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Disclaimer – The review copy was provided by the publisher, Bigben Interactive.
In the past, the legendary Warhammer Fantasy IP has been steadily popping up more and more in the video games industry. With Vermintide coming out in late 2015 and its even more successful sequel in 2018, the market has been set up perfectly for a release like this. The one thing many people wanted was a classic action RPG set in the Old World and it seems like Eko Software was quick to pick up on this and they came out with Warhammer: Chaosbane.
Considering Eko Software's background, there was really no telling what to expect of the game, as the company doesn't seem to have any previous experience in the genre. Fans have been getting antsy over this release the last few months and many questions have gone unanswered, until now.
Warhammer: Chaosbane looks and feels a lot like Diablo 3. The developers over at Eko Software did their homework when they approached a new genre, and it's clear they've taken plenty of inspiration from Blizzard's dungeon crawler.
The first time players step into the world of Chaosbane, they will immediately notice how much the game reminds them of Diablo 3. The aesthetic, the feel, the gameplay, and even the animations and movement will feel familiar.
However, Chaosbane hasn't copied Diablo so much as it has improved upon it in most aspects.
Warhammer: Chaosbane allows fans to play as one of 4 predetermined characters: Bragi Axebiter, the dwarf slayer; Konrad Vollen, the veteran soldier; Elontir, the high elf archmage; and Elessa, the Wood Elf scout. Now, each of these characters has their own predetermined personality and players don't get to change their names, however, they all come with a plethora of abilities and options.
The story is set in the Old World, right after the death of the Chaos Warlord, Asavar Kul, at the gates of Kislev, before Magnus the Pious was named Emperor. The game starts as some magical shenanigans happen to the soon-to-be Emperor, setting our heroes on the path for bloody, violent adventure!
Now, while the characters can be built in ways similar to Diablo, with each hero having a large number of possible skills but a limited number of skill slots in which to place them, Chaosbane also adds a third layer to the skills, with the addition of skill points. Equipping a skill costs a predetermined sum of points from a pool, while unequipping it refunds the points.
Players are hard capped on the number of skill points they can have, making skill builds interesting to play with and balance. It's worth noting that unique weapons, trinkets, and armor sets do interact with skills and enable builds.
The main issue with the character building, however, is how limited the gear is. Armor pieces and sets are plentiful, and so are rings and necklaces, however, it's disappointing that each character is limited to the exact same weaponry with which they start the game. This means the dwarf slayer will always be dual wielding axes, and the soldier will always have a sword and a shield. There is no diversity in the weapons department. No dual wielding hammers and axes, swords and daggers, no two-handed weapons or muskets, which is lackluster.
Chaosbane is action packed, fast, and looks brilliant. The enemies move, act, and sound authentic and some of them look exactly like their tabletop counterparts. Player animations are fluid, effective, and feel satisfying, while the sounds of every clink, clash, and gurgle go together well with the game's music.
Performance-wise, the game is generally stable, but the boss fights at the end of every act tend to tank FPS, as they're beautiful works of art. This game has some of the most impressive boss fights seen in an action RPG. They look intimidating, feel engaging, and all contain multiple phases which players will have to figure out if they want to live through them.
The voice acting is on-point, if a little loud at times. Even the minor characters get fitting voices and some skills have absolutely brilliant responses from the heroes. There are vocal cues for skills being on cooldown, resources missing, or health being low, and all of these add to the game's grim atmosphere.
Story-wise, the game is unimpressive. The story is alright, but it won't shock anyone. However, it's not a letdown either and it even has one plot twist that, while somewhat predictable, doesn't come out the way one would expect. Definitely worth paying some attention to while butchering heretics.
Chaosbane has a rather short main quest. Players can complete the entire thing in about eight hours, without rushing through content and enjoying the story and cutscenes, it would take maybe another hour or so to reach the maximum level of 50. Of course, nine hours of gameplay per character wouldn't be acceptable at all, so there is a form of endgame available.
Currently, fans can either run "Expeditions," which is a basic game mode, wherein players enter a random map in an act of their choice and have the objective of moving through it to the end, while mowing down the enemy. Besides the Expeditions, there is a "Boss Rush" available in each act, which is freely repeatable and allows gamers to replay one of the final boss fights, looking to beat it as fast as possible to loot better items from them. Nothing out of the ordinary, really.
Fortunately, besides these, there are "Relic Hunts" available from merchants, which are a combination of Path of Exile maps and Diablo 3 normal rifts. The way these work is players buy a random map, which carries a number of modifiers which will then apply to the instance into which players load. These are pretty much the best feature of the endgame right now, but even in these, as in the rest of the game, the maps are repetitive. There are maybe four total maps per act, which is going to get old really quick if going at it hard.
The game has multiple difficulties, ranging from "Very Easy" to "Chaos 5" right now, which function (and sound) exactly like the Diablo 3 difficulties. Namely, monsters become tougher, but drop better loot on higher difficulties.
It's also worth noting there is a third option, besides boss rush and expeditions when fans want to farm specific acts, namely "Invasions", but those aren't available just yet.
Warhammer: Chaosbane has excellent combat, looks and sounds great, but feels a little unpolished. It's biggest letdown is the lack of diversity in both weaponry and maps. For it's asking price of $50, it's only worth it to Warhammer Fantasy fans, or someone looking for a fresh but familiar action RPG to play when they're burned out on the latest Diablo 3 season.