A code for this game was provided by the developers, thanks to Eko and Bigben for helping us out with that.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is an interesting ARPG from Eko Software and Bigben Interactive. The newest RPG-based game that Games Workshop has licensed takes the Warhammer Fantasy material and drops into a game that’s very reminiscent of titles like Grim Dawn. The game has gone through a couple different beta phases, and has apparently been highly polished and refined by the developers. Early impressions seemed to indicate that the game was headed in the right direction, but is it enough? Is this a game you should pick up on day one? Let’s find out.
Warhammer: Chaosbane, first and foremost, is an action RPG. That means there is going to be frantic combat, lots of bloodshed, and a literal mountain of loot to sort through. You also get four classes to choose from, each covering their archetype. The Ranger uses traps and ranged attacks to rip foes to shreds. There’s the Slayer who charges into the middle of the fray like a lunatic and fights like one too. There’s the Soldier, who is the basic sword and board fighter. And finally, the roster is rounded out by the spell-slinging Mage.
Without getting too deep into the story, the setup is that the Empire of Man is under siege from the forces of Chaos, and it’s up to our heroes to beat them back. You start by taking on cults of Nurgle, and before long you’re slaying Chaos Champions by the dozen. The setup is very basic, and the gameplay despite appearing just as simple, actually hides a lot of depth.
When you choose your class, you’re opening up a treasure trove of possibilities. And sure the playstyles themselves are pretty limited by class choice, but the customization within those classes based on skill choices is widely varied. The gameplay loops are all based around a hub world, which offers a pretty linear experience, but the game does break up the mold just a bit. One area this is done is in the economic side of things.
Warhammer: Chaosbane does manage to break from tradition a bit, even though they do use Gold Crowns, by giving the Gold currency a bit more of a strategic use in-game. One of the primary uses for Gold Crowns is the God powers. This special skill tree represents a combination of passive buffs and super-powerful abilities that you need to spend the Gold and Fragments you find to unlock. It feels a lot like a somewhat unique spin on the Ascendancy Trees from Path of Exile, but in a much more robust form. These abilities aren’t completely game-breaking by any means, but amount of bonuses can certainly shape the type of build you’re going for.
The Slayer I used for the primary playthrough in this review has multiple main archetypes, each focusing on a defensive and offensive element in tandem. There’s a branch for Critical strikes and damage, there’s one for pure defense with Health and Armor. There’s another that offers buffs to allies, that kind of thing.
The combat is very straight-forward, group up and hit the things until they die. This game was certainly built for co-op play, but it can still be very fun as a solo experience too. The bosses are the first real challenge in the game. Although the manner in which they telegraph their attacks makes the affair of dealing with these beasties much simpler.
I will say, that the control schemes are definitely geared towards playing with a controller. You’re limited to a small number of active skills. Which is kind of underwhelming considering each class has a couple dozen different individual passive and active skill choices, and that’s in addition to the God powers which add even more. I can see what Eko were going for by forcing the player to heavily dial in their build and forcing them to pick the skills that most mesh with the playstyle they like, but some players may feel a bit restricted by not having easy access to all of their skills.
You’re also going to be seeing a lot of the same areas in each individual acts, so if you’re looking for a wide array of varying aesthetics and tilesets, you’re going to be left a bit underwhelmed. The individual Acts are all pretty fun to play, but the formula of questing and slaughtering the same legions of Chaos tends to grate on my patience at least a bit after a while. Th areas look great, but I can only stare at the same look for so long before it all starts to run together.
I must say, this game is buttery smooth. The combat, despite being fast, frantic and confusing at times, is never too overwhelming. And even on a meager PC, it runs at a smooth 60 FPS. There’s no really graphical options to speak of since it’s a console-led release, but that’s not a huge gripe for me. I will strongly recommend playing with a controller if possible if only just for the simple reason of movement and attacking being much easier to control.
Some pathing issues with movement, especially when using the movement-based skills, can make dealing with large groups irritating.
Gear could also use some more balancing in my opinion. Basically after every quest you’re going to have to pick through your loot looking for better upgrades, and it can get kind of tedious to have to swap gear so often. The game does offer a reputation system to make use of your otherwise useless loot though, so that’s nice. There’s also a Blessing system that allows you to alter gear in a very basic crafting system.
The game is pretty pricey at $50 USD. The game does offer tons of reworked and interesting mechanics that take the existing tropes and gameplay conventions of the action RPG genre and tweaks them just enough to keep things fresh, but not so much so that the game feels unfamiliar. If you’re someone who spends a ton of time with this genre in your gaming hobbies, there’s plenty to enjoy in Warhammer: Chaosbane. Would it be at the top of my list for “must have” of 2019. Not really, and even though I’ve spent a ton of time with Path of Exile and Grim Dawn and so many other games of this kind, I kind of need something more to keep me invested.
Would I recommend this to everyone? Not really. If you’re looking for a somewhat basic ARPG with tons of loot and Chaos filth to slay, this game is for you. If you’re coming into this looking for tons of cosmetic customization, innovations, or extreme class variety, you’re probably going to be disappointed. It’s still very fun for what it is, but it won’t blow you away.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is out now for PC, Xbox One and PS4. Check it out on Steam. The game launches on June 4th for those who haven’t purchased the pricey special editions.