Warhammer: Chaosbane is the next Warhammer title coming out hoping to break the streak of garbage attached to the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 franchises. Generally speaking, few have done this. The Total War: Warhammer titles, Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2, and … that is about it for recent titles. Enter Chaosbane, a hack-and-slash RPG in the vein of Titan Quest or Diablo, set in a war-torn world where, you guessed it, Chaos is up to no good, doing Chaos-like things (destroying villages, sacrificing people, that sort of thing). You are to rise up, push back the Chaos Horde, and you are going to do it in a mad clicking manner. While it is too early to really see if Chaosbane is the one to bring me out of the decade-long slump of Warhammer trash, but from what I was able to see in the recent Closed Beta, I am cautiously optimistic about it.
I would like to point out that Warhammer: Chaosbane is still in development so there could be elements within the game that will change between now and the planned June 4 release. The two betas that I have been involved in have both been a bit rough on the edges, which to start was quite a concern given the history of Warhammer video games, but after getting through the technical issues and on to the gameplay, I was beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. With the Chaosbane betas I was able to roll both the Empire Soldier and the High Elf Mage and after spending a handful of hours with each I was able to jot a few things about the two classes down and unfortunately not much is overwhelmingly good.
Before I get into the nuances of each of the classes, or what I have seen of the story so far, I would like to bring up a few of the good things about Chaosbane. First is amongst the most important; the *feel* of it is suitable grimdark. Even in its brightest moments, the entire Warhammer universe is heavy grimdark with its gothic spires, gratuitous gore, and lots of sacrificing. Lots of it.
As a hack-and-slash game, which I think would be more adequately described as “looter-slasher,” Chaosbane does quite well; plenty of appropriate loot dropped for both the Soldier and the Mage, though in the case of the third “mission” it seemed that I was getting loot so often that I needed to stop every two to three minutes of gameplay and re-equip myself (it is stuff like this that I am hoping can be ironed out easily between now and launch).
Combat, minus a few oddities, is deliciously crunchy, with big hits feeling like big hits, and waves of enemies falling to your blade/magic in spectacular fashion. I do wish I could comment on the story, except the first few hours of the game are basically the introductory section, showing you the ropes, adding skills, establishing the overarching story, and letting you “warm up” on a few hundred enemies. It was largely a positive experience, but it is still too early to really tell … and that is a MASSIVE concern since the game launches in 3 months.
On to what I would call “issues” … Sweet heavens and by all that is good and Holy, please allow us to remap controls and turn down the sensitivity of the cursor. Also? Add a button, like CTRL or Shift that allow you to stand still and attack since right now, Soldiers look a lot like a gaggle of caffeinated toddlers that are stuck in a small room waiting for Santa Clause to come visit; they constantly move, often miss their mark, and sweet heavens it is a great way to break any sort of “immersion” you might get from Chaosbane purely under the idea that the Soldier is faster than Usain Bolt and can run marathons at that speed. It is ridiculous. Plus it is a pain in the pantaloons to play effectively.
The inability to stand firm and attack is also a huge problem for the Mage; your spells are guided, so that means you fire off a spell and then use the cursor to guide the enemy … Which would be cool, except for every click your stupid-ass Mage goes running into the very bad guys he is trying to make dead! Rebinding keys would not even fix that; rethinking the mechanic as a whole would be needed, especially since Mages are squishy and the action happens so fast that you do not have all the time in the world to be clicking on all sorts of things hoping to kill them before your stupid mage goes running off into danger. Plus, the WASD keys are so stupidly assigned to character screens or abilities, while ALSO tying 1,2,3,4 to abilities. The number key assignments are indicative of WASD movement controls but … nope; it’s all Mr. Clicks on the mouse … It is all really poorly designed and makes me sad.
On the other hand, the controller side of things, is WONDERFUL. If you play a Mage; it sucks as a Soldier. Badly. Again, these are things I am really concerned with being able to be “fixed” by launch. If they are still prevalent in launch then Chaosbane will likely fall to obscurity due to the garbage controls; if the two classes available not only feel the same (Mage is supposed to be high DPS and/or Crowd Control, Soldier is supposed to be Tank; from what I saw there needs to be a lot of balancing put in place as the Mage and Tank both equally felt like DPS’ers, with neither being able to tank nor being able to maintain crowd control), but also require completely different input sources (keyboard + mouse for Soldier, controller for Mage), then it is going to be rough. Very, very rough. If the other classes roll out and are essentially reskinned ideas of the soldier with one or two gimmicks to separate them, Chaosbane is going to suck. Badly. Fortunately there is time, though that is quickly disappearing.