Before I became attached to Pathfinder - God rest my soul - I dipped my toes in a variety of TTRPGs, but Game Workshop’s Warhammer never made it to my list of games to try. Playing Warhammer: Chaosbane made me wonder why. It’s a melodramatic, grandiose world with just enough fantasy character archetypes to feel like familiar territory.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is an action RPG that follows in the footsteps of Torchlight II and the Diablo series, with dizzying waves of easy-to-kill enemies and quests galore. Min-max your character, search for high tier loot or just follow along for a high fantasy adventure - Warhammer: Chaosbane isn’t anything new in the genre, but from what I've played so far, it has well-designed gameplay and is overall good fun.
In a hefty opening cutscene, you learn that the army of Chaos has invaded the Warhammer world and destroyed the nearby city of Praag. Emperor Magnus the Pious rallies troops and murders the Chaos leader, but falls under the magical snare of an evil sorceress. Your character is enlisted to get to the bottom of it all and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The story of Chaosbane has quite a bit of lore in it. It assumes you’re coming in with a working knowledge of the world at hand and know the names of many of the NPCs that you interact with. If you’re plugged into Warhammer, it will be right up your alley. If not, it’s easy enough to understand what’s happening and most of the cutscenes and dialogue are skippable. Chapter One of Chaosbane sends you throughout the sewers of Nuln, where you discover the sorceress has a cult that has infiltrated the city. Chapter Two takes you out to the ruins of Praag to learn more.
Chaosbane features four different playable characters to choose from: a human soldier, a High Elf mage, a Dwarven slayer or a Wood Elf scout. I’ve been playing as Elessa, the scout, who has a voice that sounds somewhat like whenever a man tries to roleplay a female character during D&D. I generally go for a hack-and-slash build in these types of games, but it’s a new fantasy world, so I’ve stepped away from my penchant for barbarians. When they come of age, Wood Elves get 100 years to explore the world before returning home to protect their forest. Elessa has been scouting for the Empire for a few years when Magnus becomes cursed and she gets conscripted to help solve the predicament at hand.
The character customization is where Chaosbane truly shines. Rather than having complex branches of a skill tree where options are unfathomable, there are a set level of abilities that you gain as you level up your character. Elessa starts with a basic bow shot before learning how to shoot a spray of arrows that slow enemies. Complete a few quests and she'll start throwing her knife in a spinning, ricocheting helicopter twirl of death. At even higher levels, she'll be able to summon a dryad that both draws enemies away from her and spews poison everywhere. When you level up, you get skill points that allow you to upgrade your base abilities.
Chaosbane’s mechanics are a little more awkward. Occasionally, I was able to shoot through the corner of a wall. Other times I would be on a staircase and my arrows became blocked by an invisible wall that prevented me from shooting downwards on a grimy little goblin not ten feet away. The auto-aim was a little unwilling to hone in a large group of enemies, instead targeting a single foe on the edge of my vision. Those are minor mechanical issues that seem to reset and disappear when Elessa moves to a different spot on the screen.
Quests are linear, and side quests are unheard of, which I thoroughly enjoyed. In an action RPG, a lot of the fun comes from chopping down swarms of enemies and finding shiny things. Getting lost on a side quest distracts from that, but Chaosbane doesn’t stray down that path. Follow the easy-to-read map in the top right corner, slice your way through evil abominations, rinse and repeat.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is a game that’s easy to lose track of time while playing. There's been enough variability to keep me interested, while still feeling comfortably like most action RPGs. The first chapter is a bit lengthy with quite a bit of exposition, but Chapter Two seems to be where you start to make significant progress towards your mission. I'm interested to see if the heavy plot focus continues throughout the game, and how that impacts the story's conclusion. I'm also curious to see what higher level play looks like, since there's only been one or two difficult fights so far. As I continue through Chaosbane for a more in-depth review, I look forward to exploring this new RPG world.
Sam previewed Warhammer: Chaosbane on PC with a code provided by the publisher. It's also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.