Battle Chasers: Nightwar is the adaptation of the eponymous comic imagined and drawn by Joe Madureira. If this name seems familiar, it’s because the man is at the origin of the artistic direction of the Darksiders saga. Battle Chasers is the artist’s most important project, a monument of the world of US comics from the late ’90s. Madureira himself announced the creation of a small independent studio called Airship Syndicate composed essentially of former employees of Vigil Games. Their project? A video game adaptation of the world of the famous comics in the form of a beautiful declaration of love to J-RPG.
No need to have devoured the Battle Chasers comics to dive into the Nightwar adventure. Likewise, those of you that did read them will be able to fully enjoy the game without knowing what happens beforehand. If the title uses the characters as well as the universe of the comics, it tells us an unpublished story. Too bad for the fans who will not find here the long-awaited conclusion of the saga. Our hero troop is driven by one goal: to search for the father of the heroine, Aramus, a legendary warrior who has disappeared beyond the Gray Line, an impenetrable wall of fog spanning the world to protect a mysterious lost continent: Croissant Island. Before disappearing, the man left behind his powerful gauntlets, artifacts with prodigious power capable of many miracles.
The fine team of Battle Chasers is composed of a heterogeneous cast of adventurers from different horizons. Gully and her magical gauntlets are accompanied by Garrison, a fallen mercenary paladin, Calibretto, a former War Golem with a conscience and a strong protective instinct (the group’s healer), Knolan, an old magician as sharp as his arcane abilities, Red Monika, a rather versatile loyalty hunter, and Alumon, a new casting star of the saga, a demon hunter from the lost continent.
Stranded on in unknown lands, the troupe of six characters will be confronted with strange phenomena and the dark machinations of a vile necromancer. A scenario without great originality that we feel is pretty soon relegated to the background in favor of the other obvious qualities of the title.
The relationships between the characters ultimately represent the best moments of a story that never shines as much as during the few phases of group interaction that take place in between missions.
If the screenplay aspect is clearly not the most catchy part of the title, its visual style may be the main trigger of your curiosity about this Battle Chasers: Nightwar. The graphic universe of Madureira comes alive before our eyes with a very careful representation of its sets and characters. Combat animations are just as fluent as punchy with a superb emphasis on the most spectacular actions via different cut-scenes in comic style full of panache. It’s beautiful, rich in detail and always striking from one end of the adventure to the other. Only the loading times, too frequent to my taste, come to somewhat taint a technical balance that is more than satisfactory.
The artistic direction of the ensemble is supported by a very good soundtrack orchestrated by a Jesper Kyd (Assassin ‘s Creed, Borderlands, Hitman) that one feels inspired and in phase with the universe of the saga. The icing on the cake, the title is full dubbed with excellent and convincing voice acting.
The title openly claims its inspirations and builds its foundations on some of the big names in JRPG such as Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger or Suikoden. So many references whose influence is definitely palpable throughout the adventure. Everything revolves around a huge map of the world to explore in view of the top, like the classics of the genre . We will find camps, a central village, points of interest, a lot of dungeons and of course a good amount of turn-based fighting.
Do not get me wrong, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is not just a simple old-school tribute designed to appeal to veterans. Its approach to fighting and exploration is also modernizing the genre to give it an identity of its own. We find here and there some shortcomings typical of the JRPG of yesteryear (like a grind phase that is sometimes mandatory and a little laborious), but most of its mechanics emancipate their model to offer us an original formula and very enjoyable to play.
At the center of this success is a combat system that is both intelligent and at the very least, demanding. When using basic actions in combat, heroes gain Overcharge. The latter plays the role of bonus mana during combat and can be used to trigger more powerful skills using mana. Overcharge is not retained after the clashes, which motivates the players to use their entire arsenal of skills rather than save their energy for more important battles.
In a Final Fantasy for example, the mechanics of the game often push players to chain the cheap attacks during clashes against common monsters then empty their power bar once they arrived in front of a boss. Battle Chasers wants to avoid these redundant situations by adding this Overcharge system. So we participate in truly dynamic fights, tactical depth constantly renewed. The initiative system adds a little more substance to the set with various improvements applied to heroes and opponents depending on the techniques they are about to use. The characters have a good panel of techniques available at the bottom of the screen, to select from twenty possibilities unlocked over the levels.
Exploring the world of Battle Chasers puts us at the direct controls of three heroes on a map of the world with multiple branches to explore. This traditional world map in top view is combined with another mode of control, more modern this time, in eight dungeons and multiple areas in 2.5D generated randomly so as not to be too redundant to browse. Voluntarily old-school, the encounters of the game avoid the principle of random with enemies modeled on the screen so it is possible to dodge . We appreciate this feeling of evolving within a real dungeon-crawler with its pitfalls to avoid, its secret areas to find and opponents to fight everywhere.
Each of our three controllable heroes has two dungeon skills to use during the exploration phases to help the player progress or facilitate the start of some combat. Gully can use his Land Shock to stun enemies or break brittle walls while Calibretto can heal your team between turn-based battles. These skills are of limited use and it is necessary to rest at the hostel to recharge them.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is not only a great Comic-to-Game adaptation (most likely one of the best) that will please fans of the series, but it also manage to over-deliver as a dungeon crawler that both veterans and beginners to the genres alike will learn to enjoy.