Warhammer’s games have been incredibly hit and miss over the last few years. They have had their fingers in many different pies and released some very questionable titles, never really hitting the mark. These, to be fair, have mainly been 40k releases. There was the awfully repetitive Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, a third person shooter, the attrocious Battlefleet Gothic: Armada which was a real-time strategy game in which you take control of the different fractions space fleets, and then the forgettable multiplayer Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade.
Luckily these are all 40k titles and one side of Warhammer they seem to get right are the games set during the Age Of Sigmar (or just regular Warhammer depending on how long you’ve followed the game). These include the popular Total War series, which now has two releases, both of which are fantastic. Coming off the back of these comes Warhammer: Chaosbane, a dungeon crawling RPG which seems to have taken direct inspiration from the Diablo series. But is that a good thing? Have they tried too hard and failed? Or have they taken all the best bits from Diablo and made it their own?
The story starts with the Chaos army being defeated by a noble named Magnus. All seems well until a few years after the victory when he is attacked by a mysterious sorceress and put under a spell. You, the hero, are now tasked with finding out why this has happened and to break the curse. It’s a little cliche, but then again a lot of Warhammer is.
From the get go, it’s clear that the team at Eko Software are Warhammer fans. They’ve taken their time to research the locations, the detail and the very emotion of Warhammer. As a player and fan of many years, I feel this is a game that has finally done the classic tabletop game justice. They didn’t just make a bland world and stick a dwarf and an elf in it, they created multiple vastly different locations filled with dark dungeons, riddled with disease and fire, alongside frozen worlds such as Norsca, a land filled with savages and suffused with the unholy energies of Chaos. Each setting is laced with incredible detail and different enemies, managing to pack each world full of endless loot and great bosses too. They really did the deep, lore filled world proud and I suggest every Warhammer fan to give it a try.
The gameplay style is taken straight from the Diablo series and, believe me, that’s only a good thing. It has the MMORPG/isometric view camera angle where you can see enemies flooding in whilst showing enough of your surroundings. It has a list of your commands showing which attack ability is linked to which button and it even has two small orbs showing health and mana/magic/rage etc. depending on which character class you play as. Being a huge Diablo fan and having sank hundreds of hours into their multitude of games I was undeniably happy that they have taken such influence from one of the greatest dungeon crawler RPGs that’s ever been created. Would it have been good to see Eko try and have their own style and create something new? Obviously, but when it copies the master of the genre, there’s little to be upset about.
The inventory and itemisation system has clearly taken influence too. With a clear UI, you can see exactly which vast array of armour and weapons your character is wearing/using and can easily manage and compare all the items collected many hours of a playthrough. Again, it doesn’t recreate the wheel, but the readability makes your life of stifling through 30 different chest plates, for example, incredibly easy.
Battling the Chaos and Nurgle hordes is so much fun as there is a varied and exciting choice of character classes, each revolving around completely different play styles to destroy the enemy. There’s a nimble wood elf, named Elessa, who jumps and rolls to evade oncoming attacks, choosing to shoot arrows from afar, rather than focusing on close combat. She also has a fantastic health recovery system which saves you a lot on potions. Next is Elontir, a high elf mage who focuses on magic to destroy his enemies. He has a huge array of spells that can teleport him, set fire to his enemies and everything in-between. Then there’s a typical Berserker class, a crazy dwarf called Bragi, who jumps in axe first to battles, hacking and slashing away at enemies to build up fury and unleash his temporarily higher stats to send them to back to their maker. This is a gloriously fun class which always provides a good laugh. Who doesn’t want to watch a 3 foot, half naked dwarf take on a 20ft Bloodthirster? Lastly there’s Vollen, an Imperial solider with the classic sword and shield combo. I have to admit that he has been my least favorite of the classes, as he seems a tad boring; classic hack and slack moves with only slight variants.
Graphically, Warhammer: Chaosbane on Xbox One is kind of basic, and it definitely doesn’t look like a game that’s been released in 2019 as the texture pop-ins are a little shoddy in places and the details on each of the characters does leave a little to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a clear distinction between, for example, Nurglings and Ungor’s and it’s great seeing the bloody guts spilling out of diseased cultist. It is, also, an absolute treat to see the sheer size and accurate scale of the likes of Mutaliath Vortex Beasts and the goliath Bloodthirster with his double headed axe. The details of each enemy/character are great, I just wish there was more of a focus on the clarity to make it look a bit more “up to date”.
One of the only real downsides to Chaosbane is in the voice acting. The majority is passable, but I did genuinely lose count of the amount of times it felt unnatural, mistimed, flat, or unnecessarily overenthusiastic – just about every wrong kind of delivery imaginable. It even got to the point where I couldn’t play as the Wood Elf, Elessa, as her voice is entirely dreadful. I lasted 2 chapters before I had to start the game again as Bragi.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is a genuinely fun and exciting dungeon crawler RPG. The developers and writers have showcased their love for this fantastical world through the strong lore and characters, and there are hours of fun to be had collecting all the rich loot and partaking in the ever going search for the rarest and strongest combination of armour and weapons. Even though the formula is nothing new and has taken maybe too much inspiration from the Diablo series, it’s a great journey and finally Warhammer fans have been given a game they deserve.