Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a turn based role-playing game with an emphasis on traversing randomised dungeons. However, it's not an endless loot-'em-up dungeon crawler – it has a story, a cool cast of characters, and an interesting game world to explore. It's also got a gorgeous art style and a fantastic soundtrack.
Nightwar is actually based on an old comic book series called Battle Chasers, in which a ragtag group of heroes travel the land in search of adventure. Those same heroes are the stars of this RPG, with the game telling an offshoot tale. With their airship shot down over a strange island, the party find themselves learning of the location's dark secrets and troubled past. It's a somewhat standard premise, but it's handed quite well, and the narrative's interesting enough that you'll want to see it through.
As you'd expect, Nightwar focuses more on its main cast of characters, although it still doesn't really go into a great deal of depth. The party is very much made up of personalities that are already established, with little room for development. Garrison, the team's no-nonsense swordsman, is a gruff, battle-hardened veteran at the start of the game, and he's a gruff, battle-hardened veteran by the end of it. That's not to say he isn't engaging in his own right or that he isn't appropriately written, but don't go into the release expecting any complex character arcs.
At the end of the day, though, you probably won't be playing Nightwar primarily for its plot. Gameplay-wise, the title offers up a really great turn based battle system. Varied enemy types keep you on your toes as you gradually unlock large lists of attacks and special abilities, each with their own uses and resource costs.
It's a deep, rewarding system that tasks you with thinking ahead. You main resource, mana, is used up when you pull off any move that isn't a basic action, and being a dungeon crawler, you're all but forced to correctly manage your mana so that you don't run out of options halfway through an expedition. With that in mind, you learn to conserve your energy for when you need it, and that's where the overcharge mechanic enters the equation.
By whacking the enemy with basic attacks, you gain overcharge, essentially an extra chunk of mana that sits on top of your existing resource pool. Once you've built some up, you can expend that overcharge in place of your mana, allowing you to unleash special techniques without having to eat into your finite resource. This creates an enjoyable risk versus reward dynamic, where you have to decide between blowing your mana on an all-out assault or taking the slow and steady approach.
It's mechanics like this that make the game a fantastic dungeon crawler. You're always weighing up your options and trying to account for scenarios that may take you by surprise. Each new dungeon delve feels like a trek into the unknown, and randomised layout elements as well as unique side quest events only serve to enhance this. Plus, the potential to stumble across powerful loot is always present.
Speaking of lovely loot, you can opt to take on more difficult versions of dungeons in order to acquire better equipment. Normal mode is easy enough once you've wrapped your head around the nuances of combat, while hardcore and legendary can ramp up the challenge significantly. The inclusion of dungeon difficulty levels is an especially clever way to add a lot of replay value to the release, and there's massive satisfaction to be had in conquering the tougher settings, scraping through by the skin of your teeth with an underleveled party.
With great dungeon crawling gameplay and a brilliantly worked battle system, Nightwar's a rock solid RPG experience, but we're not sure the pacing will be for everyone. The title settles for a slow, methodical speed, both in and out of combat. As such, it can sometimes seem like you're not making much progress, even though you've just spent the last two hours patiently working your way through a maze of corridors and dozens of enemy encounters. Patience is the name of the game, particularly later on when fights against much tougher foes can take a long time to get through.
Before we jump to the conclusion, it's worth noting that we reviewed Battle Chasers: Nightwar with its latest update installed. From what we understand, the launch version of the game suffered from numerous technical issues that we thankfully didn't have to deal with. That said, there are still some disappointingly long load times on display here.
Gorgeous to look at and packing some seriously satisfying dungeon dust-ups, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a great RPG. Its story may struggle to surprise and its pacing is a little on the slow side, but stick with it and you'll get lost in a deep and rewarding adventure.