exploration" zones for good rewards. There's an arena where you'll find a huge stream of enemies until you run out of time or die, all for some good rewards. There's a major hub town, side quests, and a crafting system. Still, it can feel a bit like you're moving dungeon to dungeon in some parts of the game and while that's not a negative, a few more of these side activities would have been welcome to add further variety.

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The game does contain a few missteps. Loading is inconsistent — usually quick but occasionally dreadfully slow. The menus can be a bit dense, making navigating tricky until you get used to it. Those are minor gripes. The most important issue is perhaps the game's pacing. You simply do not get enough experience playing everything once to stay up to the proper level. This means you'll have to go back to previous dungeons and since dungeons don't scale up with level much despite having multiple difficulties, you're probably replaying the dungeon you just finished. Still, the game is at least fun and challenging throughout, and the randomized layout keeps things fresh enough to keep these return trips enjoyable, if not ideal. The final issue, and the greatest, was that heroes who are not in your party do not gain experience, which means you'll quickly leave some of them in the dust.

The achievements are your standard JRPG fare with one overall goal — 100% everything. You'll need to collect all the lore, hunt all the targets, complete the highest tier of the arena, craft a lot and, of course, beat the game. You'll also need to complete each of the dungeons on Legendary difficulty, which isn't too hard but may necessitate returning to a dungeon you've vastly outleveled. Then there's completing the game on New Game +, which shouldn't be too hard and, thanks again to the randomized layouts, hopefully not a dreadful grind.

Summary

Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a magnificent success. At first glance, the beautiful visuals draw you with hopes the gameplay could match how excellent they look... and it does. The JRPG combat requires deep, tactical thought in nearly every battle as you push through your foes. Unlike most RPGs, even the random fights will often require some thinking to determine what to use to benefit you both in the current fight and in future fights, as resources are not always infinite. Bosses most of all can feel like epic battles where your strategy plays a key part in the process. Backed by strong character development and plenty of side content to keep you going, this is an RPG any fan of the genre would be a fool to miss. It's not perfect, but few games ever are. What's here is excellent and it comes highly recommended.
4.5 / 5
Positives
  • Deep battle system that requires strategy to succeed
  • Beautiful art style
  • Lots of replayability to encourage you to return to dungeons
  • Side activities are a lot of fun
  • Character development is excellent, allowing you to get to know these heroes
Negatives
  • Heroes do not level quick enough, forcing you to return to dungeons you just completed
  • Heroes not in use do not level
  • Small issues with loading times on rare occasions
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 18 hours playing through the game, moving through the game's dungeons, replaying them on higher difficulties, going on hunts and completing side quests, and fighting in the arena. 19 of the game's 48 achievements were unlocked along the way. An Xbox One copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.
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