Battle Chasers: Nightwar, from the studio founded for its creation (Airship Syndicate), is a love letter to 16-bit era JRPGs, but also a revival of one of studio founder Joe Madureira’s most personal works. Battle Chasers is a cult-classic fantasy comic, and now it’s bound to become a cult classic RPG. The recently released game sports gorgeous visuals, great voice acting, and strategic turn-based combat to make a compelling experience that’s worth any fan of the genre’s time.
As you might have read in our GameSpace review, the core loop of Battle Chasers involves traversing its overworld with your party, fighting battles, collecting loot, and delving into randomly generated dungeons to progress the story. It’s a straightforward and classic take on the JRPG, one that was recently revisited in I Am Setsuna as well.
I’m going to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but basically the titular heroes are on their way across the world in their airship when they’re attacked, shot from the sky, and separated. When they land, they quickly find a region of the world that’s into some pretty shady stuff, and get caught up in the turmoil while trying to regroup.
It can’t be overstated just how great Joe Madureira’s art translates to the screen. The characters, levels, and even the UI are all steeped in his vision. It’s like what I’d hoped a comic book-based RPG would have looked like in the 90s when Battle Chasers was on store shelves, but with modern technology. Animations, hand-drawn backgrounds, effects, and even the little things like the victory dance at the end of battles are all done with flare and an abundance of attention to detail.
Combat is traditionally turn-based, with players being able to influence the order of turns with their skills and spells. Status effects, strategy, learning when to go on the defensive… all the hallmarks of a good JRPG combat system are here. The Overcharge mana system makes for some interesting bursts of damage and great visual fights too. Saving up overcharge points and then unleashing them to finish a boss is always satisfying.
Sometimes I felt the need to grind out a few levels to compete in tougher battles, but honestly, it was never that bad. If you don’t avoid the fights which pop up on the overworld map, you’ll likely always be at the right level for the content you’re playing.
Dungeons are randomly generated, and even have reason to replay, as they have harder difficulty levels with greater rewards hidden inside. Monsters can always be seen, on the map, and in the dungeons, so you know when a fight is going to happen. Each of the 6 characters you can control has their own “dungeon skill” which helps in certain situations too. Switching between which character is leading the party is as easy as pressing a button.
Surprisingly, Battle Chasers has a deep crafting system too, which you’ll collect materials for early on but won’t use until a couple hours in. There’s loads of loot to power up, collet, and create as well as potions, poisons, and other helpful items.
Perhaps the most compelling part of Battle Chasers is its writing. Witty dialog, great voice acting, and a deep and driven narrative will keep you riveted between all the turn-based battles and running back and forth between locales. Like the comic, it’s an excellent blend of steampunk and traditional fantasy that makes for something altogether unique in the JRPG genre.
There’s a solid 20-40 hours of game packed into Battle Chasers, more if you like to build characters, dungeon delve, and explore all the hidden nooks and crannies. For $30, there’s more on offer here than most modern AAA games, and it’s also available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One with a Switch version coming in the near future. What it lacks in AAA flash and pomp, Battle Chasers more than makes up for with compelling gameplay and incredible story and art direction. Recommended.
Final Score: 8/10
- Great art and soundtrack
- Fantastic turn-based combat
- Random dungeons
- Overworld could be more interesting
- Sometimes felt the need to grind fights