While there are clearly no shortage of Warhammer games on the market, Fantasy or 40k, Warhammer: Chaosbane is proof that we desperately need more in the action RPG category. Overall, Chaosbane was a middling experience with various ups and downs, but enough parts of the game are satisfying to warrant at least a single completion.
Chaosbane is a truly polarizing experience that could have been an amazing game, but so many corners were cut that the core game felt diluted as a whole. That being said, I would love to play a sequel where Eko Software learned from their mistakes while capitalizing on what was done well.
The Old World
In Warhammer: Chaosbane, players will take the role as one of four hero classes: Imperial Soldier, High-Elf Mage, Slayer, and the Wood-Elf Scout. Times are perilous for the Empire of Man and it is up to the hero, or heroes, to stop the last bastion from falling into chaos.
The game features four chapters in different areas of the world with beautiful, well-crafted visuals. Unfortunately, the aesthetic portion of the game is also one of its major downfalls. While the artwork is fantastic everywhere, it’s clear that the art team was only given time to complete a few tile sets for each zone.
After a few chapters, I was able to know exactly where a chest was going to pop up because certain tile sets were used repeatedly with limited variation. There were times I even got lost because multiple parts of the same map looked exactly the same.
Not only was this a bother to look at, but it also create a scenario where so many missions were set in the same landscape. By the time I finished the first chapter, I never wanted to see another sewer again, and that trend followed for each of the four acts.
This created some problems with the storytelling. Multiple missions sent me through the exact same landscape, which didn’t really seem to make sense from a storytelling perspective. Additionally, there were multiple points where the dialogue was mismatched with the text or was completely absent.
This repetition reduces the replay value because by the time you’re done with an act, you most likely won’t want to go back. Compared against something like Diablo 3, which has many different biomes per Act, Chaosbane feels lacking in this department.
A Strong Arsenal
Nobody plays ARPGs for the storytelling, and thankfully Chaosbane is incredibly satisfying when it comes to combat. The vast array of attacks for each character is borderline overwhelming and most of them are visually spectacular. There is also a system to upgrade each of your basic skills, which typically makes them flashier, more powerful, and/or improves utility.
Of course, there’s also tons of loot to pick up along the way. There is definitely a nice power curve to the gear the game throws at you; I never felt too weak or overpowered throughout the campaign. However, the equipment is a bit boring when compared to the crazy loot available in Diablo or Path of Exile. Enhancing damage or critical hit percentage is never as interesting as shooting extra lightning bolts or poison novas, but I’m sure there were lore reasons for this.
The progression system feels solid as players are given ability points each time they level to use on active and passive abilities. However, there’s also a huge passive tree that’s never discussed and doesn’t unlock until near the end of the first act. I accidentally stumbled upon in while I was stuck on the chapter boss and didn’t feel powerful enough to defeat him. After unlocking a plethora of passive bonuses, and a couple of powerful new skills, I made short work of him.
Blood for the Blood God
The highest point of Chaosbane is its boss fights. The only disappointing fact is that there are only four of them, representing the different Greater Daemons, and the rest of the enemies in the game are mostly fodder. That isn’t to say it wasn’t entertaining slaughtering hordes of Nurglings, but the bosses were the only time I ever experience death.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the first boss fight against the Great Unclean One, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it to take me multiple attempts. Each of the chapter bosses has multiple phases that must be figured out, similar to an MMORPG raid boss, or things can get quickly out of hand. This usually involves mid-fight pauses where the boss is temporarily invincible and other objectives must be completed, such as killing waves of minions or destroying blood fountains.
These were definitely some of the better boss fights I’ve experienced in the genre and went back to tackle them again after unlocking the Boss Rush mode, which is available upon finishing a chapter and teleports you straight to the final fight.
Bring Some Friends
The only thing more fun than dispatching minions of Chaos is doing it with friends. Thankfully, Warhammer: Chaosbane features some excellent drop-in drop-out co-op. You can play the game by yourself and at any time the game can be converted to online mode or a local friend can join the fight from your couch.
However, there’s one major issues with the local co-op. All new characters from the same console will start out at level 1. So unless you start a new game with a friend, or give them a chance to catch up, there will usually be a level discrepancy. Another aspect that might be loved or hated is that when one player starts to move off screen it will drag the other with them. This is great if you want to keep playing while your buddies grab some snacks, but it’s annoying when the game starts pulling characters in weird directions in the middle of a fight.
The fundamental gameplay of Warhammer: Chaosbane, hacking the chaos horde to bits, is extremely satisfying. The classes, skills, and upgrades are an interesting and unique enough to warrant a try with enough variety that there should be something for everyone. Each class also has its own gimmick, such as the mage being able to control projectile magic mid-flight and the slayer’s grappling hook that grants the dwarf some much needed mobility. Finally, the bosses are truly epic and the only unfortunate aspect is that there weren’t more of them.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is the first ARPG set in the Warhammer Fantasy setting. While it’s difficult to really innovate on a genre that’s been around for decades, it puts an interesting spin on some classic skills while throwing in a few interesting concepts. The boss fights also feel more inspired from MMORPGs than typically found in action RPGs as well.
Learning Curve: 6/10
One of the bigger problems with Chaosbane is that it doesn’t really tell you how to do anything. Even as a veteran gamer, I ‘accidentally’ discovered things like the passive talent tree and Chaos power, which temporarily grants new abilities that generally explode the entire screen. Other systems are simply not explained well, such as donating equipment. There isn’t a trading or selling option, instead you just give your gear away and sometimes you get a small bonus.
I do appreciate it when a game doesn’t hold your hand through the entire experience, but basic systems shouldn’t be hidden and then randomly unlocked.
The other core problem with Chaosbane is its visuals and sounds. For the most part, the game is highly detailed and gorgeous, but the repetitive nature of the zones and environments really diminishes its value. By the third mission in each act, everything starts looking the same. The voice acting is also hit or miss, with much of the dialogue not matching the text on the screen. This should have been fixed during QA testing.
At the moment, there just isn’t enough unique content to justify the $60 price tag attached to Warhammer: Chaosbane. Each act can be finished in a couple of hours and the replay value isn’t that great due to the repetitive nature of the game.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is an enjoyable experience that could really use a bit more polish and fleshed out level design. It’s a fairly good game at its core but it’s hard to miss the problem areas as well. Pick it up if you’re a big Warhammer fan or really enjoy ARPGs, but it might be better to wait for a sale if you’re on the fence.
Exceptional boss fights
Fun and gritty hack-and-slash gameplay
Lots of audio glitches
Repetitive levels and enemies
Minimal replay value