Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review: Homage
Kalvin Martinez / Jul 20th, 2018 No Comments
Modern developers have been trying to recapture the magic of classic JRPGs for years. Some have managed to reignite the glory days of the genre, but more have failed.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar not only evokes the feelings of the JRPG golden age in its turn-based combat, but also in its narrative, characters and style. It isn’t a wholly traditional affair, however. There are some modern mechanics to keep the game from being simply karaoke.
The Dead and The Marauders
It’s been years since Gully’s father, Aramus, died. He was a great warrior and even greater leader. Aramus inspired those he led and who fought alongside him. Not only did he leave behind his legacy, he left Gully his mighty gauntlets and a band of companions eager to protect her as the gauntlets made her a target.
Traveling with Knolan, Calibretto, Red Monika and Garrison across the Capital Lands taught Gully much about the world, its dangers and the many who seek the gauntlets’ powers for themselves.
Knolan led the group to the mysterious Crescent Isle, a land rumored to have vast reserves of mana. He hoped to learn more about the isle and the mana. As they approached the Crescent Isle in their airship, they discovered why the isle remained a mystery. Bandits and thieves shot down their ship, leaving the group separated deep within unknown hostile territory.
As the group tries to navigate the isle and recover their missing comrades, they learn of much more sinister happenings occuring on the isle. It seems a powerful dark mage named Destra has recruited bandits, mercenaries and lycelots to gather artifacts and keep strangers away. The end game is to reawaken old, powerful forces aiming to cause chaos on the Crescent Isle and beyond. Now, it is up to Gully and her companions to stop Destra and her evil plans.
While Battle Chasers: Nightwar serves as an introduction for many to the world and its characters, it is admirable that the story takes place after the group has been established and already embarked on prior adventures. The plot has plenty of influences from older JRPGs and comic book conventions, which sets a group of pluck heroes against a big, magical bad. Although the plot is traditional, it works given the game’s aim to honor and pay homage to old-school JRPGs.
Splitting up the group at the beginning of the game gives the narrative a great opportunity to focus on a few characters at a time. This allows players to become acquainted with them before bringing them all into a larger group dynamic. It is the character work that is the strongest part of the game’s story.
By separating the group at the start, Battle Chasers further emulates the best part of JRPGs: gaining new party members. There is no greater joy in a JRPG than meeting new party members and trying them out in battle. While you gain party members quickly, it still packs a punch by the time the final party member joins and all the pieces are in place to tackle Destra.
Wait Your Turn
Since Battle Chasers is an homage to classic JRPGs, it is only fitting its combat system would be turn-based. While turn-based combat has its detractors, when done well, it is compelling, fun and strategic. Battle Chasers: Nightwar is all of those things. In many ways the game feels like it could have existed alongside the first in the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises. It borrows heavily from the past to deliver pure uncut nostalgia.
Fortunately, the combat isn’t too reverent to the older turn-based style. Battle Chasers adds new elements to enrich the layers of strategy and mix things up. The major mechanic added to change up the very traditional turn-based combat is the overcharge system. Battle Chasers’ overcharge system is a gamechanger because it gives relevance to basic attacks.
Each character has basic attacks that can generate overcharge, which is bonus mana for an individual enemy encounter. Characters have certain excess mana they can earn through overcharge to utilize for more powerful special attacks. That can give you a cushion for encounters where you don’t use your main reserve of mana, which is great for normal enemy encounters and dungeons where you don’t want to burn too much of it.
Where the overcharge system shines brightest is in boss fights. Since boss fights are longer and tougher than your average fight, the ability to generate bonus mana is a godsend. It allows you to pull off more powerful attacks without needing a lot of restorative items. Not only does the combat system add bonus mana to fill mana reserves, but it can help you generate mana as you expend it. You can constantly trade off powerful attacks with basic attacks to always have mana for the duration of the fight. This is where you see the strategic value in the overcharge system. You’re constantly weighing the pros and cons of utilizing basic attacks at the loss of power for more mana and longevity in using powerful attacks.
Another cool touch is the ultimates system. The entire party shares an ultimate meter, which they can all draw from to use ultimate moves. While it is nice when each character has their own meters and metrics for triggering ultimate attacks, the shared pool means you gain meter constantly and can use these uber powerful moves more often. It can be an equalizer in tough battles.
Another cool touch to the turn-based combat is the expansive and extensive buffs and debuffs system that goes beyond the typical sleep-poison-paralysis systems found in most RPGs. The only problem with this system is the lack of explanation for some of the buffs and debuffs or an ability to check their effects easily. It can be frustrating when you’re trying to take advantage of the system.
The major drawback to some of the cooler stuff in Battle Chasers’ systems is there isn’t a ton of explanation for them. It is up to players to tinker and use trial and error, which can be frustrating.
While Battle Chasers: Nightwar has good turn-based gameplay, it also has the main drawback of JRPGs: grinding. For most of the game, the grinding isn’t bad. When you’re a slightly lower level or equal level at the start of the game, battles are a challenge, but not exceptionally difficult. Grinding doesn’t become an issue until close to the end of the game as basic enemies start hitting harder and harder, cast way more buffs and debuffs, and have a lot more HP.
It feels like your leveling doesn’t feel on equal footing with these late-game enemies. This makes normal enemy encounters feel like boss fights, and a dungeon full of them can be grueling. To make these encounters more manageable, you need to spend a lot of time farming experience to be a much higher level than your foes. This is where the game goes from fun to tedious, but luckily there are some options to make the grinding less time intensive.
You can replay dungeons on higher difficulties to fight a lot of tougher enemies for more experience and better final dungeon rewards. The best option is the arena, where you can compete in a lot of battles at one go and earn a decent amount of experience in a short amount of time. Another benefit to the arena is earning points to gain some great bonuses as you earn higher scores.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a good game, it effectively channels golden age JRPGs to deliver a game that feels like it could have stood on its own then. The combat has enough newness to it to make it not feel super passive. Perhaps most damning — yet very much in line with its influences — are the moments where grinding becomes necessary. There aren’t enough to ruin the experience, but they certainly mar it.
While its been available for awhile on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, the Nintendo Switch version feels like the best way to enjoy it (despite some minor loading issues) as you can grind out on-the-go or at home.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the developer.
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