Warhammer: Chaosbane Beta First Impressions

If every Warhammer game felt this solid at release, let alone in beta, we wouldn’t be plagued with so many 40k games that fail to live up to their potential.

Set during the second Great War against Chaos many years before the great Karl Franz would wield the Warhammer, Chaosbane has you pick one of four distinct heroes and hack and slash your way through a armies of daemons. Along the way you’ll level up, unlock new skills, collect all kinds of loot, and save the world from the evils of the Chaos Gods. It’s essentially Diablo, but unlike the last Warhammer ARPG, WH40k: Inquisitor-Martyr, Chaosbane doesn’t fall apart under the comparison.

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It may not be the prettiest game, but when you’re incinerating daemonic abominations with fire blasting out of your mouth, it’s irrelevant.

The most important part of any action RPG is how it plays. The combat has to feel great in order to keep you engaged, as all the loot in the world can’t keep you playing if the game just doesn’t feel right. Chaosbane feels more than simply right, the game is simply a joy to play. Weapons arc through the air, slicing enemies to ribbons around you and sending daemon blood spraying in all directions. Fire rages and lightning zaps through enemies, scorching the ground and walls. This is a game designed to make you feel like a badass in typical Warhammer fashion and it works well.

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Major story sequences are conveyed through cutscenes similar to Diablo 3’s, but with a more Warhammer-like art style.

In the beta, only the High Elf mage, Elontir, and the Human soldier, Konrad Vollen, were available to try out (with a Wood Elf Waywatcher and Dwarf Slayer available in the full game) to a level cap of 20. Both played widely different, with entirely ranging skill trees, equipment, and stat focuses. Konrad is more tank-focused on melee combat and Elontir the glass canon. You are free to customize your equipment and skills to either make up for your weaknesses or emphasize your strengths. Both systems come with plenty of flexibility that is sure to make min-maxers swoon.

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Death is cheap at first, but the more you do it the more expensive it gets and quickly. The higher difficulties (with Chaos levels being the equivalent of Diablo’s Torment) are not for the faint of heart.

The loot system is especially well done. Each hero gets their own individual armor sets based around their homelands. Elontir’s for example, are inspired by regions of Ulthuan while Konrad’s are inspired by the states of the Empire. Each set is visually distinct from each other and accurately represents their region. This extends to the items statistics, with each set favoring the stat (from either Attack, Defense, or Utility) that best reflects the personality of the region it’s from. Each piece you equip will also show on your avatar, something I’ve noticed a lot of modern ARPGs fail to do. It’s a small thing, but really helps you feel like your character is indeed yours.

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The UI could use some work in the aesthetic department, but it gets the job done.

The skill system is interestingly done. As you level up, you unlock and level up your skills along a traditional skill tree as you would expect. The twist is that each skill costs a specific amount of skill points to equip, with the more powerful versions costing more and you only have a set amount available. So essentially you have to choose between having a wide variety of lower level skills or specialize in fewer yet more powerful skills. You can respec at any time, meaning you aren’t locked in to a potentially bad build, but there’s still a rigidity to builds overall. When combined with the loot system, there’s a surprising variety of customization for both of the classes available, even at these lower levels.

Warhammer: Chaosbane is poised to be another great Warhammer Fantasy game. While it did have some visual bugs, glitches, and the graphics didn’t exactly knock my socks off, the engaging gameplay loop and attention to detail for the lore nerds among us more than make up for it. I can’t wait to get my hands on the full game, especially for the chance to take that Wood Elf for a spin.