Review – The First 20 Hours of Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a JRPG attempt at reviving an old comic book franchise that was popular early in the century.  While it probably won’t scratch the itch of Battle Chasers fans who want more content, it does competently put together a solid battle system and intriguing dungeons.  There’s fun to be had here.  For more, continue on.

The story begins with five intrepid adventurers searching for an island full of mana when their airship is attacked by bandits.  The party is divided and must explore the new land to reunite with their comrades and discover a mysterious plot hatching in this unknown land.  This could be generic launching point for a greater story, but Battle Chasers: Nightwar doesn’t seem interested in its narrative.  When it bothers to spend any time on story or characters (cutscenes are sparse), it’s largely to point the player towards the next quest.  No character, plot, or location gets much attention and the narrative feels less like a licensed property and more like a fig leaf to give the barest excuse to move on.  While I don’t know much about the Battle Chasers world, I have to imagine there is more to it than what this game shows.  Fans of the property probably won’t find their fix here.

Fortunately, the rest of the game is well constructed.  The turn-based battle system harkens back to golden age JRPGs with some interesting, though hardly mind bending, changes.  In addition to the standard special attacks and leveling up, Nightwar adds overcharge and perks.  Overcharge adds a temporary mana bar that is accrued by using basic attacks and only lasts for the duration of the battle.  Combined with the game’s tight item management and expensive spells, overcharge creates a welcome tension wherein the player must decide if waiting for overcharge is worth the time it takes to accrue.  In addition to overcharge, Nightwar includes perks.  Perks are swappable benefits which the player can use to customize characters for specific play styles.  Combined, the two systems provide enough variation to the standard JRPG format.

The real star of the battle system is how fine-tuned it is.  All but the lowest level battles require smart planning and attention to detail.  The long dungeons and restricted healing options reward smart resource management in a way that feels well balanced rather than punitive.  The only real chink in the battle system’s armor is Nightwar’s stingy economy.  The player can either find weapons or buy gear, but both take a miserly approach that can mean that a character won’t have needed equipment.  Loot drops can contain powerful items, but are too sparse to ensure that every character has what they need.  Rather than allow the player to buy missing equipment easily, Nightwar’s expensive economy ensures that the player will only have funds for an item or two rather than kitting out their party.  With a bad run of loot drops, characters won’t have the equipment they need and can be underpowered for fights.

There’s a little more to be said about Nightwar (it’s got a nice art style, for one), but the overarching message is that this is a competently executed game for gamers who like good battle systems and don’t care much about plot.  It’s possible that my abbreviated time with the game meant that I missed some amazing plot development later on, but the general tone and direction of the narrative suggests that’s not the case.  Some will view this as a worthwhile purchase at full price, but I’d say wait for a sale.


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