Hands on with the Warhammer: Chaosbane Closed Beta

Warhammer that attack button.

Warhammer seems like the perfect franchise for a Diablo-like action RPG. It is a fantasy franchise full of warriors, mages, and plenty of creatures for them to stab and/or set on fire, so Chaosbane seems promising even if you’re not really that knowledgeable about the series, like myself. In fact, with this in mind it almost seems strange that there haven’t been many action RPGs set in the universe before.

Starting this morning, a closed beta has opened for those pre-ordering the game, running until Wednesday 13th March. We got a chance to dip a toe in ahead of time.

The game certainly looks the part as you wander around the game’s sharply rendered streets, though they feel a little empty. This isn’t an issue as you fight your way through the sewers below them though, with hordes of enemies around to swarm your chosen class. Two are available in the beta, an Imperial warrior and High-Elf mage, and I chose the mage because I like shooting fireballs out of my hands. The spells are nicely animated, my favourite being breathing fire, which now that I think about it might actually be even cooler than fireball hands.

The only issue I had with the locations was, well, the actual location itself. The city on Nuln featured in the first act of the game lacks a real sense of life, despite its prettiness. Guards standing unnaturally still, but again, it’s difficult to judge how much of this is due to being a small slice of the game in the beta. The dungeon takes us to the sewers of Nuln which, again, looks nice, but is an incredibly played out setting in games in general. The missions that are available to play take you back to this sewer again and again, repeating layouts each time. Hopefully this is improved in the final release, as the map started to feel repetitive quite quickly.

The same goes for the loot that you find, which quite possibly only had one or two different names per type of item. Hopefully this will be more varied in the final release as it is difficult to get excited for loot when they all sound the same. Despite this, the loot system is pretty good. You can quickly see how an item will affect your attack, defense, and utility stats in your inventory, then quickly jump back into the game. Provided there is more variety in the names and stats on these drops in the final game it should be rather good.

Your abilities are the opposite of this, with a lot of varied options even in the beta. Skill points are used when you equip an ability and refunded when unequipped, so you can experiment to your heart’s content. Each skill has two upgraded versions as well, requiring more skill points but also being significantly more powerful, and they can all be equipped on any of your action buttons you like. This is where the game shines; the mage’s abilities at least are a lot of fun to play with, allowing you to teleport into a group of enemies, stun them all, then bathe them in fire breath if you like, or rain down hellfire on them from a distance.

And finally we come to the best part of the game: the combat. There are a lot of enemies on screen at a time for you to tear your way through, and plenty of entertaining abilities with which to tear. Of the followers of the Chaos god Nurgle, my favourite were the small gnoll-like creatures, actually grouping together and climbing on top of each other to become a bigger enemy, like it was mighty morphin’ time. It was quite an entertaining enemy to battle.

My only criticisms are that enemy variety feels low, though hopefully that’s just due to being a beta and in one location, and that it still seems pretty derivative of Diablo 3. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own, but if you are playing a game that draws all its best parts from another game, you could argue that it would be better to just play that game instead.

Nevertheless, Chaosbane is pretty, the loot system shows promise, and the combat is great. Add to that the online four player co-op and some light Warhammer lore and there is definitely a good chance that the game will be worth picking up for fans of the genre.

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