General game information
Game name: Warhammer: Chaosbane
Release date: June 4, 2019
Store page: Steam
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Eko Software
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
While Warhammer 40,000 fans have been getting a steady supply of new games in different genres over the past five years or so, Fantasy Battles enthusiasts are still somewhat stuck in strategy/tactics land, with occasional forays into cooperative FPS adventures thanks to the hard working folks who call Fatshark home. Enter Warhammer: Chaosbane, an upcoming action RPG title similar to Diablo, but set in the Fantasy Battles universe, complete with world-weary Empire veterans, Nurgle abominations and other niceties. So far so good, but how does it play? I’m glad you asked, because I’ve spent the past week playing a beta build of Chaosbane, so I’m eager to pour my thoughts on this early version of the game over the next few paragraphs.
I’ve always been partial to the Empire of Man, so of course when I saw that I could choose between a High Elf and an Imperial Knight, I picked the latter with my eyes closed. According to the promotional material I’ve perused, the full game will present us with two more characters to choose from (a Wood Elf and a Dwarf), but this preview is based on my experience playing as Konrad Vollen, the Imperial Knight.
The first thing that struck me about Chaosbane was that it features full voice acting and a lavishly detailed introductory cutscene. While the Diablo series is also known for that exact same thing, for some reason I didn’t expect this game to go down the same route, and as such, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the voice acting and the amount of work that went into creating the intro that would set the tone for the story to follow.
Once we get to the actual game, things aren’t very different from other action RPG titles such as the Diablo games, with the left mouse click dealing with both movement and basic attacks, and different keyboard shortcuts handling a number of skills which will be unlocked as we advance through the campaign and level up our character. Playing with a gamepad will let us assume direct control over our chosen protagonist, and an all-new UI will also be present, as the default inventory and stats screens were designed with mouse and keyboard in mind and wouldn’t handle very well with a control pad.
Of course, the star of the show in this kind of game isn’t the story or the dialogue or anything of the sort, but the loot and moment to moment gameplay. On that front, I’m both happy and cautiously optimistic, for reasons I’ll relay below.
Playing as Konrad Vollen, I was completely sold on the fantasy of being a veteran soldier of the Empire. Basic attacks cut through enemy flesh with ruthless efficiency, limbs flying as my sword worked its way through the hordes of Chaos worshippers. Those same basic attacks generate a resource that can be used to power special strikes, which were exponentially more damaging than simple sword blows (I’ll never get tired of shield charging into a mob of enemies, and then unleashing a vicious 360 degrees sword slash to cut down any survivors). As usual with this type of game, there is a skill tree that will let us unlock even more abilities (or improve the ones we already have, though of course they have an upgrade limit). Past certain point in the campaign, we’ll also unlock an ultimate ability of sorts, that can be used to change the tide of battle in hairy situations, though it’s on a cooldown that prevents it from feeling overpowered.
Fans of the Diablo series will be happy to learn that there is some degree of environmental destruction, with certain background items falling prey to our sword blows. As expected, most of these destructible objects will leave behind some sort of useful loot, whether it’s money or actual items that can be equipped by our character. I didn’t see any instances of environmental traps or anything of the sort, but the beta was limited to the first act of the game, so there’s a chance that the full game will build upon this in the future.
With basic gameplay out of the way, it’s time to talk about the loot, which is the aspect of Chaosbane that didn’t feel “right” for me in this limited beta. As I worked my way through the content available during the testing window, I noticed that the loot drops were very generous, but most of them were actually useless, as they were either the same item I had already equipped, or a downgrade. This doesn’t mean that ALL the drops were useless, of course, because I wouldn’t have been able to beat the beta content if that was the case. Sadly, my overall sentiment was that I was being fed tons of loot as a way of making the progression feel better than it actually was. I hope that this is a case of the developers testing loot drops, and not a taste of what’s to come once the full game comes out in June. Considering that the release date is still somewhat far away, I can believe that things will change, so I choose to remain cautiously optimistic about the loot.
Aside from the loot issue, however, my time with Warhammer: Chaosbane‘s beta build was definitely entertaining, as Eko Software‘s upcoming action RPG seems to be taking the right cues from the giants of the genre. I was also particularly impressed by the game’s stability, as I didn’t encounter any crashes or game breaking bugs while playing this early build, and everything felt incredibly polished, even when compared with titles that are already out in the wild.