A New Face with some Familiar Touches
If you’re anything like me, you like dungeon crawlers, in particular, the Diablo series. Whether it’s playing some couch co-op of Diablo III with my wife on our PS4 or firing up Diablo II on the PC to play a timeless classic, the games never get old. Cue a new Warhammer game landing in my inbox that itself is a dungeon crawler in the same vein as Diablo and my interest was instantly piqued. This is the first time a Warhammer game has gone this route, and it has some big competition to live up to. Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the closed beta via Steam, and I was pretty impressed with what I got to experience.
For the uninitiated, Warhammer is the long-running tabletop game series from Games Workshop. An overly-simplified way to look at is: if Warhammer 40k is Starcraft, then the standard Warhammer is Warcraft. Both are fantasy based tabletop games, but while 40k is set in the very distant future, classic Warhammer is strictly fantasy-based. You have your humans who are part of the Empire, dwarves, high elves, orcs, dark elves, and evil followers of the Chaos Gods. Warhammer: Chaosbane gives you the choice of playing one of four distinct character classes. The imperial soldier is your standard warrior class, the dwarven slayer is like a miniature Kratos, if that makes sense. You also have the high elven mage for your ranged spell casting abilities and an elven archer if you want your ranged combat to be more traditional. For my time with the beta, I chose the tried and true soldier class, an imperial captain by the name of Konrad Vollen.
When your interior designer gets a little carried away
“I dunno, I think we can spread a little more love for Sigmar over here man”
The intro cinematic was fairly standard as far as RPG’s go. Your father was an imperial soldier, and when he died you took up his sword and shield to carry on the tradition. The cool thing about this was the narration presented the backstory almost in a Dungeons & Dragons-esque fashion. I felt like I was listening to a DM read my character’s fleshed out backstory to help set the stage for the game to come. It was nice hearing a little twist to your average opening cutscene. Soon after starting my game as Konrad, chaos came knocking on the gates of the city I was tasked to protect. Cultists of the chaos god Nurgle were on a mission to take out the soon-to-be emperor. While I did my best to protect my liege, a witch put a curse on him and promptly retreated. A troop of Witch Hunters – hired hands whose job is to eradicate anything corrupt and unpure – barged into the emperor’s throne room and instantly cast blame on me for the emperor’s unfortunate situation. After all, it’s hard to look innocent when everyone else around you is dead and your emperor is catatonic. Were it not for a mysterious and very well dressed high elf entering the fray and talking some sense into them, I was set to have a pretty bad day.
The instant that I began the game the Diablo overtones felt instantly recognizable to me. The game is presented in a 3/4 isometric view, maps are procedurally generated, you have health and mana (or skill?) orbs to indicate player combat status, skill and potion quick keys displayed below them, and you even have glowing doorways to show you where you can progress to next. While at first glance it may seem that Warhammer: Chaosbane is trying a little too hard to imitate, it does a good job distinguishing itself where it matters most: combat. Upon being rescued by my elvish benefactor, he became my primary quest giver during my beta time. His first order was to chase the crazed cultists into the nearby sewers and eradicate them. The game really picked itself up here and showed off how it strives to differentiate itself from other dungeon crawlers.
LIGHTNING BOLT! LIGHTNING BOLT!
Put on your robe and wizard hat and cast Magic Missile against the darkness!
While the mobs came running towards me, I delved into my quickly growing repertoire of skills. Before long I had an ability to swing around and clear out hordes of enemies surrounding me, use my shield to plow and knock back enemies, and lay a banner down to buff myself or any other players who would happen to be around to share it. Indeed, across the 4 characters classes, there are over 180 skills to utilize, so combat options are aplenty in Warhammer: Chaosbane. The combat flows with great fluidity, and I felt that I was going from kill to kill a lot smoother than what I experienced while playing other dungeon crawlers. Though I didn’t have the time to check them out, the other character classes have unique abilities that make them far from carbon copies of one another. For instance, the dwarven slayer can use his axes to chain from enemy to enemy, moving frantically across the battlefield. The elven high mage can also control his magic, directing it where he wants to for greater accuracy and impact. On top of all this, you eventually unlock an ability called Bloodlust that is essentially a 3-tier super move that is specific to each character. The effect changes based on how full the Bloodlust gauge is and the effects can be devastating for the chaos hordes. Little nuances like these really helped Warhammer: Chaosbane stand out to me.
In addition to the game playing very well, it looks pretty good as well. There are plenty of shaders and particle effects at play which really helps the environments to stand out. High elves are clad in plenty of shiny gold, the sewers have putrid gas clouds floating around, and the chaos hordes are rightfully disgusting creatures. Surprisingly, despite being a newer game this is very easy on the system requirements. My rig is unfortunately very ancient (I’m perpetually cursed by having too many hobbies). I’m still stuck with an i7-3770k, 8GB of RAM, and a Radeon HD7870 GPU. Despite some drops to mid 40 FPS to around 30 FPS at the lowest when there were a lot of enemies or particle effects on screen, the game ran at an almost constant 60 fps on ultra settings on my rig at 1080p. Given how easy the game is on my geriatric rig, I would expect the console versions to maintain a nice, smooth framerate with little to no issues.
Three Dirty Dwarves
Warhammer Chaosbane will be available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Preorder to check out the beta!
Though I admittedly have only had a few hours to spend with Warhammer: Chaosbane so far, (another curse of having a demanding real-world job) I was thoroughly intrigued by what I played. I’m always down for a dungeon crawler, and this game did a great job making sure to not overdo its usage of other of familiar dungeon crawler conventions. The game was fun and played smoothly, save for a (potential?) minor bug when trying to use a keyboard and mouse setup where I couldn’t seem to find a way to display a pointer, making it hard to see where I was directing my character. I switched to using my Xbox One controller and the transition was seamless and the game controlled perfectly. If you want to have some friends join in the game will support both 4 player online and offline drop-in co-op, so if you’re looking to share in some demon slaying fun with some fancy twists this is one you will definitely want to keep an eye out for. Pre-orders for the game are active, and doing so enrolls you in more upcoming beta sessions (the current beta is live through March 13th with more scheduled for later). Pre-orders also include the bonuses outlined in the infographic pictured above. Warhammer: Chaosbane is currently scheduled for a June 4th release date for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.