Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release date: May 31, 2019
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Developer: Eko Software
Disclaimer – The review copy was provided by the publisher, Bigben Interactive.
In the past years, 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 it’s 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
Now, considering their background, there was really no telling what to expect of the game, as they don’t seem to have any previous experience in the genre. Fans have been getting antsy over this release over the last few months and many questions have gone unanswered, but fortunately, we’re now here to talk about it!
In the footsteps of giants
Now, to get this out of the way real quick: Warhammer: Chaosbane looks and feels A LOT like Diablo 3. The devs over at Eko have definitely done their homework when they approached a new genre, and it’s clear that they’ve taken plenty of inspiration from Blizzard’s Diablo 3.
In fact, the very first time you step into the world of Chaosbane, you’ll immediately notice how much the game reminds you of Diablo 3. The aesthetic, the feel, the gameplay of course, and even the animations and movement will feel familiar.
With that having been said, I have to admit that Chaosbane hasn’t copied Diablo so much as it has improved upon it in most aspects, and I say this as someone who has spent more than 900 hours in Diablo.
Heroes of the Empire
Warhammer Chaosbane allows you to play as one of 4 predetermined characters, namely: Bragi Axebiter, the dwarf slayer, Konrad Vollen, the veteran soldier, Elontir, the high elf archmage and finally, Elessa, the wood elf scout. Now, each of these characters has their own predetermined personality and you 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 to equip them in, Chaosbane also adds a third layer to the skills, with the addition of skill points. Equipping a skill costs you a predetermined sum of points from your pool, while unequipping it, instantly refunds you the points.
Players are hardcapped on the number of skillpoints 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 I take 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 very disappointing that each character is limited to the exact same weaponry they start the game with. This means that the dwarf slayer will always be dual wielding axes, the soldier will always have a sword and a shield and so on. There is no diversity in the weapons department. No dual wielding hammers and axes, swords and daggers, no two handed weapons or muskets. Very lackluster.
Chaosbane is an action RPG and it definitely shows! The game is action packed, fast and looks brilliant. The enemies move, act and sound good 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 very stable, but the boss fights at the end of every act tend to tank FPS, as they’re beautiful works of art. Honestly, this game has the most impressive boss-fights I’ve seen in an action RPG. They look intimidating, feel engaging and all contain multiple phases which you’ll have to figure out if you 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’s vocal queues for skills being on cooldown, resources missing or health being low and all of these add quite a bit to the game’s grim atmosphere.
Story-wise, the game is nothing to write home about. The story is alright. It won’t shock anyone, but it’s not a letdown either and it even has one plot twist that, while you may have seen coming, you’d probably not expect it to come out the way it did. Definitely worth paying some attention to, as you butcher your way through the heretics.
Chaosbane has a rather short main quest. You can complete the entire thing in about 8 hours of play, without rushing through content and enjoying the story and cutscenes and it would then take you maybe another hour or so to reach level 50, which is the maximum level for your heroes. Now, of course, 9 hours of gameplay per character wouldn’t be acceptable at all, so there is a form of endgame available.
Currently, you can either run “Expeditions” which is a basic game mode, wherein you just enter a random map in an act of your choice and have the objective of.. well.. 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 you to replay one of the final boss fights, looking to beat it as fast as possible in order to loot better stuff 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 that you buy a random map, which carries a number of modifiers which will then apply to the instance you head into. 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 very repetitive. There are maybe 4 total maps per act, which is going to get old really quick if you’re going to go at it real 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 the more you up the difficulty.
It’s also worth noting that there is a third option, besides boss rush and expeditions when you 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 bucks, I’d recommend you buy it if you’re into Warhammer Fantasy, or looking for a fresh but familiar Action RPG to play, when you’re burned out on the latest Diablo 3 season. I’d praise this game to the heavens if it was a lot more polished, and maybe I will, once it is more updated, but until then, I give this game a 7.5 out of 10