How was your dinner party last night? Enjoyable save for the white wine not being room temperature? That’s cool, sorry I couldn’t make it because I was busy saving reality from a colossal demon that was summoned to our plane of existence and tried to add the skull of my Elvish combat wizard to a throne fit for a blood god.
It’s hard work keeping the land at peace in Warhammer: Chaosbane, a game which takes plenty of inspiration from the Diablo playbook and presents its own take on fantasy, demonic forces and enough exposition to give a Dungeons ‘n Dragons fan a prominent D20 in their pants. Just like Diablo, you’re choosing one of four classes to save the day: Exceptionally Scottish Elf, A shield-wielding soldier who probably digs Captain America, generic elf ranger who thinks Hawkeye is the best Avenger and the absolutely prickish Elf sorceror supreme.
Choose a class, buckle down and hop into a world that is crawling with nasties who’ll gladly throw themselves on your blades if it means shaving milliseconds off of your progress. It’s rather good stuff overall, as you find yourself wading through an ocean of opposition which quickly turns red as your experience transforms you from capable adventurer into apocalyptic blender.
Each character has their own speciality, from the Empire Soldier’s ability to tank through mobs as a human battering ram to the Dwarf’s skill at turning himself into a tornado of axe and ginger hair. This is where Chaosbane shines, as it does a bang-up job in making you feel like a badass at any difficulty level. Starting a game with an Elf who can conjure fireballs is about as vanilla a skill as can be, but leveling up and quickly unlocking the ability to call down elemental thunderstorms and breathe fire in the direction of ghoulish enemies? Now that’s real magic.
The trick here, is that you can only have so much power available at any given time. You’ve got to pick and choose which abilities to keep active, which passive bonuses to have equipped as each power requires investment from your pool of points that you slowly earn as the story progresses. When you equip right, you find yourself creating a fantasy hero who suits your style of play, and with the options being varied and easy to unlock, there’s a lot of variation at play here.
Prefer to go all in and prioritise offense? Then you can invest those points into attack-heavy buffs and abilities, or maybe you’d prefer to stick to the shadows and benefit from more passive skills that boost your ability to recover between fights. That path to power later opens up even more when you begin gathering gem fragments, which can be used to curry favour from the gods and further increase your stats on an incremental level, nudging you further in the direction that you want to focus on.
It’s a far cry better than the loot system on play, which is about as stock standard as can be. Kill a monster, raid a treasure chest and grab some loot. Equip what works best for you and ups your stats in the direction that you want them to go. Rinse and repeat across a wide variety of loot that doesn’t rewrite the book on this RPG mechanic but does know what works at the very least and retains those ideas for more mathematical advantages.
All of that power also translates quite well to the massive mobs that try and slow your progress with a kamikaze charge, creating obstacles while more cunning foes circle in for the kill. Some dungeons in dank sewers that smell worse than Batman Forever might have you facing tentacle abominations sent by Nurgle to murder your face, other ruined Slavic towns could have you facing titanic giants that can chop your health apart with a few slashes.
With friends in co-op, the game runs surprisingly smooth, even providing some level of banter between characters and giving you a chance to slash away at some of the daemons infesting the land. It makes for interesting encounters, these mobs and higher class demons, while the sound design in Chaosbane absolutely sells the carnage.
And yet, Chaosbane is just missing a certain something. It’s hard to justify, and you’ve got to give the game credit for its fantastic character customisation, chatty couch co-op and I adore the archetype abilities that allows you to use a signature skill with each character (Which boils down to using the right analogue stick to do something funky, like guiding energy balls as the Elf mage).
It all makes for the good game overall from developer Eko Software, but one that you can’t help but feel you’ve played a better version of already. It’s like comparing Suree Sriracha sauce to the OG Huy Fong Sriracha brand. They’re both remarkably delicious, but the original stuff will always be the top cock in town. Warhammer Chaosbane works brilliantly when you’ve got a friend by your side, you’re able to switch off and you just throw yourself into a mosh pit of homicidal goblins and a cheesy story that comes off like Brian Blessed narrating your life.
It’s fun and lavish, but the overall experience just comes up short in the personality department. But at the very least, Warhammer: Chaosbane is still a polished dungeon crawler with plenty to enjoy in a market that doesn’t have much to offer when you’ve got a Diablo itch that no other game can scratch.
Last Updated: June 11, 2019