Just as a good Warhammer
is the bane of chaos
, the scourge of my existence in this Diablo
-like (lite?) was being bashed over the head with deja vu. I'm confident that I can draw you from memory every inch of the sewers of Nuln
. Like the back of my hand. Better than the faces of my wife and children. The monsters in there may have spawned differently, but by God-Emperor
I know every brick and crap stain they jack-in-the-boxed from.
To a Diablo III
tragic, this is a major drawback. For years we've been spoiled with a wealth of generated content that keeps the hack 'n' slash fresh. Likewise, my seven characters have been assailed by a cast of monsters so diverse it's like the original Necronomicon
grew into a Stephenie Meyer
-esque series of novels. In comparison, Chaosbane
offered me four heroes and what felt like the first page or two of a demon brochure.
Let's take a look at the player characters first, none of which can be customised (not even gender variants). I personally went with the wood she-elf scout who deals in high-mobility arrowslinging and can also spawn in Groot
familiars. An online co-op buddy of mine went the route of a High-elf mage who loves to teleport, burn things, and deliver AOE pain from afar. One of my sons stepped into the armour of an Imperial Soldier who wades in close and is adept at defense / counter-attacks. Last but not least, we had some online rando dipping in and out as a Dwarven Slayer – an AOE maestro who's all about that bleed effect. Decent selection, all in all, but I sure did want more choice.
Together, this four-player caravan of courage turned my screen into a dazzling display of magical explosions, arterial blood sprays and numbers. So many numbers. And if that wasn't busy enough, in local play my team members would often take a quarter of the screen to dig into their inventory. The action continues in real-time, so you can cop hits as they're equipping a new knife or pulling on a new pair of arse-less mithril chaps to inch their defense up by 0.01%.
"As time goes on you'll unlock a bloodlust meter. It builds if you scoop up a special item that pops out of defeated foes..."
Aside from those brief intermissions, Chaosbane is wall to wall hack 'n' slash action that's incredibly familiar to Diablo III. You have basic attacks to mash, special skills to bust out whenever your replenishing energy meter allows and you also have unlimited health potions waiting also governed by a cooldown. As time goes on you'll unlock a bloodlust meter. It builds if you scoop up a special item that pops out of defeated foes, but unlike loot and gold these have to be shared by the group (read: in-fighting).
Going berserk with a Bloodlust attack is a thing to behold, though it's nowhere near as apocalyptic as the special God skills and God passives that become available. Each of the hero classes also has a pretty huge set of unlockable skills that can be upgraded from Tier 1 to Tier 3. These skills consist of Active Skills and Passive Skills -- depending on the type of your playstyle and you can equip 6 Active Skills and 3 Passive Skills at a time.
Certain skills may require specific equipment such as shields or reputation level of the Collectors' Guild. What's that when it's at home, you ask? A grindfest, basically. Donating your many unused or unneeded bits of gear to the fantasy equivalent of St. Vinnies
will fill up a reputation meter. Ditch enough crap, and you'll be rewarded with a preset amount of money (crowns), percentage buffs on your HP/MP, or you'll unlock skills.
As you'd probably expect the loot game, once again, is nowhere even near as diverse or expansive as Blizzard's offerings. You scoop up stuff sorted into four tiers of rarity, but it barely changes cosmetically and there's no economy or even loot sharing between co-op pals. Advanced adventurers can spend a handful of hours chasing down three sets of heroic armour and three unique weapons per class. There's a blessing system but it's a bit of a buff lucky dip that consumes way too many of your precious gems.
Chaosbane doesn't really improve when it comes to locations. Long-haul players who want to replay this once they've unlocked the three Chaos difficulties will find level fatigue is their greatest foe. The whole game is essentially 4 acts each offering one town location and 2-3 tileset subzones /dungeons. For example, you'll spend a good four hours or so in Nuln, fighting five or so monster types, a mini-boss type, the same mini boss multiplied in a subsequent quest, and then one boss to round things out.
Now compare that with Diablo III. We were taken through Tristram, its expansive cemeteries, mausoleum, caves, marshes, forests, temples, ruins, manors and a whole lot more, all in the first Act. Moreover, there was a well-voiced story laced through that kept us hooked. Chaosbane's narrative is threadbare, the voice acting is uneven and (on PS4 at least) some dialogue gets clipped off a few hundred milliseconds before it ought to.
"a random map is chosen, and you'll have to shred through mobs, beat time-based challenges, kill a boss and find a chest..."
Frankly, the end game you'll be slogging to get to is pretty bleak, at least until the Season Pass content kicks in. You can go back and brutalise yourself in a Boss Rush mode (that has no leaderboards). There's also Relic Hunt where a random map is chosen, and you'll have to shred through mobs, beat time-based challenges, kill a boss and find a chest with some high-end loot.
You could argue that Warhammer: Chaosbane is hamstrung by its small team and budget, but the obvious counterargument would be Grinding Gear Games
and their efforts on Path of Exile
. Basically, what's here shows promise, but we needed so much more of it for the price we're paying. At present, if RNGesus is on your side, after 15 hours or so you'll have seen, done and collected it all for one of your classes. When that happens, I honestly doubt you'll feel the incentive to fire up an alt.
In a Nutshell
A great foundation that is mechanically sound and will delight in the early hours. Stick around too long, however, and Chaosbane reveals a dearth of classes, enemies and environments. Also a weak endgame.