Warhammer: Chaosbane (Eko Software)
Considering the source material, it really is surprising that the upcoming Warhammer: Chaosbane is the first every hack and slash set in this universe. Of course, there was Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr a while back, but Chaosbane is the first to use the Warhammer Fantasy world, which is honestly a much better fit for the genre. We were fortunate enough to try out the VIP beta of the game, which included the first act as well as two out of the four playable characters.
Chaosbane will allow players to choose from an Imperial Soldier, High-Elf Mage, Slayer, and Wood Elf Scout, although for the beta we only had access to the soldier and mage. The soldier wields a sword and shield, while his attacks are focussed on cutting swathes through enemies or charging into them with his shield. The mage is more of a ranged fighter, who prefers pelting enemies with magic from a safe distance. The neat thing about the mage is that you can actually take control of certain spells, such as the aetheric orb, after you have cast them, which allows you to move the projectile around with your mouse cursor to ensure it hits as many targets as possible. Of course, this leaves your mage unprotected, so it is not something you should do while an angry horde is hacking away at you.
The act that was playable in the beta is set mostly in the sewers beneath the city, but allowed us to get a good feel of how the full game will look and play. Visually, Chaosbane captures the Warhammer fantasy setting perfectly and the sewers are packed with detail. Piles of skulls with candles are everywhere and the floors are covered with grime. Enemies also tend to storm at you in hordes and cutting them to pieces as their blood splatters across the floors and walls is immensely satisfying. The game features a fixed perspective for the visuals, which means no zooming in or out, and you are not able to rotate the screen either. However, the fact that the levels have sections that are higher or lower with stairs going up or down prevents it from looking or feeling too flat. It does have a very “Diablo” feel to it, but this is certainly not a bad thing. The full game will feature more than 70 monsters that are aligned with the Chaos Gods, but we only faced a handful of them in the beta. In addition to the scores of smaller critters that can easily be hacked to pieces or blown to bits, there are also a few larger foes that stand in your way and the final boss for the act definitely looks intimidating. The interface is nice and clean, which leaves plenty of room for the graphics to shine. All of the visual cues, such as player names, enemies health points, damage dealt and damage suffered can also be toggled off if you don’t want them to distract you from the action. As for the audio in the beta, the soundtrack is suitably dark and gloomy, while the voice acting is like something straight out of a Shakespearian play, which is what we expect from a Warhammer fantasy title.
Although Chaosbane can be played solo, it is clear to see that the game has been optimized for co-op as a lot of the abilities you earn are designed to assist your team. You can even combine the skills and powers of characters to wreak even more havoc on your foes. Speaking of powers, you’ll have access to more than 180 them, which means there should be more than enough options for customizing your character to your liking. You can bind up to three active abilities to hot-keys in order to use them during combat, in addition to the three slots that you have available for passive abilities. Each character also has a blood lust gage that can be activated when full to make your attacks more powerful. Co-up can be played with up to four players and it is great to see that this feature is available both local and online.
We played through the story mode of the first act and the setup should feel familiar to anyone who has ever played a hack and slash title before. You have a central hub area with your stash for storing items and a merchant for getting rid of all the loot you have pillaged in the dungeons. Instead of simply selling your loot, though, you can donate unwanted items to the Collector’s Guild in exchange for reputation that earns you rewards. The hub is also where you will find your quest giver, who sends you off on your missions and rewards you upon your return. Since Chaosbane is designed to be a hack and slash the missions are pretty straightforward and mostly involves killing everything in sight. However, you might also be required to race around a clock to find and free captives or to track down a specific enemy. Once you have accomplished your objective there is no need to clear out the rest of the dungeon and you can simply head for the exit if you wish. In addition to the main quest, you’ll also eventually unlock boss rush modes and expedition modes for further challenges. Chaosbane even has ten difficulty levels, ranging all the way from very easy to “Chaos 5” if you are feeling up to it.
Overall, Chaosbane looks like it is shaping up to be quite an entertaining title and definitely one that Warhammer fans will want in their collection. The game will be available on PC, Playstation 4, as well as Xbox One on June 4th, 2019 for the Standard Edition, while Digital Deluxe and Magnus Edition owners can start playing on May 31st, 2019 already. Pre-orders are now open on Steam, so go check out the Steam page to reserve your copy or to add it to your wishlist.