Chaosbane preview: Bringing Diablo-like gameplay to the Warhammer universe
Time to loot the Old World whilst it’s still around.
The fantasy worlds of Warhammer have always had a turbulent relationship with video games but they’ve been going through something of a renaissance over the last few years. From the refined strategy of the Total War: Warhammer series to the brutality of the Blood Bowl games, Games Workshop has really embraced the medium as one of the primary expressions of their long-running fantasy world. And they’ve not been afraid to take risks in that endeavour. They’ve dabbled in a range of genres from chess-like strategy games to first-person shooters, and now we have Warhammer Choasbane, a Diablo-like ARPG.
It’s a welcome addition, as any kind of RPG is a natural fit for the fantasy worlds of Warhammer due to its tabletop origins. It almost seems strange that there hasn’t been a game like this before. The rich lore and endless battles taking place make for a fine setting, with no end of evil enemies to slay in the Old World. Of course, the obvious comparison is going to be Diablo 3, as the two games play and look quite similar. But, Warhammer Choasbane is very much is its own game built off the back of four decades of lore from the tabletop universe. If you think this is a clone, you’d be mistaken.
That’s also an interesting point of contention in the Warhammer video games: the lore. In the tabletop version of Warhammer, now known as the Age of Sigmar, things have radically changed – in fact, the Old World has been completely destroyed. It’s unclear if, or when the video games will move into this new Age, as for now it appears they’re content to stay in what is known as ‘The End Times.’ This brief and chaotic period served as the introduction to AoS and foreshowed the destruction of the Old World.
In Choasbane you play one of a selection of four heroes, each with their own distinct style yet individually customisable. The Empire of Man faces off against the nefarious forces of Chaos, demon-led cultists intent on destruction. It’s up to you to smite these vile creatures back into the darkness and save the day, hopefully, collecting some pretty cool loot along the way.
An understanding of the Warhammer lore isn’t necessary to enjoy the story. It’s a classic good-versus-evil kind of tale anyone should be able to follow without difficulty. Of course, if you are interested there is an endless amount of backstory to ingest – let’s just say this isn’t the first time these two opposing forces have tangled.
As a dungeon crawler, ARPG Choasbane achieves what it sets out to do. The character development and progression is, from my impressions of the closed beta, deep and adaptable. There’s a wide range of skills each class can utilise, binding them to a corresponding button in a similar fashion to the Diablo games. The combat is fast, and combining the abilities or weapons at your disposal in inventive ways is satisfyingly destructive. But, what really matters is the loot.
I’m glad to say that the loot is, from what I played, diverse and interesting here. Getting my first rare drop was exciting, and grinding to get better rolls on the max-level weapons available in the first chapter was a tempting hook. Of course, I didn’t get to see the all-important end game meta but it’s clearly a very complex system designed to encourage creativity on the road to finding the most overpowered build you can create.
You begin the game in the central hub – a place to sort or sell gear, pick up quests and talk to NPCs. From there you can venture out into the various areas, solo or with up to four other players, on your quest to defeat the forces of Chaos. Although I didn’t get to see the whole range of enemies – the closed beta only had access to the first chapter – the game promises 70 monsters aligned with the demonic gods including unique bosses. One of these I faced: The Great Unclean One. It was a challenging battle, as I choose to do it solo. It teased some of the epic battles to come as you progress through the game’s chapters.
It doesn’t end there. Chaosbane will feature a range of endgame content including the story itself as well as a boss rush mode and countless dungeons, all with 10 difficulty levels to master. It doesn’t look like the story will be short either, and they’re promising regular updates to further add content to the game. Speaking of the narrative, the main storyline is written by Mike Lee, a Black Library author, so you can rest assured the lore is taken care of.
I know ARPGs might be considered slightly dated in today’s age of battle royales but Choasbane has such a great combination of elements that make it a joy to play. The combat is entertaining on a surface level, yet behind the flashy moves there is a hidden depth. The character progression is complex and rewarding. The grind is… well, a grind, but the loot is diverse and powerful and drops regularly. Imagining a game like Diablo with four decades of lore behind it sounds appealing, and it should be. If Warhammer Choasbane gets the endgame right it could be one hell of a contender for the ARPG crown.