Borne from Joe Madureira’s comic of the same name, the creative director of the first two Darksiders games and an employee of Marvel Comics at the tender age 19, we were honoured to interview the creative powerhouse himself about his new game Battle Chasers: Night War, a restimulation of his comic that was never concluded.
A traditional yet deep turn-based RPG that cherry-picks from the greats of its genre, players utilise a party of three and spark up a tactical synergy to decimate all manner of Mad-made monstrosity. Delving deep and wading through procedural generated dungeons, fans both new and old will get to experience the world of Battle Chasers in an entirely new way,. Here we talk to Madureira:
How has the concept of Battle Chasers evolved and how has it moved from comic to game?
Well, it’s not so much a continuation of the comic, in fact we’re trying to build the game so that if you’ve never heard of the comic before you can still enjoy the characters and get a sense of who they are. It’s really more about what makes the game fun and it just so happens that the world that Battle Chasers takes place in is pretty ripe for a dungeon crawler, so all the elements were already kind of there in the comic, we just had to expand on them. A lot of interesting things come up, like how fast does Garrison swing his sword? What does Calibretto’s voice sound like? How big is he? How big is too big on the combat screen? There’s so much stuff you don’t have to think about in the comic that you do when making a game.
For those who don’t know, what’s the story of Battle Chasers?
The comic book series was centred around Gully, she’s a young girl whose father is a legendary hero who goes missing and leaves her these gauntlets that give her superhuman strength and invulnerability. She becomes hunted for this powerful weapon and the friends of her father band together and help her out. There’s Garrison who’s a swordsman, Calibretto who saves her at the beginning of the series and takes her to Knolan, who’s a wizard who comes into the game a little later and meet Red Monika who’s an unsavoury rogue. In the game, Mana, the source of all magic in the world has been dwindling so they travel to this island, they get shot down by air pirates and become trapped on the island, uncovering that there’s more happening on this island, an ancient evil rising to power, which is where the “Nightwar” comes in.
All the heroes from the comic are playable, but we also have a new hero who’s playable and new to the story called Alumon. He’s a Devil Hunter, which is like a vampire hunter/witcher and I think he’ll be the fan favourite just because he’s more of a “grey” character.
So what bracket would you say these characters and this story fits into?
They run the whole gamut! There are characters like Monika who can flip on you if it benefits her, Garrison is pretty much a straight shooter, and Gully wants to be a hero like her Dad so she’s pretty much the good wholesome one. But then there’s Alumon who uses dark magic and isn’t above killing people. Well, they all kill, even Gully has in the comic books if her or her friends lives depend on it. But these are the kind of heroes I like; I’m more Game of Thrones and less Hobbit. I like revenge stories; it bums me out when heroes are too wholesome, goodie-two shoes heroes are not my cup of tea.
With many RPGs shifting away from their traditional roots, would you say Battle Chasers: Night War is reinvigorating the dungeon-crawler genre?
It’s interesting because we’re definitely not trying to compete with RPGs like the recent Final Fantasy or whatever. Our game is really more of a dungeon-crawler, where you have your central town, its party based and you equip your gear, you go to a dungeon, kill a boss and repeat that core game loop to gear up your characters and take on tougher dungeons and bosses. What makes it interesting are the exploration segments, that feature more heavy action, like avoiding traps and solving puzzles. Dungeons are randomly generated, so there’s a lot of content and replayability there. We didn’t really set out to reinvigorate, we cherry-picked aspects of our favourite games that we thought worked well together and that we could execute well with our small studio. The size of our team was definitely a huge factor on our content, we’d rather make something smaller that we could do really well than let the scope get out of hand. It’s a simpler game in a way, but it’s deeper.
So how many hours are we looking to complete the game?
If you were to blast through it, you’d get through it in 12 or 15 hours, but then there’s tons of additional content as well as the dungeons being randomly generated in addition to the arena and fishing and new game plus. It wouldn’t surprise me if it came in closer to more 30-40 hours.
Going back to dungeon-crawlers, with it getting less common, would you say you’re reinvigorating the genre?
I hope so! It’s kinda like when I was at Vigil and we were doing Darksiders, we weren’t trying to make a new Zelda, it was really a case of “man, wouldn’t it be cool if we made this kind of game?” There’s two itches we’ve wanted to scratch, RPG and Metroidvania games are our extreme passions so I’d be shocked if we didn’t try to do one of those at one point. I felt we could make a really good dungeon-crawler with these characters and art style and the gameplay choices we’re making with our small team.
What games have influenced Battle Chasers Night war?
It would have been impossible not to be influenced by the Diablo series as well as the recent advent of difficulty effecting your loot chances. The crafting systems we looked at were in MMOs like WoW and other games like Terraria, the influences were broad. Combat wise, we looked at initiative and the turn order tactics of games like Final Fantasy and even Evolution on the Dreamcast had a turn order, it was fun being like “oh I stunned him, now I get to go again!” Layers of tactics will change depending on whose in your party; certain characters will work better with other characters, for instance Calibretto’s ability “Flameslug” can set enemies on fire, which in itself is cool but Knolan has a spell that detonates burning creatures, which is a really good combo. Some heroes work better together than others and learning how they work together is interesting. There are 6 playable heroes, with only three in your party at once so you’ll want to mix and match.
How would you say your art and style has evolved and adapted to this project?
I do alter my style slightly for whatever project I’m doing, even in with comics, like if you look at Savage Wolverine versus Avenging Spiderman it’s a little darker. On Battle Chasers I felt I might have gone too dark on it, but I have children now and think differently about things. I kind of want to work on stuff my 10 year old can play and enjoy, I mean, she loves Gully!
How does that make you feel as a creator?
I mean she’s only ever shown an interest in established characters, but she’s like “Hey, I’m gonna do Gully next!” and I’m like what? One of mine? It was real touching. I don’t think that’s the main reason though, the whole team at Airship Syndicate wanted to make something more colourful. I mean don’t get me wrong, I still laugh about a joke we have on Darksiders about how everything needs skulls and spikes and chains, I’m like “Hmm…30% more skulls!” And so we still have that in Battle Chasers. Because we were going for a more hand-painted, illustrated look we don’t have to rely on normal maps or anything so it can run on some pretty low end devices.
Any word on a sequel?
Obviously that would be amazing, but it comes down to how well received the game is. It’s not an immediate plan, but if the game does really well we’ll have to do it! It’s actually a really easy game to build onto, expanding the world with more dungeons or more heroes.
What future do you see for the company?
As a studio, we’re probably always gonna work on fantasy based games, so RPGS and Metroidvania titles. There won’t ever be a sports title or a kart racer…actually a ‘Battle Chaser Kart racer’ sounds good. As a studio that’s the kind of games we make, we would like to stay small, it feel like a load of people hanging out in a clubhouse having fun and I really don’t want to lose that part of it. As far as what’s next, the success of Battle Chasers will dictate what will happen with that series and beyond that, we’ll see!
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is scheduled to release this year on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and Windows.