Warhammer: Chaosbane E3 Impression
French development studio Eko Software is cutting its teeth on the Warhammer universe, creating the isometric action RPG Warhammer: Chaosbane. The game features four-player co-op and multiplayer support, or can be challenged alone. It’s also lent added legitimacy by boasting involvement from official Warhammer author, Mike Lee. Shortly before leaving E3 for the year, I was able to meet with Chaosbane‘s game designer and art director and have them walk me through a hands-on demo of the game.
Chaosbane is set amidst actual events in the Warhammer universe, specifically after the Great War against the Chaos. Magnus, the Great War’s champion, has been cursed by the Chaos. Now it is up to you, one of the Great War’s heroes, to enter the city of Nuln, the ancient and decrepit capital of the empire, and search for a way to save him. To do this, players can choose from four classes — soldier, high elf, wood elf, and slayer — each with its own unique skills and ways it deals with mana. The soldier, for example, is constantly losing mana as time goes on, and must earn it back by dealing physical damage.
Warhammer: Chaosbane was developed from the ground up to be played with a gamepad, even on PC, though of course keyboard and mouse functionality are also built-in. Each of a class’s forty to fifty unlockable skills are mapped to a face button, bumper, or trigger, with each one having its own cooldown phase. Each class also has a unique archetype ability, a special attack or move that is directed using the controller’s right thumbstick. For example, a soldier can use his shield to block in any direction as long as the thumbstick is pressed in the appropriate direction, while a high elf’s projectile magic attack can actually be directed around the play space until it finally fizzles out. Additionally, a three-tiered rage mode meter that fills as damage is being dealt out can be triggered at any time, replacing the hero’s usual attacks with much more powerful special attacks for a short period.
Multiplayer was also at the forefront of the developers’ minds. Whether playing with three friends online, together on the couch, or any combination of the above, the game is fully playable with up to four players, making a full run-through using all classes possible. As more players join the fray, the difficulty of enemies of course ramps up. Also, it is possible to have all four inventory screens open at once, each one only taking one corner of the screen, and while a player is perusing his armory, other players can continue playing — the busy character simply follows his companions automatically, while his aggro draw is reduced to zero, making him a noncombatant for the moment.
I have to say, playing the game was actually a lot of fun. Of course, the demo started my character at a high level, with all the requisite strength and unlocked abilities that go along with it. When the game releases, players will start with only a single ability until they advance and unlock more. The story mode is estimated to take between eight and ten hours to complete, featuring four acts, each with around ten levels. For those that like to extend the experience and really unlock everything their class entails, randomized dungeons will also be available to continue leveling up well after the credits roll. The game is also fairly pick-up-and-play friendly, despite so many unique features for each class. After only a brief learning curve, I was already mastering switching up my soldier’s abilities, making sure I used and earned back mana on a continuous basis.
Warhammer: Chaosbane isn’t quite ready to be released yet; we’ll need to wait until March 2019 for that. But it already looks and plays great, with impressive graphics and fun combat mechanics. The story may be set in the Warhammer universe, but we’ll have to wait until release to see how it measures up to its source material. Chaosbane will come out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.