Warhammer Chaosbane feels like a game I’ve waited ten years to play and that’s a good thing. I’ve been holding a metaphorical torch for a Diablo 2 successor for a long time now, and after being disappointed in Diablo 3, I feel like I’m home once again. Warhammer: Chaosbane developed by Eko Software and Published by Bigben Interactive uses the Warhammer license to give us a decently filled lore campaign with each new act giving us a new location and enemies to plow through. Now I need to preface this review with the statement that I REALLY love the Warhammer franchise, be it Fantasy, 40k, even the occasional age of sigmar miniature. I love it and have over 3000 hours in various Warhammer titles, so there is some bias that I will try to quell as we dive into it.
Chaosbane has four characters to play from a Dwarf Slayer, an Empire Knight, a wood Elf Waywatcher, and a High Elf Mage. They fill out roles of a berserker, a tanky knight, archer and wizard respectively. Where the real fun comes in is the progression system. As you complete the games story mode for the first time you will quickly become enraptured in choosing your own difficulty with each higher difficulty tier giving you increased experience, loot quality and loot quantity, tailoring your builds to overcoming the challenges presented is going to be key in some higher difficulties, what worked in one tier, will probably be outclassed in another.
As you level up, your abilities will continue to improve and new abilities will unlock, while it will feel restrictive only having a few abilities early on, the pacing quickly picks up with upgrades to older skills, no ability feels useless after only a short while using it. Each character has a skill point limit for your ability load out and depending on the situation perhaps you want to use 2-3 very strong spells and use all of your skill points, or have the utility of 5-6 lower rank skills.
After a certain point in the game you will also unlock the “god favor system” which will allow you to spend the currency you have unlocked in game to give yourself passive stat boosts such as damage, health, energy regeneration and in some cases, negative bonuses with a huge positive boost to another stat. The favor system is interesting because if you’ve ever played Path of Exile, you’ll realize its exactly like their skill tree system with points you earn being able to progress towards your own path, the major difference is size, and I mean major. Where PoE has hundreds of ways to traverse the skill tree, from the time I spent with it I was able to fill up my skill tree and it made it seem like the choice didn’t matter if I could fill it all up and be done with it at a certain point.
That isn’t to say there isn’t any customization, You will absolutely need to mix and match your abilities because the forces of Chaos are here in full force and keeping everything at its lowest level will be detrimental as you progress due to your abilities ramping up not just in damage but effects such as giving you and your co-players energy regeneration to straight up damage buffs for the party. There are a ton of enemies from the Warhammer franchise to fight off and if it wasn’t for knowledge that I have earned in my ridiculous hours of Warhammer playing I probably wouldn’t have expected half the things we encountered while progressing through the acts. the Warhammer fans will be happy to see the variety on display with examples such as nurglings, chaos spawns, Jabberslythes, ungors, Bloodletters and even more. The new players diving into Warhammer for their first time shouldn’t feel left out either because if you’ve ever played any sort of ARPG you’ll know who the bad guys are as soon as you see them.
Just like the Diablo franchise this game is best played with friends, fellow writer for the Site Oscar Perez and I loved our time playing together, where I have thousands of hours in the Warhammer franchise, Oscar probably has as much in Diablo so it was a good mix to get both sets of eyes on this new adventure. One great part of the co-op play is that you can plug into Xbox or PS4 controllers to your PC and play in a couch co-op mode where you all control a character on the same screen
Speaking of adventure, you start the game adventuring through slums and sewers trying to find the cause of the chaos and pestilence that has recently risen to being thrown into the streets of Praag as they burn to the ground. The Warhammer: Chaosbane story takes place about 200 years before the emperor himself, Karl Franz, makes an appearance so it deals a lot with characters in their early history such as Teclis and Magnous, names that may not seem like much to you but to me was a throwback to Warhammer lore at its finest. Each act is broken down into quests given by NPCs you talk to throughout the campaign in a very linear but satisfying fashion, basically, you get to fight against chaos gods trying to corrupt our world and their vassals.
Once you progress far enough in the story you’ll unlock additional game modes called Expedition and Boss Rush, as of this writing we have played expedition and can probably best compare it to the adventure mode in Diablo 3, you enter an area and have a specific event or quest you must complete for a nice cache of rewards. Boss rush mode from what my understanding was is that you get to fight against bosses you’ve already encountered and essentially farm them for rewards. As of now there is no ranking system or anything to really compare yourself against others but I’m sure it will be added in a future release.
You don’t have to be a Warhammer fan to enjoy some aspects of Chaosbane and I really enjoyed some of the visuals that we encountered through the first few acts. In particular there is a chapel area with amazing looking stained glass windows that really stood to me while we progressed, I also enjoyed the aesthetic of an underground waterfall we had to cross while delving in the deep city sewers, not that I want to know what the waterfall consisted of considering our location but it looked visually appealing at least. The acts varied as I stated from sewer caverns to streets of fire but I know that later acts will take us far north as well and I am hoping they all have their own nugget that stands out.
I wish I could say the same for the voice acting. Sometimes it was pretty good with characters such as Teclis having what I consider a voice befitting someone of his stature but other times, particularly in our characters they just sounded off, the wood elf in particular sounded like a haggard old woman who grew up in the streets of Boston or something, not the young vibrant adventurer she is made out to be. I have no complaints about the ambient sounds and music that we heard, I found it quite befitting and it did a pretty good job of keeping up with the tone of the story we were on.
Now that I’ve spent most of the review talking about how awesome everything is, let’s talk about some downsides. How important they are to you personally will vary but I’ll list them off. The graphics options are basic to say the least, no anti-aliasing, shadow options, or graphics options beyond screen resolution, windowed yes/no and v-sync off and on. There will be inevitable bugs, while none were game breaking there were a few occasions we were forced to leave and join a level because a script didn’t run breaking the level. Lastly there is the price, I don’t think $50 is an unreasonable price, the magnus edition is $70 and includes a season pass that remains to be seen if it’s worth it. That said, my complaints are far and few between. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the story mode thus far and am excited to play through adventure mode with my friends.
While you may want to take this fanboy’s recommendation with a grain of salt, I think the game is worth picking up even if it could use some quality of life improvements to the PC version. Warhammer Chaosbane released May 31st on PC, Xbox and PS4.