Warhammer: Chaosbane – Attack of the Diablo 3 Clone
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 12:44pm 15/03/19 | Comments
The good news is that the foundation is solid, but early game is a repetitive imitation of Blizzard's classic.
Watch some 4K capture via an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti of the Closed Beta
Since its announcement last year, the main inspiration behind the upcoming action-RPG Warhammer: Chaosbane was obvious. In that it begins and ends with Diablo III. Blizzard’s action-RPG franchise is renowned for being the originator of the isometric genre, where clicking on and dispatching monsters and then equipping various bits of weaponry and armour with various stats was revolutionary when it made its debut back in the late 1990s. Where since that time it’s become somewhat of a videogame staple, even going so far as to form the foundation of most of today’s ‘looter shooter’ games like Destiny and The Division.
That said, it’s worth reiterating that Warhammer: Chaosbane doesn’t look to the entire Diablo-series or even the wider action-RPG genre for its inspiration – it basically ‘borrows’ both design and combat mechanics straight from the Diablo 3 playbook. From the overall design philosophy that puts a focus on fast-paced ability-driven combat, to the resource generator and spender setup of each class and their abilities, to the simple things like doing away with potion pick-ups to make healing a simple timed-cooldown affair.
"The main inspiration behind the upcoming action-RPG Warhammer: Chaosbane [is] obvious. In that it begins and ends with Diablo III."
This is not entirely a bad thing, especially for those of us who have put so many hours into Diablo 3 that we often question how games can supposedly track thousands of hours of gameplay. Yes, Warhammer: Chaosbane is unoriginal to a fault. But, the idea of a Warhammer-based action-RPG (fully playable in co-op across PC and console) created in the mould of the fast-paced Blizzard classic that is Diablo III - is enough to warrant lining up for a ticket, clicking on a pre-order link, or even diving deep into Warhammer lore to finally figure out what the big problem is – really - with the forces of Chaos.
Having spent considerable time with the surprisingly polished Warhammer: Chaosbane in Closed Beta form though, it’s hard to get too excited for the product. We’re still keen to check it out in full, as it looks great in motion, but the level of hype has fallen off considerably. For several reasons.
Combat in Warhammer: Chaosbane is fast and the abilities across two of the four playable classes are well executed – but the setup and overall flow feels, well, lacklustre. And almost aggressively average. Limited to a single Chapter of in-game story and progression (ending somewhere around Level 15), no doubt it’s hard to formulate a full picture of how the action-RPG will play out once legendary loot and higher-tier abilities come into play. And the interplay between certain builds and the destruction that comes from the title’s co-op angle. And how that can create a rewarding slice of action-RPG combat that you can keep coming back to.
And this is a genre where the journey often takes a back seat to the destination too, but after playing through the early moments it’s a clear case of excitement that quickly fades due to repetitive levels and dungeons and maps and a story that fails to properly convey a sense of space and world-building.
Looking at it’s inspiration, Diablo 3, no matter your opinion on the game’s longevity – the variety between each Act that extends to how each location leads into the next adds context and a framework for the action. Warhammer: Chaosbane, in the playable Chapter presented, offers a small hub area and missions that have you venturing into sewers with the same tile-set and map over and over and over. It gets to the point where you complete a story-beat only to be told to head back down to the same sewer three times in a row in the same layout with the same monsters. The entire world feels like a medieval castle and church built on top of a sewer system with nowhere else to go.
"Combat in Warhammer: Chaosbane is fast and the abilities across two of the four playable classes are well executed – but the setup and overall flow feels, well, lacklustre."
This lack of environmental variety then bleeds into the combat, which admittedly has few tricks of its own. Instead of a set number of abilities you can equip ala Diablo 3 – what you can put into slots (the exact same number as Diablo’s too) depends on your overall skill-point pool. Certain upgraded abilities will cost more, creating a balancing act that opens the door to several different build possibilities. It’s actually a pretty good system. But, during the early stages most abilities offer flash and pyrotechnic display without any real substance or differentiation. That means similar damage being dealt out against enemies regardless if it’s generator or spender, with only a few minor ways to properly crowd control or stun or apply knockback, etc. Which is a problem when all the monsters seem to rush you no matter what.
This repetition then bleeds into the animation, where you soon notice that enemies and monsters react to abilities in only minor ways and the satisfaction of ‘hitting’, a key part of any action-RPG, varies wildly from both the class to the ability being used. When a mage doesn’t so much keep their distance as to fire off as many fireballs as they can before they’re surrounded – you know there’s a fundamental problem.
Which finally brings us to that thing we all stay for, the loot.
Outside of the weird colour progression that goes white, then blue, then orange, early level loot in Warhammer: Chaosbane is plentiful but mostly generic. Offering incremental stat boosts in a similar fashion to Diablo 3’s early in-game loot. With Diablo 3 as the inspiration then Level 1-15 loot was never going to be as exciting as the game changing legendary stuff that comes later.
If the final game can offer a more engaging story, levelling process, and variety in the dungeons then there’s a good chance this could be an action-RPG to keep an eye on – but in its current state the repetition far outweighs the substance. And in looking to mimic Diablo 3, the balance of ingredients fails to match the recipe. The good news is that the foundation is solid and Warhammer: Chaosbane already looks and runs great – which means there’s plenty of time to improve and tweak the experience.