Warhammer: Chaosbane’s closed Beta kicks off today (March 7th) for those who preordered the upcoming action RPG. We were lucky enough to get some time with it a little early. Does the first action RPG set in the Warhammer fantasy universe impress us or is it back to the table-top for our adventures?

Fortunately, it very much does impress. The Beta allows you to immerse yourself in the first chapter, providing a good three hours of content across multiple quests, culminating in a boss fight. During our time with it we hoovered up copious amounts of loot, levelled up enough to experience a myriad of attack options, and slayed hundreds of foal Nurglings, Pox Walkers and worst besides. It was tremendous fun.

Indeed, Warhammer: Chaosbane feels very much like the grandfather of the loot gathering action RPG, Diablo. It’s an inevitable comparison considering the genre but a favourable comparison also. Loot and combat are at the crux of the experience, with more powerful loot resulting in buffs to your hero that better serves them in the fight for even more loot. It’s a repetitive gameloop but a supremely satisfying one for those who enjoy gradual stat increases and the endless task of fitting your character with better equipment. Moreover, thanks to the interesting setting of the Warhammer fantasy universe, as well as the story unfolding within it, the NPCs, and the enemies you encounter, there’s that extra layer of intrigue that other titles in the genre don’t always tap into.

Certainly it’s a setting that will appeal more to those already familiar with the Warhammer universe, that additional lore you may have picked up from other games and the table-top wargame itself will aid you greatly in understanding precisely what kind of world you’ll be immersing yourself in. On it’s own Chaosbane doesn’t explain much, a personal story regarding your chosen hero is revealed at the beginning with 2D animated panels, ones that had a rather pesky audio bug where the narrator would talk over himself in an amusing but irritating cacophony, but beyond that, speaking with NPCs sticks with the narrative and related quests rather than shedding light on the overall lore. It’s a good choice for natural dialogue and a good narrative flow, but it may prove confusing and even off-putting to newcomers.

However, this is a Beta, so largely the focus is on the core mechanics, and they function wonderfully. Combat is a matter of holding an attack button and watching your hero slice or burn the foes that swarm you. And indeed they do swarm you, with enemies making a beeline for you once you’re in sight. The little Nurglings and melee Pox Walkers gather around you to engage up-close, but thanks to excellent hit detection that takes in to consideration the whole swing of your weapon, you’ll find yourself hacking up these critters no matter the angle. It’s gloriously violent and heroic.

Other enemies, more cunning ones, take a step back and attack from range, as well as attempting to avoid you if you give chase. Meanwhile, larger beasts telegraph their attacks and attack angles to give you a chance to move out the way to avoid the worst of the damage. The boss itself, a manifestation of the Great Unclean one, Nurgle, is a multiple health bar assault that requires some light tactics and moderate focus to defeat.

Sharp visuals and subtle but effective partial effects do a good job bringing the world to life, although it’s certainly not the most attractive title on the market. However, with this first chapter limiting you to a dark hub within a walled city, a short trip along the wall at one point, but primarily having you search through the labyrinthine sewers, the Beta doesn’t show off the world to great effect.

Indeed, Warhammer: Chaosbane’s Beta showed that this upcoming action RPG is very much on the right track. The loot collecting and stat increasing compulsion is intact and ready to eat your time away, and being able to play with up to four friends is absolutely brilliant, meanwhile, the Warhammer setting so far offers up interesting enemies and lore to immerse you. It’s a good reflection of what the full title might offer, time will tell if the story holds up and the locations become more interesting, but for now, as Warhammer and action RPG fans, we’re exceedingly pleased with what we’ve experienced.