Warhammer: Chaosbane Is The Diablo Clone I Didn’t Know I Needed

During the second phase of its beta, Warhammer: Chaosbane is shaping up to be the Diablo clone I didn’t know I needed. Numerous copycats have cropped up since Blizzard’s action-RPG launched seven years ago, but it’s been a while since a standout entry has really made us pay attention. If the rest of Warhammer: Chaosbane is as good as its opening hours, this could be the best bet to satisfy all your loot-collecting, dungeon-crawling needs.

Set in the fantasy-themed Warhammer universe, Chaosbane pits you (and an optional team of companions) against the forces of evil in an assortment of gloomy isometric locales. Virtually the entire package – from the heroes to HUD – feels indebted to Blizzard’s game, which makes it a cinch for Diablo players to get their bearings. In my run-through of its first few hours, Warhammer: Chaosbane hasn’t done much to bring many substantial new ideas of its own, but the experience was enjoyable enough that it didn’t bother me.

To start, you pick a character from a list of four. If you want a well-rounded fighter, the imperial soldier is your man. The high elf mage is the spellcaster of the group, while the dwarf slayer is a stout, damage-dealing tank. The wood-elf scout rounds out the heroes with forest magic and archery attacks.

Combat is nice and chunky and heroes felt distinct and well-rounded.

For my foray through the beta on Xbox One, I tried out the dwarven slayer Bragi Axebiter and the wood elf scout Elessa. Both characters controlled smoothly running through the levels, dispatching enemies, collecting gear, and unlocking new abilities. Both heroes felt distinct and well-rounded as I unlocked their initial abilities, learning new close and ranged attacks, anchored by more powerful moves as I progressed.

Combat is nice and chunky and feels very similar to Diablo 3 on a console. Using standard attacks increases your well of energy, which you can expend to use mid-power abilities. For instance, the slayer dwarf has a standard ax attack that earns you energy you can then spend to throw a projectile. This creates a satisfying feedback loop as you hack through enemy mobs, alternating your attacks as your pool of energy ebbs and flows.

The characters also have more powerful attacks that require time to recharge between uses. The dwarf eventually learns a ground-pound area attack that comes in handy when you find yourself surrounded by a group of enemies. And I enjoyed the wood elf’s ability to summon a Dryad (a computer-controlled tree person) who fights alongside you.

The critters pick themselves back up and bite at your knees until you hack them to death individually. That’s good stuff.

As you progress, your abilities progress with you, becoming more powerful. But because each move requires a certain number of skill points to equip, you’ll have to make choices about which attacks to keep on hand. This isn’t a groundbreaking feature, but I like that it creates a thoughtful layer of strategy when selecting your loadout. If you play co-op with friends, each player can select abilities to create a well-rounded group of fighters.

As for the enemies, many I encountered were mobs of tiny swarming creatures, with a few heavies thrown in to mix it up. One standout type is a swarm of small critters that cluster together to form a big damage-absorbing ball. The ball rolls around in a spinning attack until you defeat it and it falls apart. Then the critters pick themselves back up and bite at your knees until you hack them to death individually. That’s good stuff.

While Chaosbane is set in the lore-rich world of Warhammer, the story doesn’t make particularly good use of it early on. A mysterious sorceress arrives and puts a curse on the powerful commander Magnus, leaving him on the brink of death. Your job is to find the sorceress and reverse the curse – pretty standard fantasy fare.

Your job is to find the sorceress and reverse the curse – pretty standard fantasy fare.

A big question in any Diablo-style dungeon crawler is what there is to do after the credits roll. That’s unclear for now, but when you select a dungeon, it gives you three options: main quest, expedition, and boss rush. The latter two were locked in the beta, but they hint toward possible endgame activities.

After playing through the first few hours of Warhammer: Chaosbane, I’m definitely looking forward to continuing on. The moment-to-moment hacking and slashing is a lot of fun, as is speccing out your hero with a range of gear and abilities. If the game keeps up this level of engagement in the hours that follow, it’ll be well worth a look when it launches on June 4.

Chris Reed is the Shopping and Commerce Editor for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @_chrislreed.

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