"A fully fledged turn-based RPG directly inspired by classics such as Final Fantasy, Suikoden, and Wild Arms."
Seeing as I'm apparently RPGFan's resident Darksiders
fan, I was really stoked to check out Battle Chasers: Nightwar, a turn-based RPG based on Darksiders artist Joe Madureira's popular comic series from the 90's. After raising just shy of $900,000 on Kickstarter, Nightwar has proved that there exists a demand for more Battle Chasers media, but the developers at Airship Syndicate (many of whom were once a part of the now-defunct Vigil Games) have something really interesting in store — a fully fledged turn-based RPG directly inspired by classics such as Final Fantasy, Suikoden, and Wild Arms.
First of all, the developers at publisher Nordic Games' presentation made it clear that being a fan of the Battle Chasers comics was not a prerequisite for enjoying Nightwar. Madureira will actually be continuing the Battle Chasers comics after Nightwar, but the game itself takes place in a more nebulous part of the series' continuity, making it approachable to newcomers yet rewarding to fans. Building on this philosophy of accessibility, Airship Syndicate wants the game to be palatable to both casual players who want to jaunt through the story and players who may want to delve deeper into the combat system with options for higher difficulty. Little bits of story will be uncovered by reading item descriptions and inscriptions in dungeons as well, a technique famously employed by Dark Souls.
One thing made apparent by the demo I saw was that Nightwar is absolutely gorgeous. Madureira's exaggerated, graphic novel styled art is colorful and pops really well, and the game ran really smoothly as far as I could tell. Gameplay-wise, there are towns and an overworld map to explore, but the focus seems to be on the game's randomly generated dungeons. These dungeons are akin to the Darksiders games, in that they have a higher emphasis on solving puzzles and performing various character-specific actions (Wild Arms seems like the best point of comparison in this regard), which can be upgraded as the game progresses for increased aggressiveness or survival while dungeon diving. Puzzles, traps, and monsters (which are visible on the map before engaging in combat) are all determined randomly, while story bosses are fixed — although the developers stressed that random story events were also a possibility in dungeons, and players are encouraged to explore them repeatedly to unearth all of their secrets and uncover valuable crafting materials. At one point, the developers purposefully triggered a trap in order to showcase this, and ended up engaged with one of the ugliest Mimics I've ever seen.
There are six playable characters in Nightwar, with three being controllable in your active battle party. Once battle begins, it's a classic turn-based system, with a turn meter that indicates the progression of combat à la Final Fantasy X. That's not to say that there aren't unique aspects to combat, however — by building up a meter called "Overcharge," a character can use their special, time-bar affecting skills without wasting precious mana, which allows the player to save their resources for bosses. Near the end of the demo, the party engaged a high-level elite monster, which is another random event that can occur in dungeons, and we got to see the party's Burst skills in action. These are more powerful and flashy abilities that can be activated with a Burst meter that fills up during combat. Some of these skills can heal the party, while others deal AoE damage or, in one character's case, a severe amount of physical damage on a single target. Once the monster got to around half health, it began to spam its own Burst skill, which proved a stiff challenge for the poor developer holding the controller, but he was fortunately able to persevere.
After seeing it in person, I can safely say I'm even more excited for Battle Chasers: Nightwar. It may not be Darksiders 3 (and yes, I asked), but the combination of classic RPG combat, random dungeon shenanigans, and Joe Madureira's excellent art has me convinced that the final product will be a really enjoyable game. Here's hoping that Airship Syndicate's debut title lives up to its promise and legacy.