Warhammer: Chaosbane in all its totality is one of the best of the best when it comes to top-down dungeon crawling action and looting. It also comes with an impressive story that doesn’t let down, especially if you grab the Magnus Edition, which comes with all the DLC the game has to offer.
+Hundreds of hours of content to enjoy
+Fans of classic Warhammer fantasy lore won’t be disappointed
+Custom character builds are almost limitless
+Online is available and there is actually a pretty lively community
+Multiple difficulty levels
-Some of the overall design feels a bit lazy
-Loot, at times, does not feel as meaningful as it should
I’ll be honest. I love a good loot grinder. I always have. I started off in the mid-90s with Diablo and soon after I moved to more titles of its kind as they released. Four years later, I moved onto Diablo II with my dad, where we spent, well, we’re still playing to this day, years later.
Now, I’ve had the chance to sit down with another entry in the dungeon-crawling action-RPG genre, which comes in the form of Warhammer: Chaosbane. Having had horrible luck with a GOOD loot grinder title (here’s looking at you Warhammer 40,000: Inquisition – Martyr), I ended up approaching this one with caution. Not because I didn’t have hope, but rather, because I’ve had too much in the past.
I had hoped that Diablo wouldn’t let me down, which it did with Diablo III. It tried hard to revive the series, bringing back the former glory we had in Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, which still stands out as the franchise’s best title to date and still has hundreds, if not thousands of players playing to this day (20 years later to be exact).
Warhammer: Chaosbane, right from the start, is a spiritual successor to Diablo II
Now, here I am, almost two months later after having received a copy of Warhammer: Chaosbane from the PR team for our review. I’ve messed around with the game for, literally, dozens of hours on just the Waywatcher (Archer/Scout) named Elessa, a lady who brings poison, elements, and her ability to summon companions to her side to her advantage.
Now, I wan to warn, I will be doing quite a few comparisons to Diablo II and Sacred II. There’s a lot of good reasons why, which you’ll find out as we move forward, and hopefully, all the pieces fall into place. Normally, I’m against such comparisons, as I don’t like doing it as it feels it takes away from the developer’s intended experiences that they have created for us to enjoy.
The reason behind this, primarily, is the fact that both are extremely well-polished games. While Warhammer: Chaosbane will take a few lumps in this review, they’re well deserved and they offer feedback for future improvements to a game that’s been out for well over a year, but is still getting a lot of love in updated roadmaps from the studio.
Warhammer: Chaosbane, for newcomers, is a game that ignores the recent retcon done for Games Workshop’s Age of Sigmar area, but instead, it draws directly from 36 years of lore. Let that sink in – 36 years of Warhammer lore. That’s a ton of lore and a ton of room to come up with some new story elements. Long-time fans of the franchise will instantly begin to know what, where, and who some of the characters are you’ll encounter, including Magnus, who is attacked by Chaos forces from the very start.
What year is the game in? A few years into the Chaos invasion of 2301 where Magnus and the Imperial army have moved forward to quell the rising threat of the Chaos forces and put their champion down. Of course, if Nurgle has anything to say about it, don’t expect it to happen without a massive fight. Also, you’ll get to see the great home of Magnus, Nuln, from the very start.
You’ll encounter Teclis, the High Loremaster of Hoeth, who will work at your side throughout your adventures. He will, for all intents and purposes, move your story forward from the very start. Don’t expect to experience anyone else such as Slaneesh, Settra, or Zuvassin.
Trekking through the world of Warhammer: Chaosbane is memorable and not at the same time
Now, instead of talking purely about the story in the base game and its DLCs, let’s actually talk about fundamental designs here. After all, we avoid as many spoilers as we can here at Blast Away the Game Review and we’re going to continue that tradition in our review Warhammer: Chaosbane.
Now, just like any action RPG of this kind, you’ll find that story itself is key to the game as a driving force. Sure, Diablo III had an epic story, it was memorable and you truly felt bad for those involved as you sought to stop Diablo once more. This time, all has changed and instead of Diablo himself, you’re hunting down Chaos minions and the Chaos god himself – Nurgle.
The world itself is ravaged by the invasion of Chaos forces as they manipulate the world around them to feel changed, to deliver a memorable experience, and ultimately, make it unforgettable as ever. However, this is also one of the weak points of Warhammer: Chaosbane. The game itself struggles to deliver a solid and memorable experience, one that Diablo did well to deliver.
Unfortunately, the areas aren’t as memorable as – let’s say – Kurast or the Frigid Highlands from Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. The areas within Diablo II: Lord of Destruction and the base game are quite memorable. Each one really pops in comparison while Warhammer: Chaosbane seems to struggle. Areas tend to be forgettable as you will visit most of them once. That’s it. Once. You won’t find them to really go through them multiple times unless you partake in the game’s adventure mode.
In truth, this aspect hurts the game more than it wants to aid it. It doesn’t help that Chaos minions don’t feel unique or different throughout your adventure. Rather, they stay the same, never changing color, shape, or form to offer some form of variety. The armor and weapon selection itself also struggles in a sense due to a lack of identity.
A lack of variety is good, but also bad, which is odd and somehow confusing
One of the things you’ll find you will be struggling with is the fact that Warhammer: Chaosbane does lack some form of identity when it comes to how loot works. Item sets aren’t as unique as you think. Each weapon, each armor, and even melee weapons are all parts of sets. While there are exotic items in the game, in my dozens of hours played, I’ve only encountered TWO bows for Elessa.
It does leave room for us to want more, to feel that gear actually makes a massive impact. When fighting end-game bosses at level cap before entering the post-level-cap system. This is where Warhammer: Chaosbane does begin to shine. You’ll find that basic, advanced, and God skill trees are impressive and WILL change how you experience the overall game on your post-campaign experience unless you dive into the DLC.
Gear will also determine how you build, what items you want to use, what skills are best for you, and where you want to place your points. All points can be refunded, gear can be “socketed” allowing you to experiment and create builds best for what you want to use. For my Elessa build, I found that poison and snares were my best bet, allowing me to boost my damage and find my critical attack rating to really shine.
I was able to take out grips of enemies easier than before and without as much trouble as I had. Basic enemies were a challenge and bosses, well, bosses were where the real fun begins. Just like Diablo, one of the big draws to the game itself is actually looting gear. Item rarity, much like any game in the genre, goes across several tiers. You have white, blue, gold, and red (heroic) being the highest tier you can go and your ideal tear of choice.
Gearing up can be a pain, but it’s worth it, in some weird way
It was almost 40 hours in before I got my first heroic piece of gear, then a second one, but it didn’t happen until I jumped the difficulty up, placing it right up there with what would be considered the equivalent to Torment III in Diablo: Reaper of Souls. Unlike Diablo, however, gear is weighed differently. White, Blue, Gold, and even Red, can have set pieces that help advance their value.
These gear pieces also are sets, allowing you to get specific bonuses for having 5/5 items in that set equipped. The best way to get these pieces? The Tower, Boss Rush, Adventure Mode, and the DLC. All of these are great alternatives for gearing (and the super rare mythic items do exist, but they are super rare, and will not drop until you hit the level cap, which honestly, kinda sucks.
Blessing your gear also adds another roadmap to how you’ll gear, what fragments you’ll use, and what stats you want to aim for. Blessing your gear can also determine just how well you will perform in higher difficulties, which honestly, you shouldn’t do until 50 anyways. You spend your fragments, believe it or not, in your skill trees, large node-based maps of what kind of abilities you can get, and the stat bonuses they will offer.
Want more crit? You can do that. Want to summon bigger and meaner creatures? You can do that too. Want your spell to really hit with a bang? Oh yea, that’s an option as well. Just don’t count all your chickens until they hatch though. You’ll want to go across multiple grids, which honestly, is worth it. Especially if you plan on jumping into New Game Plus, which lets you pick a new character, but you keep your fragments, cash, and plenty more.
You’ll even find that there’s plenty more content to enjoy including Relic Hunts, Boss Rush, The Tower, and even other various activities to enjoy. Now, when I say that this game has a lot to experience. It does. It does it well even with a few shortcomings headed its way from the very start. That doesn’t mean the game isn’t good. To be honest, it’s flippin’ great, and it kind of hurts when I say this: I kind of wish it had taken note of the loot systems from Diablo and Sacred, both of which work rather well.
Aside from a little polish needed, Warhammer: Chaosbane sets an example for others to follow
Now, let me make this clear: Warhammer: Chaosbane does have its shortcomings. Loot being sets from the start is confusing, troubling, and slightly hard to really concentrate on as you level. This is where games like Diablo and Torchlight are light years ahead of Warhammer: Chaosbane.
But, I must state, their unique loot system is a unique one, but confusing one at that. Since the benefits you will obtain through gear sets, you won’t take full advantage of them, at least not until end game content becomes your focal point. Just don’t forget to increase the difficulty so you have a better chance of getting high-end loot.
You’ll benefit greatly from it and it will work in your favor later on. It is where the heroic gear begins to drop and it also ensures that your character will be min-maxed by the time you hit the highest-end content.
Whether you are a fan of Diablo, Sacred, Torchlight, or even Path of Exile, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in Warhammer: Chaosbane. It’s a solid dungeon crawling title, one that’s packed to the brim with things to do. While it is slightly slow to execute the overall experience and REALLY get to the core of its dungeon diving, loot grinding, action RPG core, you can’t help but enjoy the story as well as its content.
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Eko Software
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $49.99 – $79.99
If you are one that wants a title with some solid same-couch multiplayer fun or even a fascinating story that expands across a base game and two DLCs, which the DLCS are their own stories, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a healthy game with a long roadmap ahead that also gives us a lot of hope for the future of a Warhammer 40,000 title with the exact same type of experience.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.