I got the chance to play the closed beta for Warhammer Chaosbane from developer Eko software and published by Bigben Interactive and set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy setting. This installation into the franchise is an action RPG, that has up to four players battling their way through levels teaming with the demonic agents of the chaos gods and the human cultists that serve them.
The game opens with a nicely done cinematic sequence that establishes the background of your chosen character and the key events you need to know going into the game’s opening. The music was a suitable arrangement for the tone and the art was very well done. It looked right at home representing the Warhammer world and this clear appreciation for the license continued throughout the game. The only part of the introduction that wasn’t particularly noteworthy was the story and voice work, but since this was a beta, I’m sure more refinement will come.
While certainly not bad by any means it fell into the standard fare that you would expect. In my play through as the elf scout it was wanderlust that ended up causing me to meet a great Emperor that is driving back the forces of Chaos. When one night something happens…
The voice work does a fine job clearly relaying the events, and while I bit over the top from time to time, it never entered the realm of eye rolling to me.
Once the game starts up it does a great job of introducing you to the game’s mechanics in a well paced way, allowing the player to get a good handle on each aspect of their character before introducing their next ability. As the elf scout my two main skill paths, in this portion of the game, revolved around either area control attacks with my bow, or summoning dryads, living trees, to aid me in battle.
While the arrow tricks were cool and showcased a variety of fun ranged crowd control options from raining dozens of arrows into a selected area, to a spin move that shoots flaming arrows in every direction, it was the dryad summoning that I found most exciting.
At first I was only able to summon one dryad that would remain with me till killed. Later on through upgrades I could keep two with me. As I pushed deeper into the game I could summon several that could stay for a short period of time, and had a small chance to gain one temporarily whenever I slew an opponent.
During big swarm battles it became extremely tense as I found myself firing volleys of arrows into choke points as my dryad rose, and fell while hoards of chaos minions broke upon them. Feeling as if, at any moment, the damn would break and the tide might sweep me away. And there was far more of the skill trees to unlock than what I had seen.
While I loved the abilities I was unlocking, the skill trees, and how one accesses and interacts with them, was the only aspect of the tutorial portion of the game I found wanting. While I eventually got a handle on everything how it would be a benefit to the player to more clearly explain how skill points can be applied and moved around between skills as they become unlocked, this will help alleviate a bit of frustration in the leveling process.
I understand that no one wants to get bogged down in to much tutorial explanation but when I realize I wasn’t optimizing my build because something wasn’t explained clearly, it’s a little frustrating. Putting in the time to define builds early on and how to progress would dave time and pain points in the long run. This issue certainly wasn’t a huge hinderance, but could’ve been dealt with better.
As with all action RPGs of this style, the other critical aspect of the formula is the loot, and there is a ton of it. With several different key attributes to consider when choosing the equipment you utilize there is a solid variety of paths to pursue ranging from trying to increase your energy pool for using more special attacks, or focusing defensive buffs to allow you to weather the enemy’s attacks better.
The equipment screen will also feel very familiar to anyone big into the action RPG genre. The gear is organized with various categories and arranged around their character model in a wheel and side bar that show the options available to them for whichever gear type is currently selected.
Another key piece of Warhammer Chaosbane’s presentation is the level design. While the bulk of what I got to play took place in the sewers beneath the city of Nuln there wasn’t as much of a sense of repetition as I would’ve expect. With everything from traditional sewer-like passages to larger sprawling areas that had been converted to shrines to the chaos gods, the environments were impressive.
I also found myself frequently traveling vertically, this added to a greater sense of scale than I had anticipated. Large winding stair cases gave an epic scope to the environments, which I enjoyed. And the last couple of mission, which brought me just past the end of the first chapter had moved the story to a different locale, so I expect the environments will be changing periodically as the story progresses.
For those reading this with previous experience in the Game’s Workshop Warhammer Fantasy setting you might be wondering if they use the license to its fullest, and I assure you that they do. Whether you are receiving orders from Lore Master Teclis, dealing with the paranoia of Inquisitor Voss, or surviving an epic boss battle with a great unclean one, that looked exactly like a digitized version of the latest miniature sculpt, the Warhammer lore is leaned into with gusto. With roughly 30 years of lore there, I’m sure the rest of the game will have plenty to explore.
Overall, I really enjoyed my beta experience. The game was fun, and succeeded in setting the hooks in me to the point where I am looking forward to getting my hands on more. Now, the only question that needs answering is whether or not Eko Software can keep the experience fresh enough through an entire campaign to keep players in it for the full game.
That question won’t be answered until the game drops June 4th for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, however, you can get your copy on May 31st if you pre-order the Special of Magnus editions of the game.