Somebody over at Games Workshop (or somebody went to Games Workshop) said that since we have a Diablo-esque Warhammer 40,000 game, we need one for Warhammer proper. And thus, Warhammer: Chaosbane was born!
With four classes to choose from, villains summoning Chaos daemons, a top-down isometric view, and various hack-n-slash skills to learn, upgrade, and organize, you can’t help but compare this game to Diablo III. Of course, that’s not a bad thing at all. I enjoy this style of game immensely, especially when it has its own twist on the gameplay. It’s rather unfortunate that Chaosbane does not.
All Your Buboes Are Belong to Us
Players don’t have to know anything about the Warhammer Fantasy (NOT Age of Sigmar) universe before playing, which is definitely a perk. I know some things about Warhammer Fantasy, but my forte is definitely Warhammer 40,000. In fact, I could easily argue that players don’t need to know anything about any Warhammer before playing. The game sets the stage for players, tells what is going on, and explains practically everything rather well. The Warhammer Fantasy (including Age of Sigmar) fans will have the extra nuggets of knowledge to make plot points a bit more meaningful, but newcomers will not be confused. Seasoned fans will know who King Magnus is beforehand, know who Teclis is immediately, and understand the dangers of Asavar Kul’s forces. However, it doesn’t take a seasoned fan to know that someone summoning Chaos daemons across the land is a bad thing, mmmkay?
Diablo III was virtually the same for many PlayStation players. They might not have played the earlier installments on PC, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that summoning a Greater Evil is pretty bad.
Similarly to Diablo III, Chaosbane has players running through the gamut of Chaos gods and their minions. First up is a sect of Nurgle worshipers, because let’s just get through the most disgusting god first. I think my favorite line in this whole section was regarding the shock of finding a Nurgle cult in the sewers. That’s pretty much exactly where I’d expect a Nurgle cult to meet. Nurgle is the god of pestilence and disease. Is there a better place for disease than the sewers of a large city? I didn’t think so.
That one poor line only highlighted Chaosbane‘s most egregious flaw: unbelievably bad voice acting. I’m talking original He-Man and She-Ra cartoon bad voice acting. I had to turn the volume for the spoken dialogue all the way off by the second Act, because I couldn’t take it anymore.
Blood for the Blood God!
The battles are fast and furious as one would expect from this type of game. The character classes require different strategies to cope, especially in massively large ambushes with Chaos Champions mixed in. The human warrior and the dwarf warrior can get up close and personal with their foes. They have high defensive stats and prefer to get bloody. The wood elf scout and half-elf mage need to fight at a distance. Various skills help both to separate themselves from the thrall, which is often difficult especially when mobbed by nurglings. I played mainly as a scout because she appealed to my demon hunter preferences, but if my kids play with me, they’re definitely playing the tankish characters.
Each character has their own distinct set of active and passive skills that players can use to really tailor their character’s playstyle. Why yes, it is just like Diablo! However, Chaosbane adds in the element of skill trees and skill points to make skill selection a bit more complicated.
Skills unlock when the character reaches a certain level, but each skill requires a certain number of skill points to activate the skill for the character. So while your character may have an upgraded version of a skill unlock at level 34, it doesn’t mean the character has enough skill points to add the upgraded skill to their character sheet. Activating and swapping skills felt like constant bartering. I really need this skill, so I guess I can downgrade this other skill to get the needed points. Or should I remove a passive skill to add on the points?
To add yet another layer of complexity to the skills and skill trees, the character can also learn God skills, both active and passive. With each level gained, the gods grant the character one point of favor. Using favor points, gold crowns, and fragment pieces, players can unlock stats and God skills via a completely separate skill tree. If anyone has played Final Fantasy X or Final Fantasy XIII, the God skill tree will look rather familiar.
Sadly, the skill trees are as complicated as the gameplay gets. The higher difficulties certainly require some complex strategies with implementing and using skills, but higher difficulties don’t change the repetitive nature of the game. I haven’t played a game that literally reuses the exact same environments and maps this often since playing Transformers: Devastation. The whole second act, I visited the streets of Praag or the woods. That was it. There aren’t additional rooms or caves to explore, either. You are playing this exact same map every time. You will traverse Praag about five times and the woods two or three times.
When you complete an act, Boss Rush and Expeditions open up, but the expeditions require playing the exact same areas and maps again and again in hopes you can find new events to partake in for various rewards. This is their idea of offering side quests and side missions. Later on, Relic Hunts will also unlock, which are far more fun, but the bar was already too low for it to make a difference. Other than trophy hunting, I can’t think of a single reason to replay this game, and this is coming from someone who got the Platinum trophy for Diablo III on the PlayStation 3. Now there’s an exercise in tedium for you.
There’s Nothing Wrong With a Diablo-lite, but…
When a game takes on the action-RPG style of Diablo, I don’t expect it to be as good as Diablo, and I certainly don’t expect it to be the exact same. I enjoy seeing what other developers do with the style to make it their own. Other than the skill trees, Warhammer: Chaosbane does not have much to separate it from Diablo, and what it does have sorely lacks depth. If more was put into the environments, if it had real side quests, or if it had variety at all, this could have been a fantastic Diablo-lite. As it is now, it’s a bit half-baked and feels rushed. Perhaps the forthcoming DLC will improve upon it, but it’s too much of a shame that we don’t have a more robust product now.
Warhammer: Chaosbane review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.