Warhammer Chaosbane, the action-RPG from Eko Software and Bigben Interactive releases on June 4th. However, from March 7th to the 13th, the first Warhammer Chaosbane private beta will run. This beta includes access to the first act of the game using two characters. The human soldier and high-elf mage are available and can be advanced as high as level 20. We were able to get a preview of this early content. So we tore through the sewers of Nuln fighting demons and their allies as the human soldier.
Chaosbane takes place in the grimdark fantasy setting of Games Workshop's tabletop game Warhammer. Games Workshop themselves focus more on Age of Sigmar these days, but they're still supportive of games taking place in their older settings.
Players begin their journey into the Chaosbane beta by choosing one of two characters, the Human Soldier or High-Elf Mage. The Human Soldier, Konrad, is able to tank a lot of damage, but also deal a steady amount of damage at close range. The Mage, Elontir, focuses more on ranged abilities and attacks with special effects.
Cooperative play wasn't available during our playthrough, and that missing partner was noticeable. A good balance of range and close-quarters combat is a necessity to play well. The Soldier struggles with ranged attackers, preferring to bundle into combat with a large number of enemies to optimize the damage dealing of his attacks. This means that ranged enemies can target him throughout, forcing him to chase them or let them whittle his health down while he deals with the mob. The Mage, however, can deal with ranged enemies easily but struggles with a large number of enemies close up.
Once you choose your character, the story begins. Cutscenes describe the background and then you jump right into the tutorial. You race through a fortified tower as Cultists try to overrun it. Then, you compete in a cat and mouse chase through the city sewers. You're seeking followers of the Chaos God Nurgle, the god of disease, decay, and death.
As an action-RPG, the game has an isometric perspective like the genre leader, Diablo and the camera follows the heroes around as they throw themselves into combat with their enemies. The first act sees most of the action in the Sewers of Nuln and a brief jaunt into the city itself to root out some information. Most of the graphics are dark, except for the light coming off of the putrid infection of the sewers as the gift of Nurgle spreads. If needed, you can activate a minimap to aid navigation through the sewers.
Throughout the first act, most of the scenery is the same, yet it always feels fresh. You seemingly always discover fresh horrors in the depths. The first act's scenes are short and punchy, and even though the individual mission maps aren't large, they do feel like you're entering a sprawling maze of sewers. It can be easy to miss areas if you're not paying attention, or find yourself in areas you've already visited as you lose yourself in battle.
Fighting enemies is a loot grind of working out combinations that work. For the Soldier, it's straight forward attack swings, hitting anyone in range. He just combines that with the occasional shield-bash to stun enemies. At later levels, Sigmar's Wrath is available, a spell that summons a halo of flames to damage his enemies. The soldier also has some great cooperative abilities, like planting a standard that boosts damage to all players within its area of effect.
As you battle enemies, level up and gain loot, there are several ways to improve your character. The first is through loot items themselves. Characters have access to 10 inventory slots, including several armor locations, weapons and items slots like rings and amulets. Items can have several effects, but their main stats are front and center on the item. When items are better or worse, the number difference shows up in green or red to allow you to easily see how different equipment affect your stats. Several effects also show up in the item information. You never know, sometimes a weapon with worse core stats can provide some incredible benefits.
Characters also have access to Skills, with the available skill points increasing as your character levels up. Skills generally come in three levels. As skills unlock, you can toggle them on and off as required, as long as you don't exceed the maximum skill points. At the start the soldier has Cutting, which costs no skill points. As you gain levels, Cutting level 2 is available for 4 skill points. So with 4 skill points, you could activate the Level 2 Cutting, or keep level 1 and activate a passive skill like Bastion Against Corruption, which also costs 4. If that wasn't working for you, you can change that around, or use a different available skill. This flexibility allows you to enter missions with the right abilities for the task.
During the game, you collect various colored fragments, which allow you to purchase abilities on the God Skill Tree. Some of these are passive stat changes, but others, like Sigmar's Wrath, open up skills that can be activated with Skill Points. The Soldier's God Skill Tree is a join-the-dots of Sigmar's Comet, with smaller dots requiring activating before reaching the larger skill dots. It did make reading it quite difficult, and trying to trace back some of the further abilities that you might want access to did feel like an in-game puzzle of its own.
Between the two available characters, the Soldier is the solid choice to take on the game solo. There were only a couple of points, mainly the larger enemies that the soldier struggles. This is due to being in the thick of the action, taking damage from all sides. You are able to make smaller enemies chase you, peeling them away from the larger enemies so that you can deal with them one-on-one. The most challenging moments, besides the boss battles, are when several enemies with boost effects overlap, like the Nurgle Plague Bearers carrying Icons of Nurgle. They can heal other demons of Nurgle, and need to be taken out quickly. There are times when two of them will be at opposite sides and will heal each other as you tried to remove one.
These were the great standout moments for me. When AI isn't abusable and you find yourself tapping furiously on your primary strike. You're just hoping that you can remove them before their ability refreshes. All that as you occasionally glance over at your own ability timers and implore them to refill quicker.
There are a few moments in the game where there are a huge amount of enemies on screen. This really captures the heroic nature of the characters. It is concerning that there is this huge volume of enemies underneath Nuln. It means that someone hasn't been doing their job. The Empire might have bigger problems to worry about if there is this level of corruption right under their nose. There is also an amusing moment where Konrad curses a squad of human soldiers for going into the sewers alone. He then rushes off to rescue them. He is of course solo, descending into the sewers by himself for the fourth time.
Warhammer Chaosbane clearly aims at the co-operative market. Overlapping abilities and teamwork are really necessary to get the most out of the game. The narrative is engaging and captures the feel of Warhammer's grimdark setting, which will make Warhammer fans feel right at home. Diablo and other action-RPG fans will also feel comfortable with how Chaosbane plays. This content in the first beta is only a brief look at how the full game has in store. We're looking forward to seeing what other horrors await just around the next corner.
TechRaptor covered the Warhammer Chaosbane private beta on Xbox One with a code provided by the developer. The game is also available on Steam and PlayStation 4.