Review – Warhammer: Chaosbane

It’s shocking that it has taken this long for someone to make a Warhammer Fantasy action RPG in the same vein as Diablo. After all, not only are the two IP’s very similar, but Warhammer Fantasy just fits right in with the genre styling. Singular heroes standing alone against an unending tide of horrors from beyond this world? It’s a match made in heaven. Warhammer: Chaosbane is that long awaited attempt at such a game, and as only fitting it takes more than a few cues from Diablo III, mostly in a good way. It even does a good job at smoothing over and fixing some of that game’s mistakes, though it does end up making some new ones.

The best thing about Chaosbane is how great the combat feels. Whether you prefer to choose ranged, melee, or magic, everything works and feels exactly as you would want it to. The sizzling sound effects and the satisfying enemy ragdoll animations greatly assist in making the combat feel as enjoyable as it does. The most important part of an action RPG is making sure that the second-to-second gameplay keeps you immersed, and very few games do this better than Chaosbane. You don’t just play for the loot or experience, you play because it genuinely feels great to do so.

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Among other things, every class has a unique Bloodlust ability attached to a meter that fills up as you kill everything. Elessa’s is shooting lots of arrows very fast.

Which is not to say that loot and experience won’t be a driving force. What excited me about Chaosbane’s loot system during the beta was each character’s race specific collection of item sets. The High Elf mage Elontir, for example, gets sets representing the kingdoms of Ulthuan, while the Human solider Konrad’s sets represent different provinces of the Empire. Each one is fully represented on your avatar and can be mixed and matched. Each of them also starts with base stats that represent the personality of the region it comes from. This is one of the coolest loot systems I’ve ever seen in a game like this, performing an impossible balance between remaining authentic to established lore and having variety in appearance and customization. In addition to the base region sets, each character also has a few unique Heroic items that have their own appearances and stats. There’s a lot of personality here, and though the affix system may not be the most interesting thing ever designed, originality in a long stagnant genre like this is much appreciated.

The skill system is almost as unique as the items included in the game, if not quite as well put together. The closest comparison to another system I can make is that it feels and functions a lot like the classic Dungeons & Dragons spell system. You start off with a base set of skill points, and accrue one more each time you level up. Using your collection of skill points, you can select from a variety of passive and active skills, each of which being worth a set amount of the aforementioned points. As you level up you also unlock new skills, as well as more powerful versions of skills you already have at the expense of a higher skill point cost. This system is capped off by a max amount of six active skills and three passive skills equippable at any time. It’s an interesting system with plenty of flexibility. You can go for a smaller amount of more powerful skills at the expense of variety, go for a wider range of skills at lower power levels, or anything in between.

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I’m normally not a huge fan of trees like this, full of boring percentage modifiers. When it comes to a proper skill tree as well though, what’s not to like? Twice the customization.

That’s not the whole skill system either. Unlocked at Level 15, after you finish a questline, are the God Skill Trees. They’re one giant collection of affix bonuses and super powerful abilities (not unlike Path of Exile‘s famous tree), and each class gets a completely different one representing their appropriate deity. What’s different about this tree is that, unlike the regular one, the way you progress through it is via special fragments you collect as loot. It adds an interesting layer to loot as it doesn’t just progress your equipment quality, but your core character as well. Chaosbane bends the rules, something more games need to do.

Sadly, it’s not all unique twists on standard genre mechanics. Compared to Diablo III‘s dramatic variety in environments, enemies, and bosses (some may say TOO dramatic), Chaosbane has virtually none. There are a lot of different types of demons for sure, but they all look and feel the same. Environments stick to four generic fantasy setting locales, and never attempt to break the mold. Bosses are merely DPS checks, with little to no special tactics or devastating moves to take note of and build around. The loot system, while amazing in design, eventually fails due to a lack of interesting stats to take note of. You merely equip whichever gear has the higher percentage and move on. Secondary stats are so far an afterthought to be nearly nonexistent. Everything fights the same, everywhere feels the same, every item wears the same, and this fatally hurts an otherwise extremely promising game.

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What we aren’t telling Teclis is that the “escape” was actually just walking away in a cutscene. The writing really isn’t a strong suit either.

For everything Warhammer: Chaosbane does right, it is ultimately overshadowed by what is done wrong. The dual level skill system that allows everything you do to progress your character is magnificent, and the lore-heavy item sets and stats is just as well. The lack of variety kills it however, and no matter how brutally fun the combat is, there’s a burn out point where it feels like you’re doing the same exact thing over and over again, because you quite literally are. There are tiers of difficulty much like Diablo 3‘s Torment levels, boss rush mode, and a Rift-like system, but absolutely no unique content for any of them. There’s also no Paragon-like system meaning that progression for the sake of progression has a definite end point. Whether you bother to stick around for even that though, is unlikely as is.

Graphics: 7.0

While environment textures and character/enemy models are well done, effects are underwhelming and the game has a shiny look to it.

Gameplay: 8.0

Combat is a blast. Carving through enemies with spell and steel has rarely felt this good, and the skill system is unique, though lacking in build variety.

Sound: 6.0

The soundtrack has some decent themes, but is mostly forgettable. Voice acting is terrible, although weapon/spell effects are extremely satisfying.

Fun Factor: 6.0

Despite the diverse playing styles for each class, as well as the visceral combat, the lack of variety in enemy types and modes make the game feel repetitive pretty quickly .

Final Verdict: 7.0

Warhammer: Chaosbane is available now on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Warhammer: Chaosbane was provided by the publisher.

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