If you were to try and figure out what one of the most notorious comic series of the modern era was, there is a good chance that title would belong to Battle Chasers. The brainchild of incredibly popular artist Joe Madureira, he left working on Marvel’s X-Men titles to bring his steampunk and fantasy creation to life. However, the series ran only nine issues, spread out over years, with months and months between issues, and ended with issue nine, which was a cliffhanger. Fans have been clamouring for an end to the series, and while issue ten is still a ways off, Madureira and his company Airship Syndicate have brought the Battle Chasers crew to life and reintroduced the world to Battle Chasers by way of a JRPG.
The game launches with a fantastic animated intro, bringing to life Madureira’s obviously anime-inspired characters, and it looks fantastic. The characters always looked great in the comics, and seeing them animated is a treat. The game starts off with the crew on their airship, as they are questing to find the father of Gully, the young girl with giant gauntlets. The Battle Chasers crew finds itself under attack and end up abandoning their airship and crashing onto the Lost Continent. You start the game with Gully, Garrison who is a swordsman, and Calibretto, a giant war golem, with the rest of the characters joining you as you adventure through the Lost Continent. The story is decent, and gets you from point to point to point, as you try and find a way off the continent and to find out what happened to Gully’s father. Along the way you’ll meet countless NPCs, and impressive enemies and bosses that really flesh out the world of Battle Chasers.
Stylistically, the game looks fantastic. Madureira’s character designs are still incredibly well done, and he is a master of his style, no doubt. My only issue is with some of the female characters and their wardrobe, which seems to be targeted more to the whims of teenage boys than to designing a character with functional battle attire. Other than that, the main characters and the NPCs all look great, and even the various areas that you will adventure through look like a Battle Chasers comic come to life. No doubt Madureira took what he learned working on the Darksiders games and used that with Airship Syndicate to really bring his creations to life. The voice work is very well done, and I wish that more indie RPGs had quality voice work like you find here, as there are easily way more hits than misses in the casting and delivery of Battle Chasers. The score is solid as well, and is reminiscent of JRPG classics of old, with upbeat battle tracks, and soaring pieces as you explore various parts of the Lost Continent.
Like any good JRPG, combat is the other key ingredient you need to make a great game, and for Battle Chasers, it’s pretty good. Your active party is only three members, as opposed to a more traditional four that you may find in some games, and it works for the most part. Most battles with enemies are hardly ever more than three as well, which helps keep things fast and streamlined. Characters have basic attacks, as well as special abilities that use up mana, but there is also another aspect to battle and that is overcharge. You see, as you do regular attacks, you gain overcharge, and as they build up, they give you access to some incredibly powerful abilities. It’s a nice mix, and lets you think about if you want to just do little attacks to build up overcharge, or use your mana quickly with your special abilities.
The way Battle Chasers handles the world works fairly well. For the most part, traversing the Lost Continent involves an overworld map, with little roads connecting assorted points and you move from point to point. On occasion, you may come across a location that you can enter, and the characters can move around more freely; you can cxplore the area, fight some monsters, and even fish. The dungeons are handled in an interesting way by having a difficulty setting available. You can choose the base setting, Normal, or increase the difficulty to get better rewards. It helps to add some extra challenge, which is something that I appreciated as I adventured and leveled. The smaller areas as well are handy as you can find more materials, on top of what enemies drop, that you can use for crafting. The crafting system works fairly well in Battle Chasers, and there was always some new recipe that I was looking to get mats to put together.
Both in the overworld wandering, and in smaller locations, it’s fairly easy to avoid monsters and fights if you want to. However, you probably shouldn’t because this game requires a fair bit of grinding. One of my biggest dislikes with JRPGs, is when experience doesn’t go to active members of your party. It can be incredibly annoying to have a team working well, and then getting into a fight which requires another character, who is totally under-leveled. In this game, you have to grind and then grind some more to get them up strong enough for a tough fight. It’s not the end of the world but it leads to some unnecessary leveling.
In the end, Battle Chasers is a very good contemporary JRPG, with a great turn-based combat system, cool characters, and great visuals. I only wish that there was a bit more character development as the story goes by, and that there were more twists in the story; the story just feels a little flat throughout the game. Regardless, if you’re a fan of the comics, or are looking for a new RPG to play, Battle Chasers is definitely worth checking out.
A PlayStation 4 Review copy of Battle Chasers: Nightwar was provided by THQ Nordic for the purpose of this review.