I am a huge nerd, but the tabletop game Warhammer never really called to me. It is an interesting hobby, but not something I was ever willing to put in the investment of time and money. I am, however, a huge fan of the action adventure RPG genre, or “Diablo-clones” as I refer to them. This is what drew me to Warhammer: Chaosbane and probably why I enjoyed it more than I should.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is the latest in a long line of licensed Warhammer video games. The game was developed by French studio, Eko Software, previously known for Rugby 18 and Handball 17, so obviously this is the developers first time handling a big release with a known property. No matter my issues with some aspects of Warhammer: Chaosbane, I must give credit to Eko Software for all the hard work they did. Now let’s dig in and discuss what they did right and what went wrong.
Warhammer: Chaosbane puts players in a setting I would compare to traditional Dungeons & Dragons, but darker and with steampunk influences. Fans of the property should enjoy the lore and world portrayed here. Players can pick from four different pre-made characters; Bragi the Slayer, Elontir the High-elf Mage, Konrad the Empire Soldier, and Elessa the Wood Elf Scout.
The game opens with rather cheap and unimpressive hand drawn “story scenes” explaining the story thus far. Honestly I would of rather have seen it all played out in the games own graphics engine. This fact, some questionable voice work, and a story that honestly did not draw me in or interest me, led to me skipping dialog scenes most of the time.
Gameplay is king in Warhammer: Chaosbane. While not without its own issues, this is the aspect I myself care most about when playing an action RPG. Addictive gameplay is what made Diablo so great 20 years ago, and if a game can keep me dungeon crawling, the story becomes an afterthought. Warhammer: Chaosbane has four main acts, each changing the setting and various enemies you encounter. Each act is finished off with a boss fight. There could definitely be more variety in the types of enemies you encounter, but the boss fights are both challenging and enjoyable.
As your character levels up, they will unlock more and more skills and points allotted to assign to them. With this limited amount I did feel very hampered in not only the amount of skills I could have equipped, especially passive skills, but what versions of them. Once you hit maximum level this becomes less frustrating and you can really customize your attack preferences with skills that gel well, but as you level this can be frustrating. This is all play style preference and I love that there are so many choices since there are so few characters to play. Along with this customization comes the God Skill Tree. Players collect various colored fragments from enemies that combined with in game currency, or “crowns,” unlocks various powerful skills and stat upgrades, each path reflecting a preference for more health, more damage, and etc.
While fun solo, Warhammer: Chaosbane is made for multiplayer. You can opt to play couch mode or combine with online play for a party of up to four adventurers. Unfortunately I found a couple of the characters are lacking in solo play, particularly the elves. Both of these characters are ranged damage dealers and cannot take much damage before dying. While they can clean out enemies by keeping range and kiting the groups around, when it comes time to fight a boss, you will need to find a group or expect a very challenging fight.
My biggest gameplay complaint has to be the Mage. His special skill is to be able to manipulate his spells, or move them around the screen to stay on enemies. This creates a sort of “rub your stomach while patting your head” awkwardness. As you move around with the left stick you are also moving the right and your eyes have to follow both.
It is further hampered by the fact the skill was designed to be used with a mouse on PC and the controller stick cannot match the precision needed. It is a shame because it makes the character really only useful in a certain build on console.
Graphically Warhammer: Chaosbane is fantastic. Spell effects look great and environments are creepy, the surfaces look slimy where they should. Bosses fill the screen and are gross, particularly the end of the first act. The only place lacking are those god awful cutscenes.
Music seemed to be an afterthought. Most times I did not even hear a score, just the constant sound of my attacks and enemies grunting. When I did happen to hear some music, it was generic and boring.
Voice work further damages the game with its inconsistency. Some actors, like Bragi, are better than others. Elessa sounds like an old British lady, and some of the NPC are so over exaggerated I can’t tell if the actor was trying to be silly or what.
Warhammer: Chaosbane feels like an unfinished game in some ways. It has some great ideas and so much potential. I both love and hate it at the same time. It is flawed in so many ways but I just couldn’t put it down. This addictive gameplay is what saves Warhammer: Chaosbane. There are also a ton of things to do after completing the games’ story, including a Boss Rush mode I enjoyed.
If you are a fan of the ARPG genre, I would recommend picking it up eventually, but I am leery to recommend the game so early on, as it has a large price tag of $59.99 USD on consoles. Given some further development and additional DLC, Warhammer: Chaosbane could turn it around and end up being a classic but only time will tell.