What is it? A Warhammer-themed Diablo clone.
Expect to pay $50/£40
Developer Eko Software
Publisher Bigben Interactive
Reviewed on Intel i5, 16gb RAM, GTX 970
Multiplayer? Both local and online co-op.
Link Official site (opens in new tab)
Chaosbane is exactly what you’d expect if you heard the words “mid-budget Warhammer Diablo clone”. No more, no less. You pick one of four heroes, you kill endless hordes of creatures and you loot progressively shinier trousers, stopping occasionally to fight a larger, tougher monster with an annoying area attack. That’s it. I wouldn’t call it a bad game, but it is a mediocre and derivative one, and far too repetitive for its own good. It’s Diablo, but Warhammer.
The Warhammer licence does help a little, particularly in the enemy design. Each Act is framed as a battle against followers of a different chaos god (representing war, magic, disease and sexy times respectively), and there’s a deep pool of appropriate monsters to draw from for each, including a big end of level boss. I particularly enjoyed fighting Slaanesh, whose agile followers would backflip out of combat and manoeuvre around, preventing fights from descending into one big mosh pit.
Technically there’s a story that links these acts together, but it’s so basic my eyes started glazing over in the very first cutscene. I didn’t expect a compelling narrative, but after the cheerful banter of Vermintide and Mechanicus (opens in new tab), I was hoping for something at least mildly entertaining. The standard is pretty high for Warhammer tie-ins nowadays, and Chaosbane fails to reach them.
Chaosbane’s big problem is repetition. There’s so little variation in the combat. Despite a handful of new skills unlocking my basic approach, hold down attack, hit an area attack when surrounded and a health draining attack when hurt, didn’t change much between hour one and hour fifteen, despite the ability to swap around skills at will. One of my attacks noted that it ignored armour, but since there was no real indicator which enemies were heavily armoured and which were not, it was impossible to figure out when to use it effectively, and I soon traded it for another big area attack.
Loot didn’t hold my interest either. The majority of items are uninteresting stat boosts that don’t materially change the way you play. Perhaps real game changer items lurk deep into the endgame, but in the time I had with Chaosbane I didn't encounter any. The mark of a good action RPG is that you should be regularly getting new skills or items that make you want to change your style and approach things differently, and Chaosbane doesn’t do this anywhere near often enough for my liking.
Part of this might have been due to the fact that I spent the majority of my time playing as the trollslayer (in my defence, orange mohawked dwarves are rad). Unfortunately, he mostly just performs different kinds of axe swing, while occasionally picking up better tattoos. Things got a bit more interesting when I restarted as a high elf mage, who had a nice floaty orb attack that could be redirected with the right stick to waggle it in and out of the daemons.
One thing I did enjoy was the bloodlust orbs: every now and then an enemy will spit out a glowing red globule. Grab one and it’ll heal you up; collect enough and you’ll be able to activate a “super” mode where your character is nigh indestructible and deals massive damage. What makes it work is that the orbs only stick around for a few seconds, meaning you’re forced to manoeuvre around the arena in order to grab them mid-fight. It gives you something to think about other than watching a big bunch of numbers pop up, which is what Chaosbane desperately needs.
I only got to spend a short time with Chaosbane’s multiplayer for this review. It was fairly easy to drop into a random game, even with the low number of people online pre-release, but when I got there the enemies exhibited a pronounced tendency to awkwardly rubber band towards one player or another. It didn't make the game unplayable, but it was noticeable. There was also a bug where damage numbers occasionally became huge and took up the entire screen, but I’m certainly not complaining about that. I hope they never fix it: it’s hilarious.
More promising is the inclusion of four player local co-op, which is so easy to set up I actually managed to start it accidentally mid-dungeon. You can even combine local and online co-op. That’s the one context in which I can see myself going back to Chaosbane, when you just want to throw something on in big picture mode to play with a bunch of mates.
It’s hard to blame Chaosbane for just being an unoriginal action RPG, but ultimately I found myself asking over and over, 'Why don’t I just play Diablo instead?' And that is a question the game fundamentally fails to answer.