Warhammer is a versatile franchise. While the brand has stalwartly held its position as the premier miniatures’ tabletop game. Since the advent of video games Games Workshop have been able to turn their wallet killing franchise to various other genres. Ranging from the classic strategy roots of HeroQuest, to the Left 4 Dead-like Vermintide, each provide the classic Warhammer aesthetic, lore, and flavour to the virtual proceedings.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is the latest effort to capture Games Workshop’s world in the virtual form. Chaosbane represents a departure from the series typical strategy approach, materialising instead as an action RPG that apes Diablo at almost every turn. The game originally launched in May 2019 on the PS4 to middling reception with the general consensus being that the title was above average and that while it captures the look and feel of Warhammer, the action felt somewhat monotonous, with little variation on missions or character progression.
As I sat playing Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition for the first time on PS5, I found myself agreeing with most of the feedback seen on sites at the time of the original release. I entered the game with fresh eyes, playing through the main campaign as the newly introduced Witch Hunter class and found most of the complaints of sameness were well founded. As is typical of a Diablo type RPG, you do find yourself holding buttons to slash opponents for a good portion of your time and the mission structure doesn’t do much to change this, with the vast majority of the tasks being a case of ‘go there and kill that’.
The story of Chaosbane takes place over four main chapters, with two additional chapters provided from the DLC portion of the Slayer Edition. In the narrative, you play as one of six characters as you assist the empire as its leader, Magnus has been put under a stasis spell by a sorceress in aid to bring forth an invasion by a grotesque bunch of creatures known collectively as Chaos. As one of the heroes, you must seek out the sorceress, relieve her of her head and stop Chaos from destroying the empire.
If you are a fantasy gaming fan, then you have probably read a similar synopsis before. Indeed, Chaosbane is far from the most ambitious tale and the story seeks to do little more than give your heroes a purpose. I will say, what it does do is provide the Warhammer fans amongst you some fan service. While the referencing may be somewhat lost on me, characters such as Magnus, Teclis of the High Elves and Lord Voss of the Witch Hunters are higher profile lore figures than most and the characterisations are well represented throughout the campaign.
The Chaos are less so however, throughout my time with the game, I found myself caring little about the enemy I was going up against. Despite having some of the best and most grotesque designs among Warhammer figures (I think), they become little more than fodder throughout the adventure. One of the bulletpoints for Chaosbane is about the bestiary of horrors you come up against, but after spending ten+ hours going through the campaign, I could probably only name a few of the creatures that stand out. Least of all the ones that presented a challenge, which very few did outside of the few boss encounters. I struggled to distinguish rare or elite enemies from the rank and file grunts that i had been masking hours previously. They certainly lacked the individual presence or identity of the ones seen in Diablo.
This all comes down to the act of fighting and the approach is simple. Generate energy for abilities using a base attack, then using this energy you can use a myriad of other abilities that can range from targeted volleys of blows from your main weapon or spells which target a wider area of effect. My time was mostly spent with the Witch Hunter class from the DLC. This character was able to switch between melee weapons and guns on the fly and was particularly powerful against large hordes of enemies. My character excelled at long range combat, keeping most enemies at bay while unleashing a salvo of bullets into the thick of the group. In addition to all of these abilities were a myriad of skills which unlock as I levelled, giving me access to passive abilities that I could slot in exchange for character skill points and god skills that used favour as a currency to further enhance my character.
The other characters are relatively archetypal for this type of game. You have your tank in the form of the Empire Soldier who is designed to draw aggro and keep others safe while dealing damage. Then you have the High Elf Mage who deals in crowd control, the Dwarf slayer does melee damage while the Wood Elf Waywatcher provides the same from afar. This character diversity changes little when playing solo as ultimately you are challenging large groups of creatures at any given time and need to be able to mix both solo and group damage sufficiently. Where these classes shine however, is in group play with up to three other players all taking on a role with their chosen class and focussing primarily on the character strengths as opposed to homogeny. Chaosbane is clearly a game that was made to be enjoyed with a team and to get the most out of it, wait for a squad of likeminded friends to get the game.
Most of my time was playing solo and I found the experience to be somewhat trivial. Around halfway through the levels as my Witch Hunter, I found myself simply spamming a powerful roll attack that allowed me to shoot forward while damaging enemies. This was overpowered as instead of fighting each group of creatures before moving on, I found myself kiting the Chaos hordes through each mission, reducing the clear time from thirty minutes each down to as little as five. It was ridiculous to be honest as it completely removed the challenge for the first playthrough and with the content being as samey as it is, I doubt I would have the stomach for tackling further challenges into hard mode, expert to Chaos 10 difficulty.
This lack of motivation comes because of the reward. Loot is what every game of this type gets you playing for, it is the sole reason to push your characters beyond and keep you coming back after the credits roll and unfortunately, this is where I feel that Chaosbane makes a big mistake. Across the entire campaign and DLC missions, I did not come across a single piece of armour or a weapon that stood out as a must have or immensely powerful artifact worth owning. Instead, each piece of detritus had a similar description and a small stat increase or decrease to help you ascertain an upgrade or not. Now, there is some customisation here and fans of the miniatures will get a kick out of finding appearances for their character and you can enhance the potency of your armour by slotting in gems for added stat boosts. But the lack of flavour, effects or substance to each piece just feels like a massive misstep in what should be a game all about loot.
Ultimately, that is the core Chaosbane experience but what does the PS5 bring to the table and more importantly, the Slayer edition? Firstly, the game now enjoys a silky smooth 4K 60FPS upgrade, with very few hitches and super-fast loading times. While this can be said for most games on the PS5 currently, it does still standout as a benefit considering the amount of action on screen at any given time. The backgrounds and characters of the world stand out nicely in this resolution, even if the detail can be somewhat basic at times. The only visual oddity that I did see was the occasional screen tearing, which seems particularly odd while playing on a 120hz OLED display, but it is minimal so consider this a minor gripe.
One feature i did enjoy for the PS5 version was the dualsense triggers, I am a big fan of these in general and Chaosbane offers a small glimpse of a use case which i think brings the feature into every-day gaming. If you set an ability to the triggers, whether that be the bloodlust status effect or another one of your choosing, when that ability goes on cooldown, the trigger will resist your trigger pull, loosening only when that ability is ready to use again. It’s such a small feature, but such an intuitive one at the same time. I hope to see this again soon in other games as i am a big fan.
Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition also collects all of the previously released DLC expansions for the core game, which includes the Witch Hunter class and the Tomb Kings chapter, which sees you venture into the ancient Egyptian inspired setting of Nehekhara that sees you go up against the Tomb King and his undead minions. This chapter was a nice change of pace and seemed to fix some of the issues I had with the main campaign. For the first time throughout my gameplay I was presented with a puzzle that saw me matching hieroglyphics against obelisks to gain further access into an area. I also appreciated the setting and assets of the new area as it is a stark contrast to the sewers, cities or mountainous regions that were previously seen.
The DLC content is a nice addition to the core game and feels like it rights a few wrongs. It’s also interesting to see how you can start a fresh character from the DLC mission as opposed to waiting to get through the main campaign first, a great thing for accessibility and trying new characters on new content as opposed to hammering through the same old streets as before. Ultimately, there is a lot of content in the Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition I haven’t got to the post campaign expeditions, relic hunts or boss rush modes which incentivise further play for shinier loot, which as previously mentioned, doesn’t feel that shiny.
There is a lot of things not mentioned in this review due to timing and length. I could go on about expeditions that see you venture into sections for more loot or relic hunting for more loot. Don’t forget Boss rushes which provide more loot. There is no shortage of ways to play for loot with friends or solo. Ultimately however, whether you get this far will depend entirely on whether you can get over the monotony of the gameplay which would have set in long before you reached the decision of trying these modes. You may be able to, if you are a fan of Warhammer and want specifically a Diablo lite with that flavour. You may also be able to do this if you have a group of friends that want to hammer a game like this until you squeeze everything out of it. If you are not one of these people, then Chaosbane may be a hard recommendation.
Version played: PS5
+ Neat implementation of the Dualsense resistance triggers
+ Perfectly serviceable Diablo clone at heart
+ Plenty of content to pour through with depth for the die-hards
- The Witch Hunter class made the game feel somewhat trivial
- Loot doesn’t feel satisfying to earn
- Odd screen tearing issue which feels completely out of place on such strong hardware