Between the Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy, there are a plethora of licensed video game adaptations. Ranging from pure action titles to RTS, from adapted versions of American football to chess, even spins on the Left 4 Dead formula. Some games are good, some bad, some ugly. What about a Warhammer Diablo, though? Warhammer: Chaosbane aspires to be just that, but does it succeed or is it one for the “nope” pile of licensed Warhammer games?
I’ve had a chance to look at the development progress so far in the closed beta and the makings of a typical Action RPG are all there. You loot and level, making progress with every slain heretic brood you can come across and every finished quest. So far, so expected.
In the beta, I’ve had the opportunity to play the High Elf Mage and Imperial Soldier, the Slayer, and Wood Elf Scout were locked off. The Imperial Soldier is the archetypal melee fighter, shield and sword in hand, and equipped with skills to rush to a comrade’s aid or hack at enemies close by. The Mage does his thing by breathing fire, slinging arcane orbs and such.
In Warhammer: Chaosbane each class can equip six spells at a time while being limited by the skill points available. Want to equip a spell? Spend some skill points. Want to equip a more expensive spell? Get more points or have fewer abilities active at the same time. The system is quite flexible and encourages experimentation, as you can just unequip a spell and free up the required skill points to invest them somewhere else.
As it was a beta build, some roughness was to be expected. The graphics options in the game were very few and far between, brightness, HUD size, map transparency and weirdly enough the choice of damage font were available, nothing in the way of changing resolutions, full screen, or windowed mode, or general graphical fidelity. The launcher only allowed for shadow quality options, besides resolutions, VSYNC, and Window Mode.
Either way, the spells were no graphical fireworks, but the environments in Warhammer: Chaosbane had some work put into them. Yet after three hours of mostly sewers, I didn’t have the overwhelming urge to enter them some more. The general gameplay, unfortunately, didn’t hook me quite as much as of some of its ARPG cousins, the for the genre so typical carrots on sticks weren’t that appealing. Upgrades in equipment didn’t really feel that impactful, visually and strength wise, and the spells gained by leveling up often felt less complementary and more “this one’s good, I don’t need the rest”.
The main quest was usually progressed by entering the sewers and accomplishing marginally different objectives. My usual modus operandi was to just beeline it to the objective and be done with it instead of bothering with most of the enemy hordes or let them just blindly follow me for a while and then just killing them with the area of effect abilities. Everything felt more like a chore instead of fun for the sake of the activity itself.
A big draw for Warhammer: Chaosbane might be its local multiplayer, especially on PC, where split screen gaming is on life support. It instantly evoked memories of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and comforts like one character just following the other while menuing and mixing and matching of input methods on the fly made the multiplayer feel pretty good. Sadly, I wasn’t able to test out the online multiplayer as I couldn’t get a session going.
Unfortunately, it just doesn’t have the needed polish at the moment. There was not much in the way of enemy variety and the Nuln Sewers got old pretty fast, yet almost every quest took place there. The hub felt empty, even after some unlocks there. The sound effects were very generic without much variety. The spells felt uninspired and their interactions superficial, with added and gameplay impacting differences depending on your choice of mouse and keyboard or controller.
The gameplay loop and everything beyond that just wasn’t strong enough at the moment to keep me hooked right now, especially with such harsh competition in the genre. Developers Eko Software might have bitten off more than they can chew with Warhammer: Chaosbane and at this point it would be hard to recommend it to anyone else but the most rabid fans of the Warhammer setting. We’ll see if Warhammer: Chaosbane will be able to improve until its launch in June.