E3 2016: Battle Chasers: Nightwar is Real and It’s Spectacular (So Far)
To say it's been 14 years since Battle Chasers has been part of the conversation wouldn't entirely be accurate. While the comic itself hasn't been around for nearly a decade and a half, devoted fans of the book and its creator Joe Madureira have always wondered when and if Battle Chasers would return. Last year, we finally got our answer. Not only is Joe Mad planning on bringing back the gang for a comic book reunion, but his development studio, Airship Syndicate, has been hard at work on a Battle Chasers game as well.
After a very successful Kickstarter campaign, Battle Chasers: Nightwar was born, and with it not only came familiar characters like Gully, Calibretto and Garrison, but also some rather familiar role-playing game mechanics. A dungeon crawler lies at the foundation of Nightwar, but the real focus of the game is the turn-based combat that's a total throwback that fits the universe of Battle Chasers perfectly.
After getting a brief walkthrough of Battle Chasers: Nightwar's basic mechanics, we got a chance to try it out for ourselves. You take control of a three-person party (though there will be six playable characters to choose from) as you guide them from dungeon to dungeon taking down bigger and badder threats as you progress. We didn't get into many story specifics, but Nightwar takes place as a side adventure for the characters from the comic, and as such, won't require any previous knowledge of the comic or the world to enjoy. The lore will play a part however, as you can discover texts as you adventure that explain not only more about the dungeon you're in, but the Battle Chasers universe as well.
Case in point, while wandering the demo dungeon, we came across a journal from a long deceased treasure hunter. To our right were three treasure chests to choose from. By reading his journal, we not only learned a bit about the character and this dungeon's place in history, but also that two of the chests were traps, and the wrong choice could bring our death. Context clues like a pile of bones or a fallen sword tipped us off to which was the correct chest, but for the sake of the demo, we picked the wrong one to try out the battle system. Sure enough, that mimic came to life, and attacked the party.
Once in battle, the game switches from an isometric view to a more traditional landscape showing everyone involved in the fight. The characters are all rendered in 3D, while the locale itself is a 2D image. There's some great depth of field trickery to give the illusion that you're viewing the fight from a distance, but everything still has that Joe Mad style that's so easy to spot. Each character has a great amount of detail, and once the fights begin, you get a better sense of just how terrific they all look. There's such a great attention to character design detail, and it truly gives Nightwar the look of a game that has leapt from the pages of the comic. Calibretto is the easiest to observe given his size compared to the rest of the team, but Gully and Garrison both have just as much intricate design work.
Back to the battle, the layout is clear and clean, and thanks to the active time bar above your character menu, you can see which characters are due to attack next. This bar shifts in real time when you try to do a more elaborate, mana-based attack, and you'll see where in the rotation any character will fall when making that choice. Each character has two "quick" attacks that don't take up any time, but do help build your Overcharge meter, as well as a handful of those mana-based attacks. Mana is actually going to be rather hard to come by, and Overcharge allows you to earn bonus mana for that one fight. If you don't use it before the fight concludes, you lose it. Overcharge is easy enough to earn and build up quickly, so the strategic advantage it presents means you likely won't forget.
In addition to earning Overcharge, every attack you do fills up your Battle Burst meter. Every character has a special, overpowered attack tied to the Battle Burst, but the meter is shared by everyone so you'll have to be conscious of which character's special attack will benefit you the most in a given battle. While we burned through most of the standard enemies without ever really having to rely on Battle Burst to pull out a victory, it was a boon for the boss fight at the midway point in the dungeon. Calibretto's Battle Burst, a massive team heal, was clutch --- especially after I got Garrison killed --- but by the skin of our teeth, we manage to barely stick it to the war golem lurking deep in the dungeon's depths.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar will also have a crafting mechanic for armor and an alchemy mechanic for potions, but we didn't get to mess with those in any detail. The focus was on the dungeon exploration and combat this time, and after playing it was easy to see why. The combat has a distinct retro feel to it, but it's also simple enough to learn that anyone can jump in without being overwhelmed by a complicated battle system. It also helps that the animations are beautiful, and seeing Battle Chasers come to life is just awesome for a longtime fan. There's still plenty to be done before it releases, and more elements we need to see in action, but Battle Chasers: Nightwar is definitely on the right track to be a standout RPG in the coming year.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar will be available in 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.