Battle Chasers wasn’t a comic that I was familiar with, mostly because I find the never-ending nature of many popular comics a poor form of storytelling that necessitates stupid contrivances like Cyclops suddenly turning evil. Which happened at one point. It’s hard to have make character growth be meaningful when a character’s story never actually ends; further stories require more and more conflict and drama changing them until they eventually become unrecognizable like that. Still, I was interested enough to buy a surprisingly inexpensive digital version on Google Play and read through the entire thing in one night, and I really liked it. It stops unexpectedly before the story is finished, though, so I suppose it’s a good thing that the game is here to provide some more adventure with its characters.
Let’s talk about that intro
I’m pretty sure that I saw this used as one of the game’s trailers, but it’s also the intro, and it really sets the tone of things. It’s entirely possible that I’ve been too harsh on comics in general, because seeing everyone in action felt magical, almost as though I had read the comics when they first came out and spent years waiting for this. Not at all like I just went through their stories a few days ago. Not many mediums can inspire that kind of instantaneous attachment.
“Look, it’s Garrison,” thought I. “And Gully and Calibretto! My favorites! And Knolan’s there too! And Monika! And… wait, who the hell is that?” Seriously, I have no idea who that last character is. His expression and eye color looks like that of Maestro, the guy who trained Garrison, but he only has one eye. The hand gestures are reminiscent of the monks guarding Skyhold when Monika breaks into it. The mask color and horns, on the other hand, suggest someone like the guy who was coming after Monika at the very end of the last issue. If that’s the case, it could be either one of Maestro’s guys who were after her or someone working for villain August, who is also gunning for her. His identity/affiliation wasn’t really cleared up that I know of since the comic ended prematurely. Anyway, it’s kind of cool to see a new character.
Also note that the game uses a single autosave for all your saving needs. That’s not thrilling, but it definitely adds stakes. I’ll have to play around with the system a bit to get a feeling for the pros and cons and how it works as far as dying is concerned.
I’m already sold on most of the voice acting
This is how the game opens, and I really like everyone’s voice acting with the possible exception of Knolan. I’m not sure that nasally voice screams “grumpy 500 year-old wizard with a heart of gold,” but it’s kind of weird hearing anyone speak in the first place. Overall, I’d say that I’m on board with the voice acting thus far, and the early bits that I’ve played have focused on Garrison, Gully, and Calibretto. We’ll see how I feel about Knolan once he becomes playable and starts talking a lot.
The gameplay here is solid jRPG stuff
I’ve played a lot of jRPGs. Most of the ones on the SNES and PS1, to start with, in addition to numerous others on pretty much every system under the sun. While there are awful ones out there like Doom & Destiny that deserve scorn and hatred, there are also gems out there like Radiant Historia that innovate while telling an interesting, engaging story. I’ve only played a couple hours into Battle Chasers: Nightwar, but it’s definitely looking like it’ll end up belonging to the latter group.
There don’t seem to be any random battles here, with enemy encounters showing up visibly on the overworld map and inside of exploration areas (or dungeons—the line between the two is kind of blurry, actually, despite the game differentiating between them). The first few exploration areas are short like in the video above, but the first dungeon I found that had an actual boss battle—I’ll have a video of that fight later on and talk a bit about how combat works there—was noticeably larger. It was a little hard to go from 1-2 screen areas to something more expansive, especially since health doesn’t regenerate between fights. Instead, you have to rely on abilities in battle and a limited number of full-party heals Calibretto can use outside of fights. Outside of dungeons your best option is usually the inn that restores your health and mana entirely, though the cost seems to go up as party members level up, and sleeping there respawns all enemy encounters on the world map.
Speaking of Calibretto being able to heal in dungeons while wandering around, you can switch your lead character at will in dungeons, and all have their own abilities. Garrison has a dash move that’s been helpful for getting over spikes before they raise, and Gully has a ground smash thing that I haven’t figured out a use for yet. These all have limited uses, though I’m not sure yet whether they’re restored per-dungeon (probably not, else you could enter, heal up, then exit repeatedly as necessary) or when you rest at an inn. Or maybe when characters level up? Their HP and mana are fully restored when they gain a level, so that’s also a possibility to look into. I’ll try to figure out how all of this works by the next progress log.
There’s also fishing!
Those last two paragraphs were kind of complicated, so let’s relax and talk about fishing. You can fish in dungeons. Doing so is surprisingly entertaining. Basically, you cast a line by choosing a “casting strength” that determines how far it goes, and when you get a bite, you move the left stick in the opposite direction that the fish is moving. There are also rumbles that help you figure out where that is. I don’t imagine this being quite as entertaining or consistent on a keyboard, but it’s still a fun little distraction. Right now you don’t seem to gain anything usable from fishing, but the game has hinted that it might provide some kind of benefit later on.
Before my first boss fight, there was a crystal that restored everyone’s health and mana. Those are the two primary things you need to keep track of, but the way the game handles both is kind of unique. Health is the more ordinary of the two, with it operating exactly as you’d expect (enemies damage it, characters who lose all their health go down in combat, etc). Certain abilities make shields that block a certain amount of damage, though, which can be helpful. Then there’s mana, which is where things get interesting. All characters can use actions and abilities in combat. Actions are instant and don’t cost mana to use, but tend to be weaker. Abilities, on the other hand, are stronger and cost mana to use, but aren’t instant (so enemies can potentially hit you between selecting the attack and actually attacking). Actions like attacking build up a temporary pool of mana that disappears after battle, and this temporary pool is drawn from first. That means you can attack with actions, build up a temporary mana pool, then let loose with healing abilities and such without it coming out of your normal mana. I imagine that managing temporary mana to avoid burning through all of your normal mana in dungeons will become a factor later on.
This one is less about the game than how nice it is to finally have a device to record over HDMI. That not only means no performance hit, but also that I can record myself playing through games using Cheat Engine’s speedhack to get through parts of games slightly faster. Originally I was thinking that this would help with grinding, but as mentioned before, the cost of the inn goes up as your party levels up. Grinding in a single area before moving on might not be a sustainable way of overcoming difficulty, then, but it’s still absurdly fun to run around in fast motion.