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July 2019

Warhammer: Chaosbane

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Developer: Eko Software
Release Date: June 4, 2019


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Warhammer: Chaosbane'

by Cody Medellin on April 19, 2019 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Warhammer: Chaosbane is a hack-and-slash action/RPG set in the Warhammer Fantasy world.

Pre-order Warhammer: Chaosbane

The non-40K version of the Warhammer franchise has experienced life on quite a number of genres over the years, especially on the PC. The series has been involved in both turn-based and real-time variants of the strategy genre. There's been a chess variant, and there's been a combative trading card thing. The franchise has even gone with something more action-oriented with the Vermintide spin-offs, which were essentially Left 4 Dead type games set in medieval times with more of a melee emphasis than a projectile weaponry one. This time around, the franchise is aiming for the action RPG with Warhammer: Chaosbane, and it is doing so with a studio that may be experienced but is partaking in this genre for the first time.

If you've had any experience with Diablo or games like it, then you know exactly what to expect in Chaosbane. There are four classes available: dwarf barbarian, high elf mage, human warrior, and elf ranger, which was the character chosen for this preview. Initially, leveling up is fast to provide us with a litany of moves, from basic spread attacks to summoning other creatures to fight for you. All moves use up energy, but that is quickly replenished by hitting enemies with a basic attack. Loot is plentiful, and there's a decent variety of it, from cloaks to boots to rings that can manipulate your stats. Enemies are also plentiful and vary quickly, so there's always something new to kill in every quest.

Again, all of this is very familiar to action RPG fans, so Chaosbane only has a few surprises in store for them. For starters, while you may be picking up gold, you can't seem to use it in the beta. Instead, the lone merchant encourages donations of your old equipment in exchange for some renown, which is supposed to give you something special in return. We couldn't find out what this reward was, since all of the stuff we donated barely moved the meter high enough, but considering how loot gathered during a journey is usually more effective than what you get from merchants in most other games, the system feels fresh.

The other major thing players will notice is that there's local multiplayer. This is accomplished not by LAN play but by hooking up gamepads to the PC, and the controls feel like a perfect fit for the game, as just about every important action is mapped out logically. Local play is also a big deal, since only indie games seem to be carrying the torch for couch play nowadays, so it's commendable to see a bigger company commit to this on the PC in a genre that hasn't done local co-op in a while.

There are a few major areas of concern, though. The first is the controls, particularly with the keyboard and mouse. Whereas most PC games of the genre tend to get snappy controls with these default items, the ones here feel a bit floaty and prone to mistakes. There were more than a few times when dodge rolls were done into crowds instead of away from them, and clicking away sometimes meant firing an arrow rather than actually moving to a new spot. The issues weren't there with an Xbox One controller, which is reasonable since the game is also hitting consoles, but it's disappointing that the game isn't tuned to the way most PC players would engage with it.

The second major concern is the quality of online play. At the moment, we actually couldn't get into a match for very long due to the game's instability issues. There were times when connections outright failed. Other times, only a few steps were taken before being booted back to the main menu, and there were more than a few instances of outright game crashes when making attempting online multiplayer. This is an issue for a genre that often prides itself on being fun with friends.

Finally, the variety seems lacking thus far. Yes, this is a beta, so large slices of the game aren't expected since this is all about balancing encounters and tweaking performance. With that said, the first act is roughly three hours spent primarily in sewers, so it doesn't take long before it starts to get old. Even though this phase of the beta has a new area to explore, the opening sequence is grueling enough that the elation at seeing something new is replaced with relief that you'll finally see more than an underground sewage system. Unless the game is truly long with tons of more locations to explore, the extended stay in each area can wear thin.

There is promise in Warhammer: Chaosbane. Floaty keyboard and mouse controls aside, the Diablo formula is mimicked well when it comes to overall combat, enemy count, and loot distribution. The item sacrifice system makes things interesting, as does the ability to revisit levels for loot and exploration. The local multiplayer is a great feature to see on the PC, but it might be the only way to get multiplayer if the online experience doesn't stabilize before launch. Keep an eye out for Chaosbane as we approach its release date in early June.

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