When it comes to videogames, Warhammer might be best known for its strategy games—and fair enough, given the series’ tabletop wargaming origins. But it’s a world and setting that also lends itself naturally to Diablo-style action RPGs, with a whole assortment of monsters, character classes, heroes, and villains to draw from. Warhammer: Chaosbane, originally released in 2019 and now brought to the new generation complete with all DLC as Warhammer: Chaosbane – Slayer Edition, doesn’t exactly push the boundaries of the ARPG genre or make the most of the potential found in the source material, but it still scratches that hack-and-slash-and-loot itch.
Taking place in The Old World of Warhammer lore, Chaosbane sees you helping to quell a Chaos uprising shortly after the victory that united the Empire of Man under Magnus the Pious. (If that doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry—it situates Chaosbane within the bigger Warhammer picture for those who care about such things, but mostly just serves as a handy backdrop for a game about slaying demons by the thousands). As one of six different heroes, all from different walks of life who found fame in the Great War against Chaos and a place among Magnus’ most revered champions, you’re tasked with investigating and quelling the forces of Chaos before they can tear apart this newfound empire.
The basic idea driving Chaosbane is classic ARPG stuff: fight your way through hordes of enemies, dozens at a time, amassing bagfuls of loot to help your character get ever stronger. One of the unique twists here is in how special abilities work—the energy you have to spend to cast spells or use powerful attacks drains quickly, but also restores quickly as you use your basic attacks, creating an ebb-and-flow between basic and special attacks while keeping making your offense a constant presence. Whether you’re recharging your energy or burning through it, Chaosbane never gives you a chance or a reason to take your foot off the gas.
Six different heroes—a soldier, a mage, a slayer, a scout, an engineer, and a witch hunter—bring some degree of variety to this. Some emphasise being a whirlwind of destruction right in the middle of the action, some put you on the edge of the fray blasting everything in front of you. But despite their differences, the fundamental playstyle and strategy doesn’t change much from hero to hero: spam your biggest, strongest area-of-effect attack as much as possible until everything is dead. There’s fun to be found in the superficial differences between each class—I like a ranger archetype for these sorts of games as a general rule, so I much prefer playing Elessa to a tanky soldier like Konrad Vollen, but when you get to the core of it, there’s not a much functional between them.
This is particularly true of the four characters who were in the original Chaosbane release, but the witch hunter and engineer—who were added through DLC that’s included as part of the Slayer Edition package—have a little bit more variety. Keela the Dwarf Engineer comes packed with an experimental shotgun that has a tendency to overheat, and the added layer of managing that heat level, while the witch hunter Jurgen Haider can switch between ranged and melee stances at the tap of a button. Neither changes the flow of the game on a fundamental level, but they at least bring a little bit of something unique to the table.
Each character has a decent assortment of skills to unlock, both through levelling up and through a skill tree. Again, there’s not anything here that drastically changes anyone’s playstyle, but it still gives a little bit of room to personalise your hero and decide where your priorities lie stat-wise. With space to save four different loadouts and to easily switch between them, and also to freely reset skill points whenever you want, Chaosbane does at least give you the freedom to experiment to your heart’s content.
Loot is as plentiful as you’d expect, with a wide array of different stats for each piece to have randomly assigned. For better and worse, each character has a predetermined weapon type and you’ll only ever get loot that your chosen hero—that’s nice in terms of eliminating a lot of the stuff that’s junk before you even look at the stats, but it also limits the variety when it comes to building your character. There are plenty of different sub-stats that you can choose to focus on stacking if you really want to, but again, they don’t really make that much of a difference in the scheme of things. Every stat can be fundamentally grouped into “attack” or “defence”, and take different routes to the same outcome: more damage dealt or less damage received.
That’s a common theme throughout Chaosbane: it’s got a solid base and makes for short bursts of good, mindless fun, but there’s not anything particularly remarkable about any of it. This is true of the story, too, which winds up being fairly generic dark fantasy fare with little to make it memorable. The DLC chapters introduce some interesting new locations—Tomb Kings especially, with its Ancient Egypt-inspired desert and pyramids—but it misses the opportunity to bring much of note to the overarching plot. Narrative in Chaosbane mostly exists as a reason to go into dungeons and kill stuff; that’s fine, and can work well with the right delivery and framing, but without that, Chaosbane winds up feeling like a missed opportunity to make the most of its setting.
The main appeal of Slayer Edition lies simply in the all-inclusive nature of the package. It’s got the original game complete with all the various improvements that have been made to it since its rocky launch, and the DLC extras all bundled together as one. The jump to PS5 allows for some nice lighting effects and an noticeable level of extra polish in the environments—Tomb Kings, again, stands out here thanks to its liberal use of shiny obsidian decoration, but you can also see it in the little details of Nuln’s murky sewers and the battle-worn city of Praag.
Warhammer: Chaosbane – Slayer Edition is certainly the best and most complete version of Chaosbane, a serviceable ARPG that scratches that hack-and-slash itch. But there’s not anything particularly noteworthy about it, either, which feels like a missed opportunity for the license it’s working with. Chaosbane is uncomplicated and fun for what it is, but a Diablo-like in the Warhammer Fantasy Battles world deserves to be more than that.
A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.