This past weekend I was able to get my hands on a preview of Battle Chasers: Nightwar; a new Diablo-like RPG developed by Airship Syndicate and THQ Nordic.
First things first, this game is insanely fun!
When I say “Diablo-like” I am only referring to the way the camera sits (isometric) and the stylised, hand painted environments. Other than that, this game has no problem standing on its own and delivering one hell of a unique experience.
Based on the cult comic series by Joe Madureira, which spanned nine issues from April 1998 to September 2001, this game combines classic turn based combat with dungeon crawling experiences. Man, there just aren’ enough words to say how good this game is, but I will try my best.
Okay, so first, the preview only allowed me to explore a couple small areas and one main, story line quest/ dungeon. The demo drops you in the game’s overworld, which I can only try to describe as a game board type map. Trails sprawl in every direction with little dots peppering the map with stops and locations to explore. I found a couple shops, a cave I didn’t have the right key to access, and a barricade with canons that prevented me from leaving the map off to the right.
The game also recognises itself and manages to slip in a few fourth wall breaks which I greatly appreciated. At one point I attempted to explore the overworld to the north and was stopped at a fence. Text popped up stating “You can’t go this way, this is only a demo after all” I’m paraphrasing here but you get the idea.
While exploring the dungeons you also get these instances where, say for example, you find a book; it will give you multiple options of how you’d like to proceed. “Dust off the cover, flip to a random page,” or “push/pull the book.” When I selected the push or pull option the game then made sure to remind me “Its just a book, what did you think would happen?” However, that shouldn’t deter you from trying every option with everything you find within the dungeons because some books in fact COULD be pushed or pulled, revealing a hidden doorway or unlocking a gate that had loot hidden behind it.
Being a huge fan of classic Final Fantasy games the combat was very enjoyable for me. Your team encounters monsters crawling around in the dungeons and some will have a chain icon floating above them. If these enemies attack you, whatever monsters that also have the same icon over them will be brought into the fight as well. You can sneak around enemies in dungeons however, but this is an RPG, who doesn’t want to grind for that EXP??
Anyway, once the battle is started, an ATB-like gauge is vertically placed on the left of the screen, showing the order in which characters and enemies will attack or perform actions. This can be manipulated though, depending on what actions you choose or what the enemies do. Not all attacks are straight forward “this deals damage, this heals the party”. Most options include a secondary effect. For example, my rogue character had an attack that, once executed, would also grant a barrier to the character with the lowest health in my party at the time. Other attacks would also grant 30 health to my party, or a second blast would hit a secondary enemy.
That is probably one of my absolute favourite parts of the combat, is the variety of abilities I was given to choose from and the exponential combinations I could use to defeat the monsters I was up against. Like classic Final Fantasy games, Battle Chasers includes something similar to limit breaks, known as Battle Bursts. Battle Bursts are a 3 tier “limit-break” type system where dealing and receiving damage charges the meter. The difference is in Battle Chasers the party shares this meter, they don’t each have one of their own.
Knowing what my characters battle bursts were and which ones to use, along with knowing how long it took to charge the meter was crucial for me when planning my assaults on the monsters of the game. Some were just straight over charged attacks while others buffed or healed my party. Each member had two I could use, one used one bar, the other used two bars of the meter. The rate at which the meter charged I felt was fair. It took a few battles to get it maxed out, so it never felt like I was overpowered.
Now, I had mentioned earlier that you could avoid enemies, but why would you want to? Well, aside from earning EXP and levelling your characters, the game also makes enemy encounters almost necessary. Fighting and slaying monsters is the ONLY way you can find out more about them. Each encounter with a new enemy only shows ??? for their health, however, killing say, 5 of them, then shows how much health they have. Kill more and you find out what moves they have, kill even more and you learn and log what their weaknesses and resistances are!
Now the game didn’t directly tell me this, but the menu has a “Bestairy” tab, within that you can see the monsters you’ve encountered and a progression bar at the top that shows how many you need to kill to unlock certain things like what I listed above. To me, this was awesome. What kind of RPG does it not hurt to know this stuff? It was a great drive for me to find and fight everything I could so I could learn everything I needed to know about my enemy. Luckily, the boss at the end of the dungeon wasn’t the same way and I was shown how much health he in fact had.
Lets talk about these dungeons now. In all honesty I played through this demo multiple times. Before diving in I read that the dungeons were completely procedural, and well, this is beyond accurate. Entering the dungeon each time granted me brand new scenery. It wasn’t just props moved around or the same wall in a different spot, the ENTIRE dungeon felt completely different. From lighting and mood, to lay out, to traps and puzzles.
From the moment I entered and the dungeon loaded, EVERYTHING was new. To build on that, after beating every dungeon TWO new difficulty modes are unlocked. Playing through the dungeon again on these higher difficulties guarantees better loot. What THQ Nordic and Airship Syndicate are making here is something with insane replayability value! Aside from all the technical stuff, this game is absolutely gorgeous. The team behind this have experience in comics and have helped create the Darksiders games, so it goes without saying that their passion for stylized environments shines here.
But don’t just listen to me, see for yourself…
As I previously stated, this game has a TON of good things going for it. Battle Chasers releases this summer and I can not wait to get my hands on the full version and see just how extensive the battle system and customisation is!