RPG Corner: Battle Chasers: NightwarPlatforms: Microsoft Xbox One | Sony PlayStation 4 | PC | Nintendo Switch
RPG Corner is a monthly series covering a recent RPG I've been playing. Action, turn-based, Western, Korean, and Japanese RPG's all apply.
The RPG is the gaming industry's most diverse sector. No other genre contains as many hybrids and sub-genres that vary as wildly. Whether it's the length, gameplay mechanics, style of storytelling, or distribution of its various pillars, moving from one RPG to the next provides a brisk tour of the variety only gaming offers.
Many RPG's tell strong stories. In fact, a lot of RPG's have achieved critical or legendary status because of their stories and characters. Their length allows them to tell interesting narratives with deeper character insight along with the potential to grapple more complex themes than other genres when handled properly. Some of this generation's best RPG's, like Nier: Automata, are remembered for their writing.
With that said, Battle Chasers: Nightwar isn't one of those games. There's a plot I don't remember and characters whose names I can't recall without checking online or booting the game up, but it doesn't matter. While it wouldn't have hurt Battle Chasers to tell a better story, it's hard to care when it's held together by such a strong gameplay foundation.
Battle Chasers eases players with a welcoming difficulty that takes a few hours to ramp up noticeably. I quickly settled into a comfortable groove of pulling aggro with Gully and healing with Calibretto after applying Sunder to enemies (which reduces damage taken), leaving Garrison to deal the brunt of the damage. Combat during these early hours provided plenty of fun.
Characters' roles in games like these are typically informed by their look, but Battle Chasers messes with those preconceived notions. Gully, the youngest and smallest character, is the game's best tank whereas Calibretto, a hulking machine, is THE vital healer. Garrison, despite looking like the typical stoic male lead, isn't the highest physical damage dealing party member you'll gain access to.
Battle Chasers' early hours fell into a comfortable rhythm that quickly dissipated with a difficulty spike at the third main dungeon. This dungeon, which saw my first of only four deaths, simultaneously highlights the game at its best and worst.
RPG's over the years have continually evolved to de-emphasize stats in favor of strategy. While strategy is still integral to Battle Chasers' combat, it's more stat-heavy than modern gamers may be used to. Entering a dungeon with average equipment, haphazard perk allocation, and enemies only 2 levels above the party can spell disaster There's a high likelihood of death.
Return after leveling up, reallocating characters' perks, and buying or finding better equipment for at least one party member, and that same risky dungeon becomes significantly more manageable. The developers recognized this, too, with a built-in function to reset the randomly generated dungeons and play through them on higher difficulties for more experience and better loot drops. The screen also denominates whether that dungeon run will be easy, average, or difficult.
With a pop-up book style over-world that relegates traversal to following a laid out path with board-game like nodes, exploration hardly exists. The main town consists of six buildings scrunched together. You aren't exploring its nooks and crannies or examining what's hiding inside them. They're just interactive markers.
With so little else to do, Battle Chasers rests on its turn-based combat. It succeeds by altering two traditionally understood systems; Magic points and skill points.
Combat abilities are split into two categories. Each character has four actions that are activated immediately with the other branch of skills consuming mana while also taking time to cast. Characters' mana limits can be exceeded through an overcharge mechanic. Different attacks and abilities generate overcharge, allowing characters to exceed their maximum mana limit.
Continually building overcharge enhances each ability's effect. Instead of healing for 300 hp at max 110/110 mana, waiting until you've reached 130/110 mana will heal for 410 hp, for example. This makes difficult encounters much more interesting because of the balance between dealing damage, conserving mana, healing, and generating overcharge. You want to deal as much damage per second as possible, but saving up overcharge for devastating attacks and improved healing is essential. By the same token, sometimes you're in such a tough situation, you'll decide to consume your starting mana to give an edge just before an enemy potentially wipes a party member.
Deciding when to go on the offensive and when to pull back remains genuinely exciting. Battles against enemies around the party's level never grew tedious because of it.
Battle Chasers also implements a malleable perk system. Characters earn perk points at every level, which can then be attributed to passive bonuses with each character featuring two perk trees. Instead of locking perk points indefinitely or gating them behind a consequence-filled respec system, Battle Chasers allows them to be placed and removed by your own volition.
Most RPG's would fall apart with this kind of system, but Battle Chasers makes it work because of how infrequent level grinding opportunities come. Lower level enemies provide so few experience points, they're not worth fighting for anything other than crafting material drops. Even running through every main dungeon multiple times on each difficulty, the party will never be over-leveled for any story dungeon on anything but the easy difficulty. This places the emphasis on min-maxing equipment and finding the right perks for those occasionally pesky situations. The right stats matter just as much as the right strategy.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a lovingly crafted turn-based RPG. Its story is about as throw-away as they come. The randomly generated dungeons also lose their luster by hour 30, but it does away with some of the genre's biggest potential failings.
Battle Chasers doesn't waste time introducing players to its core gameplay loop with short dialogue scenes and a streamlined over-world and exploration. Battle Chasers: Nightwar's obsessive compulsion with loot never comes at the expense of breaking the game's balancing. It starts off easy, but once you get into it, it remains consistently challenging and interesting.