Warhammer: Chaosbane – Close, but no Diablo
PC, Xbox One, PS4
There’s no hiding it, this is Warhammer Diablo. The moment to moment gameplay is almost identical to Blizzard’s never-dying ARPG. If someone saw this playing on your TV, they’d say, “Oh cool, Diablo.” There are a few changes, such as a broadly confusing God-powers upgrade tree and the fact that you don’t trade loot so much as donate it in exchange for unknown rewards, but by and large, you’ll be rolling through randomly-generated locales holding the A button to kill waves of weak, single-minded AI monsters. So let’s cut through the guff and get straight to what I liked and didn’t like:
What I Liked
- The general aesthetics are well designed. Dungeons look dungeony, slimy things look glisteningly disgusting and some of the attack effects are really cool. I chose a mage for my play-through and one of my favourite skills was an upgraded version of fire breathing that basically turned me into Drogon from Game of Thrones.
- The skill system doesn’t lock you in, instead working on a points total that reimburses you for skills that you take out. More advanced skills cost more points to slot. So you can have six or so okay skills equipped at once, or you can choose to un-equip some of them to roll with a few truly powerful skills/spells. There are also special God buffs and spells which are unlocked with gems as you progress. I liked the general idea of these, but as you’ll read below, not the way in which they are presented.
- The boss fights are quite a challenge. I would have liked more player movement options for avoiding, say, poison spewed from the grotesque sewer monster, but overall they present an okay challenge and again mirror Diablo’s story design.
- Loot is constant and generally good. The quality of drops is related to the difficulty you play on, so punching it back to easy will mean less chance of a juicy pair of pants.
- Enemy designs and attack patterns actually forced me to retreat at times, something that rarely happens in Diablo. There are perhaps too many small, pesky foes that take up your time, but early on I learned to run through levels and then stop to mop up large following crowds.
- Everyone speaks with such a high British accent and with such self-importance that I could almost smell the hubris. Both good and evil characters feel a plot twist away from switching sides.
- I like that both local and online co-op has been included, as these games definitely pop when the on-screen action approaches Horde-swamping levels. Unfortunately, I have no available friends with the game at the time of writing and can only play during weird times, so I wasn’t able to test it out. I’m fairly confident, from watching gameplay clips of the co-op, that it functions as advertised and would be a worthy addition to weekend couch sessions if you are lucky enough to still have those!
What I Didn’t Like
- The God skills tree looks pretty but it’s awful to understand just where you can spend points and which path you are on as you do so. The skills and bonuses (2% extra life or 10% reduced elite damage – that kind of thing) are presented as a huge join-the-dots drawing, with no indication that I could tell as to which skills are up for unlocking or which other skills need unlocking before they become available. It, therefore, becomes a game of click and see, with the result often being a crappy bonus you didn’t really want.
- The story started out interesting, then quickly descended to skips-ville. It doesn’t help that your first few missions are literally “Go into the sewers and clear out the vermin”. Missions don’t really vary much from there either, moving to “Kill the cultists” and “Gather 10 supplies”.
- Chaosbane can’t hide its lower budget, lacking the large open spaces that make Diablo 3 feel epic and interesting. Instead, each act takes place in a contained area, with glowing doorways leading to just a few areas. As a result, you’ll soon tire of each region’s limited assets, noticing design repetition in the levels.
- I’m not sold (haha) on the way trading works. Sure, you can stash stuff in a trunk for future characters, but otherwise, you must donate all your leftover gear to a guy in the corner who arbitrarily decides when enough is enough (I have no idea if the quality of loot increases your earn rate). You then move up a level and get some gems as a reward for the twenty-something things you donated. I think I’d just prefer cash money, thank you.
- The frame rate can chug at times and I also had some noticeable screen tearing during Act 2.
If you’re absolutely over Diablo 3 but still hankering for some fantasy action, then Chaosbane will more than happily scratch that itch. Even as I started to tire of certain aspects, I found it hard to put down. Indeed, my coffee went cold several times, which is as good an endorsement as I can probably give! Just be prepared for unimaginative missions, asset repetition and a slightly frustrating upgrade path.