For the uninitiated, Warhammer: Chaosbane is an action-RPG by Eko Software, and it's set in the expansive world of Warhammer. In fact, given how perfect Games Workshop's fantasy world is for a game like this, it's a bit surprising we haven't seen something like this sooner. The title, which plays similarly to Diablo with its isometric camera angle and hordes of terrible creatures to smash through, is about a group of adventures fighting the remnants of the Chaos Horde in an effort to free their beloved leader from a terrible curse.
Travelling throughout the Old World, players will encounter different factions of the Horde, whilst also visiting notable locations from the fantasy universe such as Nuln or Praag. The game radiates Warhammer, and there's a looming feel to the gothic medieval world, which is gritty and callous and filled with disgusting creatures. It may seem dark and damp at first, but as you progress further the adventure takes you to icy forests, ancient temples and even further-flung locales. As with the wider world of Warhammer, Chaosbane separates those feeling of dread by bringing a sense of hope with its light dialogue, showing that whilst the world can be cruel, the people within it are far from it.
During our playthrough, we played as Elessa the Wood Elf, who uses her skills in archery to elevate her capacity for combat. When firing she is rooted in place, but from that fixed point she can unleash a torrent of arrows at the wretched creatures of the horde. Her abilities allow her to cut through her enemies with sharp three-pronged throwing blades, or she can decimate whole crowds using the multi-shot ability. Aside from all this, and what makes her unique to the other classes, is her ability to perform a combat roll and escape whatever danger might come her way. Whilst she may not be as hardy as some of the other characters, she makes up for it with range and fantastic mobility.
Looking at the other classes in the game, they too each have their own standout skillset. Elontir the mage can blast through waves of enemies at once using his proficiency in magic (and you can read more about our hands-on time with him here). Konrad Vollen, on the other hand, uses his brawn to take the fight to the Horde, slicing down any of those who get in his way. Finally, Bragi Axebiter is the epitome of a fantasy dwarf. He may be small but the way he wields his dual axes is sure to inspire fear in even the most inhumane enemies.
As for how each individual impacts the storyline, you can expect the campaign to be marginally altered for each class, meaning different characters will have specific lines that are only spoken to them and not the other classes. In turn, this does mean that each play-through with the different class types is somewhat unique and not just repeated time and time again. In fact, when putting it in perspective, while the campaign is only four chapters long, it offers decent replayability and value. A full run through of the campaign on normal difficulty, which for reference is only one several difficulty settings, would take approximately 10-12 hours for one character to complete. This means the game takes around forty or so hours to beat with each of the different classes, which is not directly apparent when first looking at the title.
On top of this, the game does allow for co-op play which elevates the Chaosbane experience to the next level. Players can create a party with up to four members allowing a full roster of the available classes to be able to work in harmony with each other. This makes the game's much harder difficulties beatable, or at the very least, a bit easier.
Environmental design features a heavy medieval gothic art style. This, of course, is only in reference to the general setting of the game; likewise, the enemies and many of the locations will be familiar to fans of the series. It's also worth noting that whilst the game can at times be overwhelming in terms of the action on-screen, the title doesn't rely on audio one bit and is very accessible because of this. Subtitles appear over each piece of audio and visual hints are provided where necessary, which is not something every game can say nowadays. The soundtrack also brings the world to life, but although it was present at all times, it often would be absorbed by the ruthless sounds of the Horde being slaughtered by our benevolent heroes.
Chaosbane excels in terms of the diversity of the enemies you'll encounter. Sometimes it may be difficult to tell when there's so many crammed onto the screen, but the game actually features over 70 unique enemy types. This means that whilst you will battle a lot of plain old boring foot soldiers, there are bigger, more threatening foes out there. For example, the Chaos Beasts are huge creatures which are incredibly powerful and feature hefty health bars which take a great deal of work to chew through. The interesting thing about this is that they're not technically bosses, as their health bars stand the same as regular enemies.
The bosses, on the other hand, are a different breed of terrifying. They have huge health bars, several times bigger than those of regular enemies, and each has multiple lives which need to be chunked down. Along with this, they each have unique move-sets which will crush anybody who isn't putting maximum effort into taking down these horrors of the Horde. Sometimes we even found these bosses to be too challenging during solo play, pushing us to alter the difficulty before tackling them again.
One point that should be mentioned is the unnecessarily complicated range of currencies and levelling systems. To be more specific: there are your typical experience bars, and reputation levels to be increased but on top of this, there are also five types of fragments which must be collected to gain new perks, gold to purchase these perks, and skill points which seem to be distributed at certain moments (such as at the end of particular missions). The fragments, for example, are tied to getting passive abilities such as extra health or lower cooldowns, but the issue that plagues them surrounds the fact that there are around five different types, all of which do the same thing. In fact, in order to upgrade a skill, players must have a specific amount of each fragment, and these fragments drop randomly, plus you'll need gold to purchase it. This means you may have hundreds of the red fragments, but only a few of the orange ones, meaning you can't upgrade unless you trade (which grants one desired fragment for approximately five others, which is absolutely bizarre). To get the point across, these specific class upgrades aren't even anything to do with the skill points systems in the game, which uses experience from defeated enemies and perk points to level you up.
Aside from all this number-based jibber-jabber, Chaosbane has a lot to offer. Once a boss has been defeated, players can go back and tackle it again in the boss-rush mode for better loot to equip their character with. Furthermore, players can start a new playthrough with one of the other character classes and see the game from a different perspective. At the end of the day, the game lets players face the action in whichever way they choose, be it a staggeringly difficult battle through chaos beasties or just a casual relaxing horde slaying experience. Warhammer: Chaosbane stands up when compared against the likes of Diablo and it does so with unexpected clout, making for an action-RPG adventure that fans of the genre will lose themselves in.