Nostalgia is a powerful marketing tool with many developers now realising our old favourites, are simply now only memories. I, like many of yourselves, often purchase a brand spanking new AAA game that arrives with promises of original content and in-game mechanics and only to be left uninspired by the finished product. Then, like many of yourselves, think to myself; “Man I’d really like to go play some FFVII right now.” Well, the guys over at the studio Airship Syndicate seem to agree with you but instead of playing a game like this, they just decided to make it.
Inspired by old-school console RPG’s like FFVII; Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a crowdfunded adaptation of the late 90’s comic book of the same name. Original Author of the Comics, Joe Madureira, produced 9 issues of Battle Chasers over the course of four years but left the Comic Book industry to pursue a career in Video Game Development. He is responsible for the Action/Adventure games Darksiders and Darksiders II but has never returned to the Battle Chasers franchise until now. A glad return for fans of the comic book as the final issue had left on a cliff hanger that has gone unanswered for almost 16 years now!
Unfortunately I can’t confirm whether it will follow directly from the books or just remain an adaptation as the demo contained not much to go on as far as story and I personally never read the comics, but what it did give me was a lot of good mechanical insights to how this game is going to pan out. And well, it actually surprised me, coincidently very much like Darksiders did when that dropped.
Battle Chasers began by presenting me with a conversation with an NPC and then threw me onto a map very similar to something you’d expect from a Heroes of Might and Magic game.
Proceeding across this map gains you access to dungeons (which play out like FFVII levels and Dungeon Siege’s dungeons) which contain monsters, loot chests, traps and a final boss. Very simple stuff and with no complexity aside from the Dungeon abilities that are designed to provide you with new ways to tackle puzzles and challenges (such as Garrison’s Dash). These Dungeons almost serve as farms for your characters, providing you with resources to craft weapons, armour, flasks and buffs for your character and give you a hefty amount of experience to level up and gain perks which are handled by a character’s perk points. The can also be reassigned to different ones if your current set up isn’t working, for example; you may want some flat extra defence or maybe 10% more damage on the first turn, etc. On top of that, your characters also gain more abilities as they level up providing you with more strategies to overcome defeat. Easy to learn, great for relaxation.
All battles are dealt with in a turn-based JRPG perspective in which with each of your three member party, who are each assigned their own specific roles and abilities, must do battle with the enemy. Airship has confirmed there will be a whole troupe of characters to swap in and out of your party but I was allowed to play with only three of them, Calibretto; An ancient war golem who specialises in healing, Gully; who specialises in defence and protecting allies and Garrison, who specialises in Offense. The synergy between the three always felt good and each contain abilities that not only do damage but also buff their allies or debuff the enemy, this meant I could keep dealing damage while also supporting the party, a welcome addition as I found that in many modern day JRPG’s I would find myself having to skip turn after to turn until I could do a slither of damage.
All this stuff you have probably seen before if you’re a JRPG fan but the most intriguing piece of the combat introduced in Battle Chasers is its Overcharge mechanic; when you deal damage or use certain abilities in battle you are granted overcharge points that serve a secondary Mana bar that will be used first, maintaining your Mana for a sticky situation. Abilities are satisfying to use and look great, especially the Burst abilities that usually play a badass love letter to Final Fantasy summons, however, the standard abilities did go wanting for the lack of particle effects at some point.
Visually Battle Chasers: Nightwar can be compared to games such as League of Legends and Diablo III, it’s not most graphically detailed but it is striking in its colour palette and shows a very clever use of saturation to retain as much of its source material as it can and even includes hand-drawn images in the world map areas. The battlefield at this current point of time does need some more clutter in my opinion but the game is still in development so I expect that to not be an issue on release.
The highest point so far for me was for Battle Chasers’ audio; the soundtrack for this game was one that stuck in my head for hours after playing and the variation in the music between battles did a good job of putting a stop to repetitiveness. The ambience is soothing but sinister in some places and the sounds during battle are top notch, whether it was the crash of steel-on-steel, the whirling of Calibretto’s gears or the crunch from something having its face being completely totalled by a series of blows to the head, while all remaining A PG rating of course. The sound is what really sold me on Battle Chasers: Nightwar, combat needs good sound to keep it exciting and Airship Syndicate has put some serious time into that key component, as evident by what is on display anyway.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar looks like it could be a good blast if it gets a good amount of content behind its core gameplay. I just hope that it doesn’t fall short of a good story as that is the lynchpin of JRPG’s, regardless of its great mechanics. I hope I get to play more in the future and I’ll be keeping a close eye on what else Airship Syndicate wish to use to lure my inner teenager in for a Nostalgic romp in the world of Battle Chasers.