App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a gorgeous role-playing game (rpg) that recently made the jump from consoles to the App Store. The port job itself is mostly fine, but Battle Chasers as a game feels like it’s at odds with itself. This makes for a really uneven experience that only occasionally satisfies.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a very by-the-numbers rpg. You play as a band of adventurers who roam across the land by airship. The game opens with said airship being attacked by bandits and crash landing in a myserious land. You spend the rest of the game regrouping your party and trying to figure out why you were attacked in the first place.
All of this involves wandering an overworld map and venturing into procedurally-generated dungeons, where you face off in turn-based combat against lots of very typical enemy creatures (spiders, skeletons, etc.). There are a few original concepts in Battle Chasers’s combat system, but the only thing that truly makes this game stand out is the game’s visuals. The whole game has a thick-lined, comic book style that resembles some of the developers earlier work on games like Darksiders, and it really carries the experience.
At any given point when playing Battle Chasers, it’s hard to know what you’re going to get. The game made an awful first impression on me because it felt like my starting heroes were too weak to take on enemies in the very first dungeon. I did a little bit of light grinding, which apparently got me powered up enough to cruise through the next several dungeons facing moderate-but-satisfying challenge. Then, the game spiked in difficulty and I felt like I wasn’t ever going to make any meaningful progress ever again.
Difficulty curves are part of every game, but the way it works in Battle Chasers is especially annoying. It’s unpredictable, and it’s not always clear what you need to do to surmount it. Grinding only works up to a certain point, as some enemies stop giving you experience points after a while. Sometimes your solution requires you to complete side quests. At others, you might need to replay old dungeons to try and get some rare loot. There are also times when the game wants to to craft things, which you can only do at select sections of dungeons or by grinding out currency to upgrade shops in the game’s town.
Any and all of these things can give you the power spike to overcome various challenges in Battle Chasers, but the game doesn’t really teach you this, nor do you ever really have the option to sidestep any of it to just focus in on the main story. Typically in rpgs, all of these things could be referred to as “side stuff,” but in Battle Chasers, these peripheral systems are essentially mandatory. This could make for a deep and enriching experience, but Battle Chasers doesn’t actually seem to care about these things enough to actually integrate them into the narrative in any meaningful way. It just wants to make you do things to do them, which can feel tedious and frustrating.
Everything for everyone
I was confused about why Battle Chasers is the way it is until I learned that it was a Kickstarter game. Looking at the backer page, the game’s stretch goals include the crafting system, dungeon modifiers, town upgrades, and all of the other tedious, tacked-on minutia that the game forces you to engage with.
To be clear, I don’t have a problem with these systems in theory, they just aren’t integrated into the game well enough to feel important beyond the fact that you have to interact with them to get strong enough for late game dungeons. Personally, I would have preferred seeing some more narrative or lore tied to these systems, or maybe even just some more narrative and lore in general. For being such a beautiful game, the world of Battle Chasers is actually quite bland. The overworld is just a flat map, dungeons are full of simplistic puzzles and random dead end paths, and the story is 100% forgettable.
As a mobile port of a console game, Battle Chasers more or less makes the transition to the App Store unscathed. The touch controls here work just fine, and—aside from some weird artifacting that happens when moving through smoke or water—there’s no performance issues to complain about.
The bottom line
Battle Chasers: Nightwar feels like an rpg that doesn’t know what it wants to be. In its pursuit of trying to have every classic rpg system crammed into it, it doesn’t take the time to tell you about them or why they might be important. It just creates a digital checklist for you that’s miles long. For an rpg that you might want to play on the go for a good long time, that might not be such a bad thing, but it could be better.