It’s fair to say that Warhammer Fantasy Battles fans are always looking for to see the universe splendidly represented in video game form. Although replaced by Age of Sigmar, those who’ve experienced Games Workshop’s tabletop/lore extravaganza in “The World That Was” remember it fondly. It’s no wonder why games such as Total War: Warhammer and Vermintide found success. Developers Eko Software (How to Survive) hope to replicate that success with Warhammer: Chaosbane, an action-roleplaying game (ARPG) set during the reign of Magnus the Pious and the invasion of the Everchosen, Asavar Kul.
Today, I was fortunate enough to try out a beta version of the game. Although there were a few issues here and there (as with any other beta), I’m hopeful that the team will deliver a fulfilling experience come Warhammer: Chaosbane’s release date. It’s already one of my most anticipated games coming out this 2019, so let’s dive in, shall we?
It’s Time For War-Hammer
Warhammer: Chaosbane, as mentioned, takes place during a great Chaos invasion, the likes of which has not been seen before. You take on the role of an Imperial Soldier, High Elf Mage, Dwarf Slayer, or Wood Elf Scout. Unfortunately, the last two weren’t playable for the beta.
Each character has an origin story explained by cinematics, after which you’re dropped smack dab in the Imperial city of Nuln. Beastmen and Chaos marauders are rampaging in the keep, while diseased and decaying daemons lurk deep in the sewers. The environments are richly detailed enough, with the trappings of The Empire’s majesty mixed in with persistent perturbations from the pustulent presentation courtesy of Papa Nurgle.
Warhammer: Chaosbane will offer a structured experience for the story campaign, entering one dungeon after another to complete objectives. Later on, however, you’ll be able to tackle “Exploration” mode, which has random events in the same dungeons, as well as “Boss Rush” mode.
With so many enemies to slay, you’ll no doubt want several potent skills to give glory to Sigmar (or Asuryan, or Kurnous, or maybe Grimnir). Since I wanted to see some awesome magical spells, I picked the High Elf Mage, Elontir, whose backstory details a disgraceful exile after a duel gone awry.
Yer A Wizard, Elontir
Elontir has a number of spells you can choose from — an Aqshy fireball, an aether tornado, a knockback cast, lightning strikes, and, naturally, a teleport. The effects are visually appealing, and you truly feel the ruckus going on around you due to the animations and all the numbers floating about (you can turn these off, by the way).
The combat mechanics will also remind you of other ARPGs like Diablo where you’ve got resource-generating skills and resource-consuming skills. In Elontir’s case, the fireball, lightning strike, and spectral blades generated mana. Other active spells consumed it. Of course, there are also passive abilities that let you regain more health, mana, experience points, and gold. There are even “god spells” with long cooldowns, and they pack quite a punch.
Know, however, that restrictions do apply. While you automatically gain upgraded spells as you level up, they have a skill point cost. In the case of the Aqshy fireball, we’ve got:
- Level one = zero points
- Level two = four points
- At level three (the highest) = eight points
At level 18, I have 45 skill points. Using a level three Aqshy fireball will leave me with 37 left to spare for other spells. You can switch skills on the fly and assign them to different buttons, provided that you’ve got the skill points. In my case, I used the level three Aqshy fireball, two other flame spells, two passives, and one god spell.
Warhammer: Chaosbane also offers gamepad support for PC users, although it doesn’t seem like you can rebind the buttons. That said, combat controls are fluid for the most part. A net positive when using a gamepad is that you don’t feel as though you’re always clicking on everything since spells will automatically aim. A downside? Well, you can’t aim, which means you could sometimes hit a regular mob instead of a bigger foe. Still, I welcome this feature since I’ve gotten more comfortable with using gamepads for ARPGs (too bad it’s not available for Path of Exile‘s PC version at the moment).
That’s for combat controls. Menu/interface controls were another matter. Your inventory and skills menu/UI will be different if you’re using a gamepad versus using the mouse and keyboard. Surprisingly, the UI for gamepad users looks “cleaner” as opposed to the clutter when using a KB/M setup.
Here’s the inventory screen:
Here’s the skills panel:
Still, the joystick can feel a bit clunky to use, especially when you’re trying to pick the correct slot. Don’t even get me started on the “God Skill Tree” panel, where you could dump fragments you’ve obtained to pick god spells and passives. It’s a nightmare to navigate with a controller. You’re better off using the mouse.
Given that this is the beta, it’s the perfect time to raise issues that should, hopefully, be remedied once the game is out. The above regarding controls and UI are just some examples. Additionally, there are some quibbles I’ve noticed with the core game — loot drops and itemization.
Warhammer: Chaosbane provides you with an exorbitant number of drops. Unfortunately, most tend to be fairly useless. For instance, during the first act you’ll find common, uncommon, and rare drops — note that the rares are orange in color (like legendaries), and I haven’t seen any item of a higher tier. It’s a given that a rare item you find at level 10 is suddenly worthless when compared to a common item at level 11.
That’s due to the baseline stats for items in Warhammer: Chaosbane. Although you’ll have additional stats such as critical percentage, armor piercing, loot quality (item find), and the like, items are governed by the baseline stats of attack, defense, and regen. If you see those greens popping up, then you’re more likely to think that’s a better item.
By the time I finished the beta, I hadn’t actually seen a single item which felt “legendary,” “unique,” or “exotic” — anything which focused on a specific build. I cannot say whether the loot pool is diluted or if it gets better later on. I’m hoping that it does, since ARPGs live and die by how much they encourage the looting, min-maxing, and build theory-crafting aspects.
For now, though, it seems Warhammer: Chaosbane keeps things simple enough. The beta only gave a glimpse into the first act, culminating in a boss fight with a Great Unclean One. As a Warhammer Fantasy Battles fan, that was an absolute treat! As someone who’s played a number of ARPGs in the past, however, I’m worried that Warhammer: Chaosbane might be playing it too safe. Then again, it’s fairly early in the game, and there could be more in store. I’m certainly looking forward to everything that Eko Software could bring to the table.
Warhammer: Chaosbane‘s regular edition will be available on June 4. Those who’ve ordered deluxe editions can play earlier on May 31. A public beta will run from today, March 7 (1:00 AM PST), to March 13 (1:00 AM PST). Don’t forget to check out the game’s Steam store page and official website as well to offer feedback.