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Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review

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Since its announcement earlier this year, Battle Chasers: Nightwar has been on my list of games I just had to play. Well, I am happy to say that it exceeded my expectations and managed to suck me into its gorgeous art style and addictive turn-based combat. It is the perfect combination of dungeon crawler meets RPG, and it goes without saying that it successfully delivers a stunning JRPG experience from start to finish.

Sure, it is relentless at times, but it taught me how to better manage my team and what tactics to take into account after I was booted out of the dungeon after dying over and over again. The best part about the game is that there is so much to work towards even after dying. 

Battle Chasers: Nightwar follows the story of four very unlikely companions as they are shot down from the sky while above a strange island. After waking up from the crash they find themselves in the quiet town of Harm's Way on the Lost Continent. They now set off to discover who shot them down and to regroup after being scattered across the island after the attack. Most of all, Battle Chasers is based off a comic book series of the same name created by the talented Joe Madureira. The game is also developed by ex-Darksiders team now called Airship Syndicate.

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After doing some research on each character in the game, it became clear to me what they were and how they came to be. Knolan, for example, is over five hundred years old and a parent-like figure to Gully. Talking about Gully, she is a nine-year-old girl whose father, Aramus, mysteriously vanished leaving a powerful set of gloves behind that she uses in combat. While these past events never truly come to light in the game, they play an important role in the story and characters. 

One thing I wanted in the game was a true explanation to the connection between the characters but alas there were none. This, unfortunately, left me with the burden of trying to discover these connections in order to develop another layer of interest for them. This is a downfall in my opinion as the game should do this to avoid you feeling as if you are just randomly controlling a handful of people with no background. If you have read the comics then it will be to your advantage, but the lack of a decent prequel story to the game left the characters feeling unappreciated. 

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Still, once you wrap your head around these awesome people and machines, the world is yours to explore and The Lost Continent is filled with dungeons, monsters, gear to loot, and various secrets to uncover. Battle Chasers in a way is divided into two parts. You have your world map exploration that sees you walk across nodes while you travel to each dungeon and explorational area. Along the way, the nodes will have enemies on them to fight. The best thing about this is that after you reach a certain level you don't need to fight these lower levelled enemies, making backtracking much easier. The open world is filled with crafting materials to gather, chests to open, and of course, secret areas to uncover. 

Then we have the dungeons and explorational areas that are the game's highlights. As you progress through the story, you will venture to new parts of The Lost Continent to uncover more behind the ruthless gang of thugs that control the area. Story missions will take you to new dungeons that are all procedurally generated, and you will need to face puzzles, enemies, look for treasure, and face off against a boss at the end to complete it. The biggest draw for me was the sheer beauty of the game's dungeon design that kept me going back into the same one at a higher difficulty to experience it again. 

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Each one is filled with lore to discover and read through, new puzzle mechanics, and various treasures to find and sometimes even work towards. One of the best ones I found was a block that I had to deposit gear into. After doing so I had to now work through the dungeon without that gear to find the block again hidden somewhere and if I did so successfully the block would spit out the gear at a much higher level and even rarity. 

You can even take a break from the game and go fishing in dungeons at specific spots which again reward you with fish that you can trade in for Collector's Tokens, a rare currency that can buy you even rarer and more powerful gear. The attention to detail and the love and passion put into the game's activities is where Battle Chasers: Nightwar shines the most and it was the main reason I kept coming back as I never knew what new experience I would have in the same old dungeon. 

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The same can be said for the enemies in the game which again are all beautifully designed in the same arcanepunk way as the rest of the game. Treasure boxes that turn into mimics with large teeth and a disgustingly-stunning tongue to look at. Boss encounters have this classic RPG feel to them with this fear of dying all backed by a gorgeous soundtrack. If anything, Battle Chasers: Nightwar has all the personality that will make you feel like you are playing a classic PS2 RPG.

The classic feel does not end with enemies though, as the entire game's premise takes the genre back to its roots. Backtracking back to town when you are low on potions and need to rest in order to refill your team's health and mana, and even that constant grind to purchase that one sword for Garrison that will ensure victory in combat. It is all very familiar and rather fantastic. 

The turn-based combat in the game is also one of the best around and while simple, it can also be complicated at times. Controlling your party and making yourself familiar with their abilities and attacks will ensure victory, but the system is much deeper than that. An average battle would see me take note of the turns on the left side of the screen and predict when I could attack next and when the enemy would attack too. Using this system would be the best way to plan ahead and pile some great buffs and debuffs on the enemies and party at the same time. 

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To master the combat is to understand what each character does and how all their abilities tie together. Garrison swings forward and causes a bleed for 2 turns on a thug while Knolan can cast a frost lance that chills them and slows them down. Calibretto then takes advantage of both of these debuffs and uses an attack that deals extra damage if the enemy is chilled or bleeding. Another example is Gully's ability to grant her party an overshield that has to be depleted before the enemy can deal actual damage to the party's health. By using the turn system and predicting when the enemy would attack next, I could plan ahead to make sure that this was ready before the big attacks came around. 

While this is all good for me, the enemies also benefit from the same system and can make every party member bleed, chilled, burn, and even sunder them. Going into a battle is all about mastering this system and just when you think you have lost the fight the Burst abilities then let you cast special attacks that are above and beyond standard attacks. Knolan's, for example, heals the entire party while granting mana back too. I cannot tell you how many times that came in handy when fighting. 

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Party management in Battle Chasers: Nightwar also needs constant attention. Perks that give buffs and stat increases across various abilities, and a deep gear system that sees you gather weapons and items, as well as make them, gives the game a great layer of customization. Your party is your winning weapon so you need to make sure you have the best equipment, and the best perks selected in the tree to work with your battle style. As I progress through the game I unlocked more perks that needed more points so I had to distribute them accordingly. When I got a new weapon that gave me more bleed damage then I made sure to equip the perk for that character that buffed the stat too. 

When all was said and done in Battle Chasers: Nightwar I could not wait to go back to Harm's Way, take on some more challenging hunts that grant legendary gear, and farm for some Collector's Coins that would let me buy unique character skins and even treasure chests that contained random gear. The hunt was always on for better loot and the game's gorgeous art style made every new piece of gear look and feel refreshing. 

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While Battle Chasers; Nightwar needs a prequel scene of some sort in order to develop a better bond between player and characters, it does deliver an RPG experience that I have not had in years. Every little piece of the game has been carefully constructed to draw you into the world and its ecosystem. Everything from the loading screens to the creatures that you face belongs together and this is thanks to the game's stunning art style. With a great combat system and a loot system that takes you back to the classic RPG days, I found myself absorbed in the game's mechanics and I could not leave for the love of me.  Simply put, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is art in motion.

Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac, Switch | Played On: PS4 Pro| Release Date: 3 October 2017 | RRP: R422

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