Mel Brooks once said that sex was like pizza, even when it’s bad it’s good. Or maybe it was Sharon Stone. Whoever it was, though, they were wrong. I’ve had some truly terrible pizza, and I’ve watched enough Law & Order: SVU to know there’s plenty of bad sex. In fact, the only things that are good even when they’re bad are old sci-fi movies and third-person, hack & slash, action-oriented role-playing games that are blatant clones of Diablo III. Which brings me to Warhammer: Chaosbane: Slayer Edition, the Xbox Series X / S and PlayStation 5 version of a Diablo III clone that came out last year on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. While it’s not as good as Diablo III, and has a lot of problems, it still manages to be mindless fun if you enjoy button mashing your way to victory.
Inspired by the Warhammer Fantasy…
pen-and-paper role-playing game,and playable solo or co-op, Warhammer: Chaosbane finds the realms of men in disarray, ripe for conquest by a warlord named Asavar Kul and his savage followers. That is, until a nobleman named Magnus leads humanity to defeat Kul and his army. But evil is not so easily vanquished…
In all the ways that matter, Warhammer: Chaosbane plays very much like Diablo III. It uses the same controls, and employs a similar aerial perspective and a fixed camera (though Chaosbane‘s perspective is slightly closer to the ground). It also has a like-minded leveling up system that unlocks new attacks, abilities, and upgrades, as well as plenty of loot to find.
It’s also set in the same kind of fantasy realm as Diablo III, and has a similar way of telling its absolutely good vs. absolutely evil, no grey area here, fantasy tale. That it’s also rather forgettable and skippable seems on brand, too.
Warhammer: Chaosbane even has the same kind of characters you always find in these kinds of games. There’s a guy who uses swords and shields, a magic user, an archer, someone who uses alchemy and explosives, and a gun-wielding pirate type.
And then there’s Bragi Axebiter, who earns the title of Slayer by wielding dual axes and by looking like Gimli from The Lord Of The Rings movies if actor John Ryse-Davies took a bunch of steroids and decided that his character should be shirtless, wear cargo shorts, and either have a mohawk or what some people call “space buns.”
I think you can tell who I played as.
But while Warhammer: Chaosbane…
is fundamentally a clone of Diablo III, it does have some differences.
For starters, while other action-RPGs have you unlocking new attacks when you level up, or spending points to unlock them, Warhammer: Chaosbane gives you a certain number of points to spend, just not permanently. If you have 30 points, for example, you can assign attacks of 10 points each to 3 different buttons. But if, after a fight or two, you realize it would make sense to have more attack options, you can just unequip the ones you have and reassign them by, say, putting a 10-point attack on one button and 5-point attacks on four other buttons.
Oh, and of course, you get more points when you level up, while also unlocking stronger attacks that cost more.
You also have the power of Blood Lust, an extremely strong attack that’s recharged by picking up orbs some enemies drop when you vanquish them. Grab enough of them as the Slayer, for instance, and he will fling four axes at a time in a fan pattern.
Not to be outdone, some enemies in Warhammer: Chaosbane also attack in unique ways. Specifically, enemies who attack from afar, like magic users and archers, will smartly run away to put some distance between them and you.
As interesting as this may make combat, though,
it’s somewhat undermined by your character’s inability to move when attacking. If you play as a Slayer, for instance, you can’t move while swinging your axes (save for if you have a spinning attacking). Instead, you keep your feet planted firmly in place [insert your own joke about white people dancing here]. Which means that if an archer or mage is attacking you, you can’t get move close to them while smacking their melee-focused friends.
Warhammer: Chaosbane also differentiates itself from Diablo III and similar games by not being as needlessly complex, especially where your weapons are concerned. Not only don’t they break or wear down and need to be repaired, but their statistics are never so complicated that you have to decide if your current axe is better than one that has a 13% chance of dealing +3 damage against left handed elves who like Pink Floyd.
You also only find weapons and armor you can use, and right away, which means you don’t have to hold on to a sword until you finally level up enough to use it. Though it’s still annoying that you can’t sort your inventory, or dismantle unwanted items, or mark them as “to be sold” for when you make it back to town.
This, unfortunately, it not the only issue I had with Warhammer: Chaosbane. For starters, while archers and magic users are smart enough to step out of range of your melee weapons, other enemies will run right at you, even though you’re swinging an axe like a crazy person. Some of the underground levels are also a bit simplistic, as they don’t have traps you can set off or hidden passageways. And while there are barrels you can smash for the sweet, sweet gold inside, many items that are breakable in others games are not breakable here.
The map in Warhammer: Chaosbane is also somewhat unhelpful. As usual for this kind of game, it fills itself in when you explore an area. Except that it does so at such a great distance from you, far beyond your field of vision, that it fills in spots you haven’t been to yet, which can be misleading. Though it does show where treasure chests are located, even if you haven’t opened them or found them.
The Slayer Edition of Warhammer: Chaosbane also…
has an audio issue that caused suburban punk rock dad Gimli — I mean Bragi to yell the same three or four lines constantly during combat. Granted, there is an option to turn off the dialog, but it doesn’t just effect what your characters says, it turns off everyone’s dialog (save for any grunts a character makes while fighting). Good thing everyone also speaks in text boxes.
Then there was the weird glitch that initially prevented the game from pausing when I was reading the tutorial messages or looking at my inventory or, weirdly, hit pause. But it went after the third or fourth quest.
Warhammer: Chaosbane: Slayer Edition also has a problem so common that I just cut and paste this paragraph into every relevant review: some of the type is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your TV — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have trouble reading the mission objectives, and especially the menus, the latter of often which have grey letters against a dark grey background.
Despite the shortcomings,
the oversights, the technical issues, and the rote story, though, Warhammer: Chaosbane: Slayer Edition does manage to be fun…if you’re into button mashing hack & slash adventure games, that is. And doubly so if you don’t play for too long in one sitting. While they can get a bit samey after a while, the battles are often frantic, with multiple enemies coming at you from all sides, and with a wide variety of enemy types attacking you in different ways. And there’s plenty of them; this is one long game. Which is why — even though I recently played Diablo III again for the, uh, fifth time, I think — I still found myself eager to pick up my axes, fix my space buns, and head back to the sewers and cemeteries for more two-fisted fun.