I’ve held this off for 3 years with the intent to take better pictures of the game’s screenshots out of sheer respect for the fun I had with this game. I had wanted to go through this game’s NG+ run through for the Platinum and take proper screenshots as necessary. Clearly I’m late with that promise and I still haven’t completed that NG+ run through, especially with how unforgiving some of the mechanics can be before you start one-shotting everything. Now that I’m almost finished with Ruined King, I wanted to close the book on this one before I moved on.
When you explicitly list inspirations from Final Fantasy, Suikoden, Chrono Trigger, and Phantasy Star, you know that you’re going to get something quaint.
Battle Chasers came recommended to me in a discussion about Darksiders 3 when someone brought up that Airship Syndicate was co-founded by Joe Mad, one of the lead designers for Darksiders and a big influence during the age of WoW, and after the fall of THQ and Vigil. Back in the 90’s, Joe Mad had a published a comic book series called the Battle Chasers and after around 4-5 volumes, it stopped. Years later, Airship games came out with a kickstarter project reviving the Battle Chasers and it apparently went incredibly successfully, contributing to a bevy of features including voice acting, a new character, and other features. Almost 20 years after the series stopped, the characters from the comics stepped into the spotlight again but as far as where the game fit into the timeline where the comic books are at is up in the air because Garrison had just defeated a monster, Gully’s half sibling was literally disarmed after trying to use Aramus’ gauntlets for himself, and Knolan had a premonition about an old foe he sealed away eons ago escaping. Plus, Red Monika hadn’t even met up with the main crew yet. All of the interesting tidbits leading to Battle Chaser’s creation is in a neat little documentary video.
Story-wise, Night War is your usual fare and has a simple set-up. The crew have a rough landing on the Crescent Isles, a destination Knolan had set them off for to study something regarding mana rifts and their airship is shot down by the local area’s sky pirates. Gully, Calibretto, and Garrison act as the starting party of the tank-n-spank variety where Gully is the unexpected tank, Bretto the healer, and Garrison the glass cannon. They reach the town of Harm’s Way and investigate the bandits camp down south and make their way to the Iron Keep where they see the pirates whisk away some artifacts before one particular artifact comes to life and fight back. Exploring further, the group access a portal to reach the badlands and eventually come to Junktown after clearing the 2nd dungeon, the Path of Fangs. At Junktown, the team is reunited with Knolan and Monika after the Sky Pirates fly away and their goal becomes joined with a man named Alumon, a member of an organization called The Order who is after a witch named Destra who is trying to resurrect a powerful entity, the Blood God C’Drall, by means of resurrecting his armies and generals. She was also responsible for hiring the Sky Pirates in the first place. Bhargus and more importantly, Verus, the intended host of C’Drall become the main villains as the Battle Chasers chase their prey from the Southern Wilds, the Moors, and Winter’s Vein to stop the resurrection. The story ends with C’Drall possessing Destra instead as Verus had escaped on his own crew and the main cast decide to hunt him down too.
The game is separated into the overworld, exploration, and combat sequences. On the overworld, you lead your 3-man party across the Crescent Isles and explore both the main dungeons as well as other locales such as errant caves and ruins. The one safe-haven is Harm’s Way and aside from having the inn to restore everyone’s conditions, it has a Blacksmith, Alchemist, Enchanter, and Bestiary that you can upgrade to improve their wares. There’s also a Shadow Coin merchant, the secondary currency of the game next to gold, that is primarily gained by fishing to trade with rare items and alt costumes. Traveling does take some time after the map opens up so there are also way-points that act as teleporters that take you next to a major dungeon. The inn allows you swap between your total party of six for three active members, the Blacksmith lets you access crafting which can yield higher rarity weapons the more materials you use, the Alchemist is a potions shop and also has crafting, the Enchanter lets you enchant weapons and armor with the same mechanic where you pile resources to gain better level enchantments, and the Bestiary gives you monster hunting side-quests.
Once you enter an exploration zone, you take control of one of your three active party members in a given area. Each character has up to two abilities they can use that vary from lighting up the dark, dashing through traps, breaking walls, healing, preemptive attacking and others. The combat is turn based and the turn order is displayed on the left-hand side. HP and Mana Bars aside, the unique system in play is the overcharge mechanic that speaks for itself. Attacking generates overcharge that fills past a character’s mana gauge total and makes up for mana expenditure, letting players like me who always conserves mana for big encounters to have fun with abilities even in regular encounters. Stats are fairly simplistic as there’s only one attack stat that determines all offensive abilities and defensive ones. This is also one of the rare games that allow ailment stacking on bosses. Once a particular mission is complete, the group gets access to Bursts which is a resource in a fight that builds on the side and each character can spend up to three bursts for three unique super moves for each character, the third and last of which need to be unlocked by doing specific side-quests or main quests for a given character.
While skills are gained after certain levels, the customization of combat skills come with perks. Each character has two trees of perks focused on offensive and defensive/utility capabilities. The best part is that they’re non-committal as you can pick and choose points to spend and respec into other tactics depending on the dungeon or occasion. For example, Garrison’s glass cannon status has him needing healing a lot of times. Bretto has a perk that allows him to automatically place a heal on the most wounded party member at the start of a battle while Garrison can pick a perk to have him heal at the end of every battle. Other perks include Overcharge manipulation, straight stat increases, skill upgrades, and character specific buffs.
Each main dungeon allows for three different levels of difficulty, four in NG+. Each dungeon visit is different from the last as while the core parts of the dungeon such as the main room, gimmick room, and boss room remain similar. Everything else in between though is randomized and have a set number of unique encounters with specific NPCs, enchantment tables, forges, and a bevy of other encounters that could occur to make each visit to a dungeon unique. One particular randomly generated event that can occur is a mysterious stone “cube” that can appear in a dungeon and you’re prompted to place a weapon or armor in it. If you do, the cube takes the item, disappears, and reappears in another random room in the same dungeon but now with the item you placed now in a higher rarity. There are also unique NPCs that can randomly appear such as a Lycelot Elder who tells you a story of his kind and why they’re doomed to be defeated and answering his questions about his people from his story will grant you an unique accessory. Other unique encounters exist such as reassembling a skeleton, only to steal his magical gem, using a robot platform to temporarily create a gun drone, turning off the braziers to have a light-fearing Spider come down and attack you after a journal lying around gives you tips to do exactly that, etc. One particular sidequest had so much flavor text and atmosphere that I had to make a greentext for it involving hunting down an ancient fire golem, killing it, and using its embers to use a forge behind its boss arena to have access to a unique legendary enchant that you can ONLY utilize in that particular forge. It’s that amount of flavor and world building that gets me hooked. Another detail I like is that after the third dungeon, when 5 characters total make up the party, Sky Pirates spawn in the overworld hunting the party down and defeating three unique pirate captains lets you have a chance to spawn the Sky Pirate High Captain who is the toughest boss in the game.
While my description of the combat and general gameplay, the game is without a doubt very simple but there’s just so many little details about the world and gameplay that I can’t help but love. It’s the small things that form that make you appreciate the game and the devs weren’t kidding when they said they were inspired by old time RPGs in making this one. One of the features that appealed to me greatly happened early on. When you rest at an inn, there’s a chance for the party members to converse and more of these unlock the more party members you have in total and while not an actual reference to the one I’m thinking of, one of the RPGs I played during my childhood at these sorts of interaction between party members in every inn rest so that brought back some good memories. Smaller quests like being asked to investigate the sewers underneath the inn and also finding treasure maps to hunt for the loot in the overworld were also great.
For even more flavor text, theres a detailed bestiary and for even more points from me, a decently detailed fishiary
Fond nostalgia aside, the game is still pretty rudimentary and is carried by the world building since deeper character moments and backstory are through the actual comics. The game is also pretty easy to break using Garrison and his ridiculous damage output using overcharge mechanics. This can be compounded by a particular weapon equip for him being available after the 4th major dungeon, which is in my opinion the hardest after the 3rd, in an unmarked side-quest that makes it incredibly easy to just one-shot your problems away until you get him even stronger gear later. Bretto is also allowed to purchase an incredibly useful equip that lets him have constant overcharge to consistently dish out heals. Alumon in particular can provide over-heal shields which also makes him a great healer for the tougher fights. I particularly loved using Knolan and keeping constant burn and freeze stacks on enemies and never give them a turn.
All in all, Battle Chasers is a game that appealed to my inner comic fan and RPG itch and while it doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, there’s enough attention to detail put into the worldbuilding, animations, and playstyle customization to check it out. I got it on sale after it was recommended to me for like 7 dollars and it’s probably the most fun I’ve had for that much money. Joe Mad and Airship most recently got involved with Riot Games to work on a League of Legends based Shadow Isles game and I hope that does enough to boost developments for Battle Chasers 2.