Addicted to Chaos
Now, I’ve played a few of the Warhammer dark fantasy titles, but let tell you, Warhammer: Chaosbane is one of the better games in the series I’ve experienced. This action-RPG features fierce boss battles, fun classes, and a pretty friendly loot system. The game has its fumbles (that 2 dollars an hour quality voice acting, for starters), but developer Eko Software manages to hit the nail on the head with this digital foray into the long-running tabletop franchise. While it apes Diablo’s time-tested formula closely, that doesn’t take away from the fun his title presents to fans new and old.
Story? We Don’t Need No Stinking Story
The story for Warhammer: Chaosbane is pretty straightforward and simplistic, but for fans of the series there are a few things you’ll notice and enjoy. Set about 200 years before Karl Franz and Co. become the main focus, and things are looking pretty grim as the forces of Chaos are mounting up to pretty much wipe everything and everyone from existence. You’ll run into some of the familiar figures from the lore like Prince Teclis, Emperor Magnus the Pious, and some others and that was pretty cool for fans of the series.
Throughout the game, you’ll journey from the ravaged, desolate streets of Praag to the frozen Norse like lands of Norsca. The different areas have their own personality, brought to life with the game’s beautiful art, music, and sound design.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a good war story without someone trying to try to sell you out to a demon lord at some point. With that in mind, I wasn’t too thrilled or sucked into the predictable story. I mainly looked forward to the end-game content. After slaughtering the final boss, modes like Expedition and Boss Rush become the most fun the game has to offer. Boss Rush is good for speed runs, while Expedition is a randomized shuffle of maps that you’ve played through on the campaign. In addition to these modes, you can also purchase maps that unlock instances of expeditions, which come with special modifiers adding a little fun to the battles.
One gripe I have with Chaosbane is the horrendous voice acting. There were times that my elf archer sounded like a man trying to do his best to seem ladylike. It was almost as bad as the good old original Resident Evil voice actors from the 32-bit days.
Overall, while you won’t likely find yourself invested deeply in the story, Warhammer: Chaosbane’s narrative offers what you would expect from an ARPG.
Time To Get Warhammered
I must say that one thing I thoroughly enjoyed about Chaosbane was the pulse-pounding, blood-spilling combat. That style of in-your-face, non-stop battling reminds me of Midway’s classic Gauntlet Legends, and I couldn’t keep my bloodstained hands off the controllers. The melees keep you on your toes, and you’ll have to think on your feet and space yourself just enough to get a good shot in without being completely surrounded. Throughout each chaotic encounter with the endless mobs I never felt bored with the combat. Each spell I cast looked amazing, every arrow I unleashed was accurate and hit like a Mike Tyson knockout reel.
The variety of enemies you face also manages to impress. From the gruesome hordes of creatures and burly warriors to the monstrous elites who don’t show up until later levels, and even the four greater daemons you face off against were entertaining to battle as slice away chunks of their flesh.
Speaking of the devilish daemons, each one you run into has its own unique mechanics on any difficulty. The battles actually felt like they had a bit of strategy to them without being too mundane. My encounter with the first greater daemon, the Plaguebringer, was a serious pain in the butt. This was thanks in no small part to the damned hordes of additional enemies who endlessly spawned in and his massive area of effect attacks that made it hard to sit still and land solid blows. And if you think they let up later in the game, you’re in for a rude awakening, my friend.
As I previously mentioned, Warhammer: Chaosbane is a bit of a Diablo clone, to put it mildly. And when it comes to its character classes, this is where their similarities shine through most prominently. There are 4 main classes/characters in this game and each one shares some seriously strong similarities to the characters from the popular Blizzard title.
You can choose to take control of imperial soldier Konrad Vollen, the high elf mage Prince Ellontir, the dwarven slayer Bragi Axebiter, and the wood-elf scout Elessa. Each class has their own unique skills and passive abilities to help you destroy the different types of non-stop, ugly, enemy hordes. For example, the master of the mystical arts Ellontir is a nearly overpowered mage who can clear out swarms of mobs like nobody’s business. While most characters had a dodge or some kind of stun move to help maintain some breathing room from the enemies, the high elf mage was capable of controlling the direction of some of his spells with the right stick.
The skill progression in Warhammer: Chaosbane was a shining light in all the darkness you face. Unlike a lot of other action RPGs, you can’t just slap on the most overpowered moves you obtain. Even in the late game, you will have to mix and match your skills to make your character’s build as powerful as possible with your finite skill points. The God Skill Tree was another beautiful addition to the game, providing players with even more devastating god skills as well as an incremental increase in damage and power. My favorite combat mechanic was the blood lust meter. Basically, it’s your “super” meter which allows for your character to become an unstoppable juggernaut of destruction once filled. You literally can wipe out entire groups in a matter of seconds, barely taking damage all the while destroying everything in your path.
Friends And Treasure Go Fine Together
Thankfully, Warhammer: Chaosbane’s multiplayer is easy to dive into. And the game’s battles become even more insane when you assemble a full party to share in the guts and glory. The game even allows you and a friend on the same console to join to up to play with others online.
While slaying with friends is great fun, it’s not without its share of issues. At times damage numbers would be huge and take up the screen, making it hard to make sense of what was going on. The enemies would seem to stick to one teammate more than others, and at times people would clear the stage before you could even get in and help, which is disappointing. Thankfully, even if your host barrels through the stage without you, you’re still awarded experience for the dungeon.
One thing that really took me by surprise was how friendly and forgiving the loot system is in this game. Even early in the game, it’s not uncommon to find plenty of rare pieces of gear to assist you in your adventure. It was neat seeing the changes in my characters’ appearance as you progressed throughout the game and uncovered ever more powerful equipment. Another nice bonus is that in multiplayer your loot was your own to pilfer, so you didn’t have to get your britches all in a bunch if you and another character of the same class played together (damned loot ninjas).
The Final War Cry
All told, Warhammer: Chaosbane is pretty much what you’d expect from a Diablo-inspired action-RPG, and that isn’t a bad thing. While it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it’s a well made and welcome addition to the long-running franchise. Though its story may be uninspired, the game’s fleshed-out mechanics, tense and visceral combat, friendly loot system, and fun skill progression system will keep you wanting to play the game. The easy to access multiplayer also makes for a game that’s great to experience with a group of loot-crazed friends to enjoy as you slaughter your way through the forces of chaos and despair.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC; Publisher: Bigben Interactive; Developer: Eko Software; Players: 1-4; Released: May 31, 2019; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Warhammer: Chaosbane provided by the publisher.