An action-RPG is supposedly defined by action. It’s right there on the genre’s tin. Yet most are strangely unwilling to throw more than three enemies at the player within the first hour. Diablo 3, even after its many updates, still isn’t much fun until you hit the level cap. Path of Exile is better, but even it waits a few hours before letting players get sucked in.
Leave it to a game in the Warhammer universe to break the mold. Chaosbane, a new action-RPG under development by BigBen (also responsible for the Warhammer 40K action-RPG Inquistior – Martyr) was happy to fling a horde of bounding baddies my way within the first 15 minutes, and I was equally pleased to slay them with a whirlwind of steel that sent my foes sailing through the air on gory contrails.
Now that’s what I like to see.
Chaosbane is currently in closed beta. Unlike The Division 2, it felt like a “real” beta instead of a demo. It isn’t set for release until the end of May and still felt a bit rough (the game didn’t launch at the correct resolution, for example). Still, this feels like an action-RPG built on a firm foundation that could – with proper support – find itself slotting alongside Path of Exile and Diablo 3 in my ARPG rotation.
Let’s start with the basics. Chaosbane is a blast to play. The simple plot quickly brought me up to speed before letting me loose in a sewer to slay baddies gushing poison and chaotic energies. Enemies fell quickly to my attacks, which fluidly cut through opponents in a tornado of numbers.
I picked the Soldier class, one of two available for the beta, which I at first thought was a mistake. The mage certainly wins on pure spectacle. Still, I was won over by Chaosbane’s fluid movement and impactful attacks. Whirlwind was an early favorite. I love the way it chucks dead opponents through the air like party streamers.
I quickly earned other special attacks, like a banner that buffed me and my allies, and a taunt skill. Within an hour, I had a full roster of useful skills and happily used them to maximum effect, bouncing between enemies with a shield bash, taunting them into groups, and blending them with whirlwind.
That’s important. In fact, it’s the most important thing. Players are enjoying games for months, even years, and a Warhammer ARPG like Chaosbane could certainly support a long life. But first it has to nail the basics. I think Chaosbane does just that.
Skill progress in Chaosbane seems to take a modular approach that’s somewhat like Diablo 3, but with more customization. Skills are gained through leveling or unlocked with points and can be improved through upgrades.
Variety is the spice of slaying, and I liked what Chaosbane gave me in my short time with the beta. My Soldier felt like he had a proper build by level six, one that was fun to play solo but also could serve a tank-like role in a group. I also saw how customization might take the character down different paths by improving support skills, durability skills, or damage-dealing skills.
Tweaking skills will likely define builds in Chaosbane, but the developers also nod in Path of Exile’s direction with a dense “god skill tree” that adds passive benefits. These won’t feel meaningful on their own, but they could add up to big gains.
The customization options look promising. It’s a bummer, however, that they’re not explained well by the game, something that is sure to annoy its players. It’s also hard to say how Chaosbane will turn out by end-game, as I had only a few hours with the beta. BigBen’s previous title, Warhammer 40K: Inquisitor – Martyr, wasn’t well received by players and hasn’t enjoyed many updates.
The closed beta for Chaosbane is smooth, fast, fluid, brutal, and backed up by tons of character customization. Only time will tell if BigBen can build on that foundation. It’s certainly a great place to start, and Diablo 3’s lack of new updates has left room for a new ARPG to thrive.
Chaosbane will launch at $60 on June 4, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Upgrade packs are also available and offer early access though, as usual, I recommend waiting for the game’s full release.