I had a chance to give Warhammer: Chaosbane a hands-on preview before the closed beta. It’s still a beta, and it shows in a few places. However, if you are a fan of the loot pursuit and hack and slash fantasy games, this should be on your radar.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is the first hack and slash game set in the Warhammer universe. After a shadowy group attacks the imperial leader, Magnus, you will be hunting down the group responsible and carving your way through an army of monsters. The story is simple, effective, and it never lets you get bogged down in needless details.
The beta allows you to experience that story through one of two characters, an imperial knight and a high-elf mage. The full game will add a dwarf and wood-elf, and they are really four separate classes. The beta presents opposite ends of the spectrum. The knight is a fighter that will stand his ground and both give and take a beating. The mage’s powerful ranged attacks allow him to fight from a distance or remove himself from combat quickly.
The beta’s main hub area is a castle, and your soldier or mage will visit different areas to speak with characters for missions, visit a personal stash to store items, or depart into the sewers to search for clues, usually by cutting a swath through enemies. There is a load screen when moving between areas, but most are very short, lasting only a few seconds at most. Transitioning from the end of a dungeon was a little longer, but it was still fairly quick.
Once you reach the main combat areas in the sewers, the levels are open paths for you to explore. There are corridors broken up by small open areas with many enemies scattered throughout the level. A map in the corner shows you a zoomed in view of where you are and the fog of war is removed as you explore. The levels don’t appear to be randomly generated in the singleplayer campaign, but there is a mode in the final game that will do that to keep it fresh.
As I continued to explore, I found a wide variety of increasingly dangerous monsters. They range from the weaker swarming types to the poison-spewing destroyers. There is also that one monster that stays just outside your range and hits you with arrows. (I hate that guy.) The designs were good, especially the boss at the end, and there are supposed to be many more to come.
As you kill everything that crosses your path or complete missions, you gain experience and levels. Every new level in the beginning seemed to unlock a new skill or more powerful version of an existing skill. All of these skills are either attacks or moves your character can use alone or concurrently with another skill. Each has its own cooldown before you can use it again, and a quick glance at the lower left of the screen shows you each one. They are completely remappable on the controller, so you can make it work however you want.
Skill points are required to utilize more powerful abilities, and using them drains or refills a pool of energy. The initial version of one attack may use zero skill points, but the next level may need five skill points. You have a pool of points, and each level up adds a point for you to use. This adds a little strategy to your skill loadout, and I experimented with some different combinations to see what fit my style best.
There are a lot of skills and skill categories, and you will need to spend a lot of time to unlock them all. Most skills have three levels, and it’s not just a more powerful version of the same thing. The attack damage on a skill may increase or stay the same, but it may add a status effect, such as slow or igniting the ground instead of just being a fireball. It could also add a party benefit useful in co-op. The skill trees are specific to each character, and there is another unique god skill tree that uses collected fragments that further buffs your character and grants new abilities.
I mentioned loot earlier, and Warhammer: Chaosbane has plenty. There are multiple slots on your character for weapons, rings, and different armor slots for you to fill up with higher level items. All of the items I received in the beta were for my character. They weren’t always a higher level, but I never received mage items when playing as the knight. Item power and rarity are clearly categorized by color and have higher and more stat categories applied.
After fighting a huge group of enemies or opening a treasure chest, there is almost something new lying on the ground for me to grab and compare to my existing items. The item window is a wheel, and you can select a category to see all the gear you have. New items are marked with a sparkle animation, and you can compare your new and equipped items by clicking L3. It’s fast and easy, and the controls work great in general.
Dying is a part of life, but it doesn’t seem to be overly penalized at normal difficulty. You can revive wherever you are for a payment of gold or fragments. You have a health potion, but it doesn’t appear to be something you buy in the game. You can use one at any time, and it is also has a cooldown that can be decreased with a skill. There are many levels of difficulty, so you can fine tune your challenge.
The visuals and art look good so far. They are very stylized, but I noticed the environments have little animations in the background. There are lighting and effects when using skills, and there is a depth to some of the areas which make them come alive.
As far as glaring problems in the beta, the character stories at the beginning need some adjusting. The drawn art style is good, but one part of the audio starts before another is finished. The voice over sound itself is fine, and this should be able to be fixed before it launches in June.
The only other problems I noticed in the beta was that some animations didn’t work correctly when I attacked. There was also at least one of the skills that didn’t seem to have a benefit by going to the second level. It may be working behind the scenes, but the text didn’t show me why I would spend my skill points on it.
Overall, I enjoyed Warhammer: Chaosbane’s beta. I have not mentioned it until now, but it’s a take on the Diablo formula. There are still some features locked that I would have liked to try, but it gave me my loot loop/level up fix, and I wanted more.
As with all previews, stay skeptical until the final version of the game is released, but this one has potential.