Sometimes it feels like you can’t walk a few steps without accidentally tripping over another Warhammer game. They are absolutely everywhere and their quality tends to vary dramatically thanks to Games Workshop handing out the license to anyone that pays them a few Jelly Beans. Thankfully we’ve gotten some pretty good Warhammer games of late, and Warhammer: Chaosbane is looking to continue that trend. Due to launch in June, I got some time in with Warhammer: Chaosbane during its closed beta. So let’s talk about that.
To describe Warhammer: Chaosbane as a Diablo clone would be lazy. I am lazy, though, so yes, Warhammer: Chaosbane is basically Diablo or Torchlight but with considerably more of Nurgle’s gross minions. It’s up to you or you and three other people to bash the forces of Chaos in the face, collect shiny loot and ultimately spend a lot of time in screens trying to maximise your stats. Maybe you’ll even save the day.
Firing up the beta I opted to take Konrad Vorren as my character, an Imperial who had served throughout numerous battles until one day he was the only man left alive on a battlefield. Boasting a melee weapon and shield, Vorren is the front-liner of the four characters available.
Like any dungeon crawler Chaosbane loves to send hordes upon hordes of enemies charging at you like a demented crowd during a Black Friday sale. With a tap of A you can launch a standard attack, which in my case was a swing of my sword, but when playing as the mage the same button unleashes fireballs. This basic attack will also charge up the energy gauge which in turn can be spent to activate and use the more powerful abilities.
In my case special abilities included a whirling strike that’s handy for dealing with large crowds, a shield dash and bash and a deployable banner that I could ram into the ground to provide a damage boost to myself and any friends in the area. There are more available, but the Beta only let me get up to level 20 which left a bunch of skills tantalizingly out of my grubby grasp.
Speaking of which, there’s a bit of RPG goodness buried in Chaosbane, by which I mean there are numbers everywhere, and numbers for the numbers. As you level up you unlock new skills as well as skill points to invest in them. The trick here is that points aren’t lost when you spend them on something, rather you get them back if you unequip the skill. Because of this my time in the Beta involved interesting decisions between having a few, higher level skills or having lots of lower ones to pick from. I hope the full game keeps this idea going because it was much more intriguing than just unlocking everything.
It wouldn’t be a hack and slash looter without any actual loot, and boy does it like to rain new gear down on your head. I found myself swapping out my gear quite often for new stuff with better stats. In the beta there was nothing special to really chat about; visual variations seem a little thin on the ground and everything I picked up just offered minor stat boosts with no other notable effects. However, since the beta only let me go up to level 20 and offered only a small snippet of the overall game this isn’t surprising. Like most games in this genre I’m sure Chaosbane will save its more interesting loot for later.
With up to eight equippable skills plus plenty of loot there should be a lot of room for tweaking your character’s build to find the right playstyle for you.
In total there’s going to be four characters to play as. We’ve already talked briefly about Vorren and the mage, so let’s cover the other two; there’s a Slayer whose sole job is to dish out pure damage while scooting about via grappling axes; and an Elf who acts as the second ranged class to the mage. No gameplay footage of the Elf scout exists yet, but I think it’s fair to imagine a fast, agile character who skirts the battlefield. There doesn’t seem to be anything radically different about the character lineup at this point. They all fit in with basic archetypes.
A bit of a technical hiccup made its presence felt, but considering this is a beta and the game has another few months until launch I don’t view it as a serious issue. There’s a narrated intro, but lines of dialogue kept playing over each other until eventually I was attempting to listen to five or six different sentences at the same time. I didn’t run into any other problems, though, which is very promising.
There are bigger issues which are part of the game’s core design which bugged me. Specifically, the fact that the entire beta takes place in sewers leaves me worried that Chaosbane is going to make me trudge around underground the whole time. Even more worrying is that the sewers seem to be slotted together using an extremely limited set of tiles. Often these tiles are put next to each other, so I walked through the same place three times in a row with only small differences.
Promotional materials suggest there will be more environments in the full game, though, so with any luck I’ll be able to venture out from the sewers, wash the stench off and kill some shit outside for a change. Still, I worry that a prolonged sewer sequence right at the very start could hamper the game.
Right now combat feels fine, but attacks lack a sense of impact. Whacking something with a hammer in the game’s current state doesn’t have the meaty thump you’d really expect, so some work on the audio effects and the animations could help improve the feel of combat a lot.
The pricetag doesn’t feel right, either. Right now you can pre-order it on Steam for a hefty £39.99, putting it up there with big-budget triple-A titles. Frankly, Chaosbane doesn’t feel like it should be sitting in that price bracket. £20-25 would be about right, based on the beta.
And ultimately I wonder if the game is going to keep me hooked after the first few hours. The gameplay is solid enough, but there’s nothing exciting or new on offer. Will the drive for loot keep me coming back for more?
At the moment I’m cautiously looking forward to Warhammer: Chaosbane. This closed beta didn’t blow me away but it did manage to scratch the loot itch which Anthem failed so horribly to do. There are a few months until Warhammer: Chaosbane is due to launch, providing some time for the developers to polish things up and respond to some of the community feedback. Fingers crossed for another good Warhammer game, then.