As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing quite like a good turn-based role-playing game. There’s just something about knowing that you outsmarted your opponent, rather than just using your reflexes in an action game, that feels so darn good. I fell in love with the genre as a child, and it’s been disappointing to see so many high-profile RPGs opt towards active or MMO-like battle-systems. One game that’s looking to bring back the greatness of turn-based RPGs is Airship Syndicate’s Battle Chasers: Nightwar.
Based off the short-lived comic book series of the same name, Battle Chasers stars a a ragtag group of adventurers that include a young orphan that wields magical gauntlets, a caring war golem, an old wizard, a talented swordsman, and bewitching bounty hunter that rarely holds an allegiance for long. All of their personalities are quickly demonstrated in a great animated opening movie, and I was looking forward to learning more about each of them.
As mentioned before, Nightwar features classic turn-based combat. I had control of three party members at a time (as luck would have it, the team gets split up early on, and I only had three characters to choose from), and I got to choose from a number of instant attacks and special abilities that cast mana. While there’s a lot that’ll be familiar to role-playing veterans, there’s one great twist that really made me fall in love with the battle system. By using regular attacks, players are able to earn extra mana that’ll disappear after the battle ends. This encourages players to use their abilities, rather than constantly worrying about running out of energy.
They’ll need all the abilities at their disposal too because Nightwar can prove quite the challenge. Enemies do a ton of damage, so carefully using shields to protect characters and making sure to heal the party occasionally is a must. Boss fights can be especially intense, as they can last quite long, and it’s stressful watching momentum go back and forth between yourself and the enemy. Overall, the battle system is easily the highlight of the experience.
I wish I could shower as much praise on the story of Battle Chasers, but there just isn’t enough of it to go around. I really enjoyed the bits I got to see (a lot of which were scenes that occurred whenever I rested at an inn), but it wasn’t uncommon to not see a meaningful exchange between characters for an hour or two. Exploring dungeons can feel lifeless as the characters rarely interact with each other, and most of the text is found in collectible notes that aren’t all that interesting to read.
Further hurting matters is that a lot of the dungeons are rather unmemorable affairs. There are a few decent puzzles, but it’s all stuff players have seen before. Flip a few switches, memorize some patterns, and nothing stuck out while exploring drab locations like a cave and some docks. For a game with such gorgeous art, they sure picked some boring locations to take the player to.
While Battle Chasers doesn’t always show the full personality of its characters, it never made me less motivated to play. That’s due to one key factor: I love the combat system. New members of the party are pretty evenly distributed throughout the story (with the new game-exclusive character joining the party last), and it was exciting every time I made a new friend. Every addition to my party meant more skills to master, and another set of tools to experiment with. Deciding on a trio I was truly happy with took some time, but it made triumphing over tough boss battles all the more satisfying.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though, as over a dozen times my enjoyment of Battle Chasers: Nightwar drew to an abrupt stop. This wasn’t due to me hitting a wall of difficulty (although I did find myself needing to slightly grind occasionally), but doe to the game crashing back to the PlayStation 4’s main menu. Thankfully, the game auto-saves rather often (one thing a lot of other RPGs could learn from), so I never lost much progress, but it’s still a frustration. While not as bad as actual crashes, occasionally battles will have a semi-lengthy load time which sort of kills its Chrono Trigger feel of running into enemies on the field. On top of this, several of the trophies appear to be glitched, as I didn’t get awarded certain story trophies despite having completed those sections of the game.
While not without its fair share of problems and technical issues, Battle Chasers: Nightwar still manages to provide plenty of tense battles that challenge players. It’s a shame that the characters never get to show their full personalities throughout, and that dungeons lack the personality of a truly great role-playing game, but even these issues can’t hold it back from being a worthwhile time for players. It’s a game that begs for a sequel, and hopefully Airship Syndicate will get to do just that as they have nailed so much of the formula.
Battle Chasers Nightwar review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.