My biggest surprise out of Gamescom, hands down, is Airship Syndicate’s Battle Chasers: Nightwar. While I’m not familiar with the comic (something I plan to remedy upon my return to the U.S.), I’m no stranger to creative director’s Joe Madureira’s signature art style and his past work.
The Darksiders games rank among my favorite of last generation. While Battle Chasers: Nightwar is in a completely different genre than those action-adventure games, it already shows the same care and love we’ve come to appreciate from his projects.
Battle Chasers is a combination dungeon crawler and traditional JRPG. Before embarking, you’ll choose from a team of six characters, including the legendary swordsman Garrison, abandoned nine year old Gully, hulking war golem Calibretto, the wizard Knolan, and the bounty hunter Red Monika. A sixth character, Alumon, will be introduced for the first time in the game.
As you move about the dungeon, you’ll see enemies moving, too. Switching among your three party members offers different special abilities, like a dash to move quickly past traps. Making contact with a foe triggers a turn-based battle with a number of mechanics that make combat engaging and fun.
When first you encounter a foe, you’ll know nothing about it. Most of its stats and abilities will show up as question marks. As you engage in combat, the beastiary will be filled in, giving you a leg up. This has an out-of-combat impact, too.
Once you learn more about a dungeon’s creatures, you can chat with the beast master. With enough information, he’ll reveal secret, challenging bosses that will put your tactics to the test.
Combat features a dynamic turn-order display. Basic moves and potions are instantaneous. However, your skills that cost mana take time to prepare, bumping you down the schedule. This can be used tactically, as hero abilities work off one another.
For instance, one character’s skill may do more damage if the target is bleeding. However, that status effect can only be applied by another hero. Manipulating the turn order is a crucial skill for maximizing effectiveness.
Many abilities also contribute “overcharge,” or free mana that exists in a separate pool that resets each battle. Some moves do more damage based on how much overcharge you have on hand when it triggers.
Finally, Burst fuels Battle Chasers’ Limit Break-style ultra moves. This works similarly to a fighting game’s super meter (think Mortal Kombat or Injustice). You can trigger different moves by consuming different segments of the Burst meter, which is separated into three parts. These not only turn the tide of battle, but look fantastic.
Each dungeon has a specific theme and story behind it, with lore littering the procedurally assembled mazes. Each of the rooms is hand-crafted, but they’re assembled in unique ways every time you enter. You’ll likely want to return to tackle more challenging versions later, in turn yielding better rewards.
You may also need to return to dungeons to complete lore chains. Doing so is worth your time, as they yield unique rewards. However, these notes and other story items are procedurally placed, also.
They may appear out of order, but you can always read them chronologically in your journal.While you can purchase items from vendors, crafting is at the heart of the gear system. You’ll find resources as you explore, but you can only combine them at workbenches. More importantly, stations that yield higher quality items can only be found deeper into the dungeon.
While Madureira drove most of the demo, he challenged me to tackle the boss. The gauntlet was thrown, and I gleefully picked it up.The boss in question is a massive war machine with a Gatling gun, superpowered cannon, and a penchant for area-of-effect attacks. The battle was touch and go, with a blend of smart decisions and good ol’ RNG luck winning the day. Making smart use of an overshield (which effectively adds temporary hit points), building Burst for brutal attacks, and managing the turn queue kept me on my toes throughout.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar feels familiar after decades of JRPG play, but differentiates itself with a combination of fun systems, gorgeous style, and a clever approach to doling out both lore and challenge. It will be out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in early 2017.