Making Classic RPGs Modern with Battle Chasers: Nightwar on PS4

31 0
Making Classic RPGs Modern with Battle Chasers: Nightwar on PS4

“Oh my god,” Joe Madureira exclaims before pondering the unexpected question for a second. “We knew we wanted it to be some sort of RPG reference, since those are the kinds of games we wanted to work on.”

The co-founder of Airship Syndicate is recollecting the moment when his team hit upon a name for their independent outfit. The RPG inspiration is unsurprising (“Airship was something we loved — the visual image and the RPG flavor of it”), given how big a fan the comic book artist turned game creator is of the genre. Perfect example: upon leaving Marvel Comics in 1997 to co-found comics imprint Cliffhanger, his creator-owned debut Battle Chasers wore its fantasy RPG influences proudly.

It’s a series and world he left — on a cliffhanger, no less — in 2001. He’d be the first to tell you he wasn’t expecting to return to it 15 years later through the lens of interactive entertainment. “I kind of had the feeling we should be doing something new,” he reminisces. There was a flirtation with doing a Metroidvania side-scroller at first, but ultimately Airship Syndicate settled on an RPG for its first project. Yet the “where” was a lot harder to choose than the “what.”

“The more we worked on it, the more we thought ‘Battle Chasers has a lot of this stuff and is way cooler.'” The creator admits to feeling nervous at the adoption, though accepts that given the series adherence to the classic RPG archetypes, it lent itself perfectly to the genre. In the end, Battle Chasers helped the game’s profile when it launched on Kickstarter last year. “People that had never heard of it thought it was cool. Fans of the book were super-excited it was coming back. So it ended up being a great decision.”

There are odd parallels between Madureira’s two careers. Just as he shifted from one of the biggest comic book companies in the world to co-found his own label, so too did he create a smaller development studio with fellow Vigil Games ex-staffers after it shuttered due to publisher THQ’s liquidation.

The 12-strong team (backed by a dozen remote contractors) are housed in a small studio. Work’s fluid, creative checks a matter of looking over a monitor and offering input rather than waiting for weekly meetings (“I can literally see you doing it right there. It’s instant,” Joe says input opportunities). Everybody “wears many hats”, and the unofficial mission statement seemingly boils down to “if an idea’s awesome, we’ll implement it, irrespective of who came up with it.”

Everyone’s free to bring anything to the table, but the need of everyone’s A-game is a constant. Partly because of the near-continual queries by Kickstarter backers, partly due to the team’s own financial investments to get the game ready for its crowd-funding debut. “It keeps you accountable and they remind us on a regular basis that there is a clock ticking here,” the CEO muses. “We want to get the game out as badly as anyone else.”

The title’s pencilled in for a summer 2017 release (“Right now we’ve got all the systems working. It’s just really building content at this point”) and the game’s design reflects the era it’s launching in. Two decades ago it’d have been easy to imagine the finished product being an ode to Diablo hot wired to turn-based battles a la Final Fantasy. Inspirations that admittedly are still coded into the game’s DNA today: gameplay emphasis is on dungeon-crawling and a chess-like combat system.

But you also note more current trends. Dungeons are randomly-generated, and different difficulty-based runs call into mind everything from Spelunky and other roguelikes to high score-chasing mobile titles. Thankfully altering difficulties isn’t a case of yanking enemy HP sliders up and friendly health bars down; enemy attacks will differ, dungeon layout will alter, treasure chests will drop randomized loot. Certain bosses only appear on certain star ratings. Re-roll, replay.

You’ll be able to tinker with your team (three per party from a choice of six characters), craft weapons (there’ll be rare character skin unlockables and Easter Eggs as well) and progress the story (“totally brand new, self-sustained” and set after the comic series). Madureira pegs the tale as a Castlevania-esque fantasy-horror, set on an island overrun by the undead.

With modern day Final Fantasy jettisoning turn-based systems in favor of real-time combat, Nightwar will appeal to those hungry for the classic style of yesteryear.

You can count Joe Madureira as one. See it in his character designs (there’s more than a little Cloud Strife in the massive sword-wielding, tortured ex-soldier Garrison), their personalities (Knolan is every cankerous old man D&D wizard, Red Monika a sultry bounty hunter). But none are poor imitations, nor distant echoes of past glories. And as other franchise titans chase the cutting edge by envisioning futuristic wars and homogenising mechanics, a title with strict adherence to the classical genre form could be a welcome throwback.

As the creator himself admits, it comes back to passion. Working on what you love. Madureira briefly ponders the studio name he and the team settled on again. “If you’re not a gamer it’s a kind of weird-sounding company. But whatever. We’re nerdy and we embrace it.”

Comments are closed.


  • Man, that looks awesome. Any hope for a physical release?

  • This looks SOOOO good!

  • When it comes to indie games, I typically don’t care for it much. But when someone says old school RPG, I’m down! Even if there isn’t going to be a physical release, I’ll still buy this!

    Which reminds…I still need to get I Am Setsuna…

  • This looks awesome. Would buy on Vita

  • I backed this game on Kickstarter. Can’t wait to finally play it on PS4!

  • Have always thought the art on this game looked amazing. I’m normally not a turn-based fan, with some notable exceptions (looking at you, Darkest Dungeon), but I’m REALLY hoping the combat in this game gives me something to love. I want to run around in that world!

  • On my radar!

  • Turn-based RPGs are still my favorite! Glad this isn’t coming out until mid-2017. With Persona 5 & Horizon coming out within two weeks of each other, my time & pocketbook will need the break!!

  • The guy looks like dc comics version of guts from berserk lol

  • So, 15 years later, after reading the comics that essentially got a “to be continued”, I get to finish the story in a videogame :)

    Cool. Hopefully there will a LE with the comics bundled it it

  • This looks…amazing. I hope you guys don’t follow the rogue formula. I think the appeal of that style has worn out its welcome (if it was ever there to begin with). I’m sure 20 years ago I found dying and starting over to be a challenging bit of fun but now I enjoy leveling characters and seeing them grow over time. And I’m (personally) tired of seeing amazing looking games only to discover that they’ve adopted that perma death formula.

  • Old comics, classic rpg and i even like that artist and style.
    Man, how much you taking from my wallet?

  • Looks interesting. Liking the art style a lot.

  • The art is BEAUTIFUL. The setting and world has grabbed my attention, for sure. Day 1!

  • There have been a lot of Indie games recently that have caught my attention, but upon their release I just wasn’t that excited about the gameplay and replayability of the game. Even just from reading about this game I feel like that won’t be the case. Looks fantastic and is definitely on my list of 2017 games to keep an eye on.

  • Fk you, Madureira, we all know you will abandon this project half way as well.
    Zero trust.

    • Besides Battle Chasers… Name one other thing hes abandoned half way through… People who say this are the cringiest people ever. Not like he didnt put out 2 AAA Games already in the past 6 years… But one comic book series he didnt finish 15 years ago… Yeah lets keep bringing that one thing up over and over and over… Lol

    • I’m optimistic! If it’s summer 17 it’s certainly passed that troubling halfway mark that worries you so you can rest easy!

    • @SomaXD Not that it was his fault specifically, but Marvel hyped up his “return” when Avenging Spider-Man launched, and al he did was 3 issues…

      Then he jump on Savage Wolverine, but that was a small 3 issue arc, as well. That one wasn’t hyped as much and there wasn’t an implication of a long run together.

      Then Inhuman hype started and the implication it’d be a major book in the Marvel world with Fraction and Mad teamed up… then Fraction left and Mad only did, you guessed it, 3 issues!

      Now, all this could have been Marvel over promising and knowing Mad was just signed up for 3 issue bursts and couldn’t keep a monthly schedule, maybe they hoped he’d want to continue and they’d work it out while it happened, but the way it all played out was just half done collections with multiple artists (which is quite the norm these days, anyway).

  • All but the random dungeons has me excited. Very few games make procedural feel good. I’ll be thrilled if this is one of them.

  • Looks absolutely fantastic. I want it

  • I feel lied to. That Battle Chasers ad I saw in a 1998 issue of GamePro explicitly said “It’s NOT a game!”

  • Would be on Ps Vita ? i like your games guys.

  • Loved the comics when it was out… ****ED that the comic was canned midway after only a few issues… and now they make a game out of it??? WTF????

  • This game will NEVER come out

Please enter your date of birth.