By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on June 5, 2019
A dark shadow makes its way across the lands of the Old World and evil prowls its streets. You are one of four heroes, destined to vanquish this evil and make the Old World safe once more. But before this will come to pass, you will have to hack 'n slash your way through hordes of monsters and other assorted bad guys. Are you the savior this world has been looking for or will you only be a bloodstained footnote in the history books?
It is time, ladies and gentlemen, to delve deep into the world of Warhammer and see what it has in store for us. How? Well, by playing Warhammer: Chaosbane, of course. Now, I first saw this game at Gamescom 2018 and immediately liked what I saw! This dungeon-crawling, hack-'n-slash adventure is actually the first of its kind to be set in the world of Warhammer. The game itself is heavily inspired by the absolute granddaddy of the genre: Diablo. The developers at EKO Software mentioned as much at the presentation last year and have set out to write a highly enjoyable love letter to this game, without outright copying it. In this, they succeeded; they created a game with a look and feel of its very own!
Now, I remember the very first Warhammer game I ever played, which was actually a strategic tabletop RPG. Together with a group of friends we braved the many evils that this world had to offer. Now, many years later, I once again find myself in this magical world and it truly feels familiar. It does however, not entail me rolling dice and arguing with my friends over what tactic to employ for hours on end. The dice have been replaced with my trusty PS4 controller and my wayward group of friends have been replaced by my princess partner in crime, Diana "DumeeGamer" Dumee. Together, we rode in to town to see what's wrong and, hopefully, right said wrongs.
When you start playing Warhammer: Chaosbane, the very first thing you get to do is pick a character. The game has a total of four characters for you to choose from and the usual suspects are all accounted for: There's the Elf, the Dwarf, the Mage and, of course, the Knight. Each of these cool characters has their very own range of attacks and items they can use, making the gameplay vary hugely per character. More of a ranged player? Why not try the Elf or Mage on for size? Or are you more of an Axe-to-the-face kind of player? Well, then you should probably stick to the Dwarf or the Knight. So, however you prefer to play your adventure, Warhammer: Chaosbane has a character for everyone.
The game can be played solo or cooperative with up to four players, local or online. And while it is always fun to play any game at your own pace, Warhammer: Chaosbane seems to be actually tailored to cooperative play. Besides the fact that twice the players means twice the sharp ends of various weapons can be aimed at the enemy, the game doesn't suffer from the same problem some of the other games in the genre do have when playing local multiplayer. If I decide to check my equipment for any possible upgrades I might have picked up, the other player can just keep playing through, without my character becoming the proverbial stick in the mud. Instead of him or her having to wait for me to finish the scrutinous examination of my inventory, they can now simply play through, and my character will automatically follow them, without me having to lift so much as a finger.
This can be dangerous, however, so be careful not to get yourself in to too much trouble when you have your partner in tow. Don't go rushing into enemy territory and get surrounded by tons of bad guys, or your adventure might just be... how shall I say... "cut short"? Another thing that points pretty clearly at this game being made to be played together, is the makeup of the hero cast. As mentioned earlier, each of the characters has their own strengths and weaknesses, but combine them by teaming up with other players and you'll have a lean, mean hacking-'n-slashing machine on your hands. Because of the nature of the individual characters, they actually complete each other when playing cooperatively, giving you a much better chance to overcome the many evils this grim world hurls at you over the course of this awesome adventure.
Along the way, you'll find lots and lots of new gear and money. Now, when playing together, the money you find is distributed evenly between the players, as is the gear. And don't worry who picks up what, because the developers have thought of everything, it would seem. You see, if I play as the Knight and open up a chest so items come flying out, I can easily pick up all the items. Now, normally, this would mean I get everything and my co-player would get a whole bunch of nothing. Not this time, however! You see, the gear I picked up is also distributed between the characters, and even takes into account which character can use what gear. So don't worry if all the items are already gone by the time you get to a chest; the items that are useful to you will already be added to your inventory.
Another thing you collect during your travels is XP. Now, this may not come as a surprise, mainly because there has never been an RPG that didn't utilize XP. Hell, without it, how would you level up your character and get ready for the big boys of total badness, right? No, we need XP, there's no doubt about it! As you level up, more and more skills (active as well as passive) will be added to your loadout. With each level, you earn, you get additional Skill Points which, in turn, can be used to upgrade your attacks or even equip new ones. Each skill or attack costs a certain amount of said Skill Points to equip. The higher the attack's power, the more Skill Points it costs to equip. Luckily, if I unequip a certain power or attack, I automatically get back the Skill Points it's cost me to equip in the first place. So you can actually remove all attacks from your character and start equipping attacks and other powers from scratch I you so desired, making your character more versatile and adaptable to any given situation.
Now, these skills do not always come in the form of attacks; they can also have a kind of support function. For instance, you could plant a banner that reduces incoming damage for all hero characters that are within its reach. It helps if you also work together when choosing which skills to equip. You could all equip a similar skill, but then you would only end up all doing the same thing which, most of the time, will prove to be most counterproductive. Besides all this skill and equipment goodness, you can also collect Bloodlust Orbs that are sometimes dropped by defeated enemies. As you collect these red swirling orbs, a meter will slowly fill up. Once full, you can use it to unleash Bloodlust, temporarily granting your character additional attack power.
Now, with all these upsides, the game must surely have a downside, right? Well, if there's one thing I noticed, it's the fact that environments get recycled often. Actually, recycled isn't quite the right term. You just get sent into the same environments time after time during a chapter. Now, the story accounts for this by placing all current objectives in the same area, so no problem there. I just found myself wondering from time to time: "Didn't we just clear this street not five minutes ago? Where did all the new bad guys come from?". In my opinion, this "re-hashing" of environments is in no way a game breaker, but it was something that I noticed quite early on in the game. In any way, the visual effects of the many, many different attacks and the awesome set of monsters in the game more than make up for it, making the game a highly enjoyable experience!
All in all, I must say that playing Warhammer: Chaosbane is really fun. The grim environments are filled with lots of details and the characters that inhabit the world look like they truly belong there. The story, as with a lot of the Warhammer media out there, is pretty extensive and involves a lot of conversations. Now, if this is not your cup of tea, you can also skip these conversations but, when doing so, will miss out on a lot of background information about the world and the raging conflict. On the other hand, if you're a fan of the genre, you will be used to these lengthy conversations by now and even find them interesting. However you look at it, Warhammer: Chaosbane is a game that offers a lot of fun and really shouldn't be missed by fans of either Warhammer itself or the hack-'n-slash, Dungeon Crawler genre as a whole. So get out your swords people; it's time to vanquish our enemies!