The world of Warhammer goes dungeon crawling, but can it emulate Blizzard’s benchmark series? Discover why there’s a lot of potential for a grand game in Bloody Disgusting’s Warhammer Chaosbane preview.
In all fairness, the dungeon crawler genre has always seemed like a snug fit for Games Workshop’s fantasy Warhammer setting so it comes as little surprise that, even at this early juncture, Warhammer: Chaosbane is looking to do a commendable job of marrying the two together with savage aplomb.
The premise of Warhammer: Chaosbane is pleasingly simple. Those horrid Chaos-lads are at it again as they’ve decided that they want to batter everything that’s breathing in the world into a fine red mist. As the representative of an alliance of races comprising of Humans, Dwarves, High Elves and Wood Elves, you (and your buddies, if you have them) are tasked with putting magical swords/axes/arrows and spells into the faces of your grotesque foes with a view to driving them back to 90s Death Metal World forever and ever.
So far, so Diablo then really.
In the closed beta client that I had access to in order to author this preview, there were two different characters on offer; High Elf mage Elontir and Human imperial knight Konrad Vollen. Because I prefer the intimacy of ramming blades where they shouldn’t go into the anatomies of demonic evil-doers, I naturally elected to strap on my sword and shield as the good Sir Vollen.
With the entirety of the first act available (it *is* one of the more sizable betas I’ve ever got stuck into, that’s for sure), I was able to clock in a good three hours with the beta build of Warhammer: Chaosbane before all was said and done. The first thing you notice is just how polished everything is. From the easy to navigate menus, through to the detailed environments and the resolutely silky smooth 60 frames per second action that is a world away from the jerky, turtle-plod of recent franchise Diablo-like Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor Martyr, it’s clear that Chaosbane is already a very polished looking effort even this early on.
As to the core of the game itself, Warhammer: Chaosbane doesn’t appear to be making any big, genre-shattering moves at this point – preferring instead to closely follow the template established by Blizzard Entertainment’s dungeon crawling, magnum opus. With a camera that follows you from a roaming isometric perspective, you are tasked with carving and blasting your way through the Nurgle horde – a particularly unpleasant (and unkempt) branch of the series longtime Chaos antagonists.
It’s simple stuff too – a quick tap of a button executes a standard strike, while more exotic and damaging attacks can be mapped to other keys and pad buttons and chained into combinations with ease. Just like Diablo, Warhammer: Chaosbane also uses an energy system whereby those more powerful attacks consume varying amounts of energy which can, in turn, only be generated by hitting monsters in the face as hard as you possibly can, over and over again.
In case you find yourself overwhelmed and on a one-way trip to Beatdown Town, healing comes in the form of an infinite healing potion that when used triggers a cooldown, and so its use must be tempered well lest you find yourself without a pick me up when you need it the most. Speaking of pick me ups, should you succumb to a beastly beating, you can elect to resurrect yourself with shards that are found in plentiful quantity, or, elect to quit and return to the beginning of the dungeon.
Elsewhere, the progression system appears to be impressively layered. With a robust range of unlockable abilities and skills that can be plucked from a number of different progression trees, there is no shortage of incentives to keep pushing through the levels and crushing your enemies.
Supplementing the incentive yet further, on top of the regular skills, each class also has an archetype ability which defines their vocation. Our Sir Vollen, for example, fires out a magical shield that stuns enemies caught in its path for a few seconds, allowing for an easy set of kills. Finally, Chaosbane’s Bloodlust mechanic pretty much functions like the rage meter we all know and love – when it fills from collecting pockets of red matter, you can trigger it at any time and for a short period, your character morphs into an invincible and unrelenting tornado of face-smashing violence. Happy days.
Though supremely polished and a lot of fun to play, there are a few things that aren’t quite so appealing about Warhammer: Chaosbane at this point in time, too. The first of these is the level design. Though impressive to gawk at from a technical standpoint, Chaosbane seems fond of repeating huge sections of its play area from one quest to the next. Compounding this repetition is the revelation that roughly 85-90% of Choasbane’s first act takes place in that tried and tested introductory bastion of evil – the sewers, whereupon dull grey and mildly depressing green are the order of the day.
Then there’s the hub area. Whereas in Diablo III, you could wander around the Town of Tristram and speak to various folks, get an idea of the local flavor, chat to numerous vendors and even take on side-quests, Chaosbane’s hub area is, by comparison, rather limited to say the least. With just one vendor to speak to, no additional folk to really chinwag with and a seeming complete lack of side missions to get stuck into (which would hopefully *not* take place in the sewers), here’s hoping that this is merely a content issue which will be addressed in the final code.
Another issue, albeit a small one at this point, is how this game deals with loot and more pressingly, loot collection. Chaosbane has automatic loot equip, however, there is no option to enable automatic equip when you find better items, as instead, you need to go back into your menu each time to equip new gear. Yes, it sounds like I’m being a lazy bastard (and to an extent, I am admittedly), but when most other titles in the genre offer this feature as standard, its omission should be noted. Something for the final product or the inevitable day one patch, perhaps?
Further afield, destroyable barrels yield the usual sprinklings of gold and other minor loots one might expect, but anyone expecting the free-range, wholesale destruction of furniture and other elements of the environment as seen in Diablo III, will be disappointed. Though again, such nagging issues are ones that could be reflective of the current build status, rather than a systemic issue which will manifest in the finished product.
Based on this rather large morsel then, Warhammer: Chaosbane suitably impresses. It’s far more polished than I thought it would be, has oodles of satisfying combat and rounds it all off with decent loot and progression systems. Though not perfect on account of its level design and other minor seeming shortcomings, it still manages to confidently stake its claim as one of the most lustrous takes on the Warhammer license seen to date and I’m eager to see more, certainly.
Warhammer Chaosbane preview code for PS4 provided by the publisher.
Warhammer Chaosbane is out on PS4, Xbox One, and PC June 4, 2019. The beta is available now via pre-order.