Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 30th June.
Warhammer Chaosbane (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)
THE Warhammer universe has been a part of the table-top gaming landscape for decades. Fans love the detailed figures and epic models. It’s no secret that it’s not the cheapest of pastimes when you factor in the kits, paints and rule books. And you need the time and space to actually play the game. So it’s no wonder that they went into gaming. Now, it feels like there is a new Warhammer-themed game out every other month. Chaosbane is the latest to join the party. The Eko Software Action-RGP brings swords and spells to the fantasy world. If you have played last year’s Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor — Martyr then you’ll have a good idea about what’s in store for you here. The tale is penned by official Games Workshop writer Mike Lee and focuses on having to battle the forces of Chaos who are set to unleash their largest ever invasion on the world.
It’s up to four different heroes to grab their swords, bows and magic sticks and get ready for one hell of a fight. If you’re a Warhammer fan then you’ll get to meet and talk to a number of characters you’ll recognise from the table-top side which is a nice touch. There is also plenty of lore. On the whole the tale does a good job in setting the scene and explaining why you’re slaying an endless number of monsters and demons. It has a Diablo style to it — you pick a solider, high elf, dwarf and a wood elf. Each has their own combat style, set of attacks and gear so finding which one best suits your style is half the fun. That said — and this is not a spoiler — the solider is the weakest of the bunch. You will thank us for that. As for the core gameplay loop, it’s a simple but addictive affair as you hack and slash your way around looking for bigger and better loot as you move through the procedurally-generated dungeons. It all builds up nicely to a finale that is ramped up to 11 on the excitement scale. But with each fight you’ll upgrade your gear to get that bit better as well as getting points to spend on a number of skill trees which make you stronger.
It’s worth noting there is a LOT of things that go bump in the night — there are more than 70 monsters to rip through. Anyone who has seen the models will have high expectations for the world in the game and it doesn’t disappoint. It is dark, moody and packed with detail. There are a few nice effects for spells and attacks. However, the voice acting — did not impress us. To say it fails to hit the spot is an under- statement. The soundtrack pulls it back a bit and it echoes that strong and dark vibe. The combat will also be controversial. It is very much a spamming moves affair that is governed by a number of power bars. You need to fill up a special bar before you can unleash a really powerful attack. So, for the most part, you’ll be pounding the same two or three attacks over and over which does grind a bit. To be fair, that is an issue that affects all action-RPGs. If you’re a Warhammer fan or like magical over futuristic action then get Chaosbane now. Rope in three mates either on or offline and you have a solid slasher looter to fill your day.
Doing What You Love
MASSIVE Warhammer fan Jean-Georges Levieux reckons he has the perfect job. The EKO Software games director has been hands-on with Warhammer: Chaosbane and struggles to keep the smile off his face as he talks about it. He told me:
“The Warhammer Fantasy setting is one of the most iconic settings in the wargaming, pen and paper and videogame mediums. It’s an IP that isn’t afraid to tackle mature themes and combines humour with tragedy in a very interesting way. Naturally, the IP showcases an impressive cast of races, deities and antagonists, making for an extensive pantheon of Chaos abominations for players to fight. Add a deep and detailed lore spanning decades and you pretty much have the right ingredients to make an action-packed, story-driven action RPG that appeals to both Warhammer fans and players looking for a fresh take on the genre.”
Now, Jean-Georges insists he is just living the dream as part of the production team. He added:
“Creating an action RPG in a medieval fantasy world is a dream for many developers. So, when the Warhammer licence was offered to us, everyone was really excited because many of the team are fans of the universe, and it allowed us to combine both an action RPG with Warhammer. Also, it was a way for us to have a new take on the universe, as Warhammer 40,000 already had action RPGs.”
But when it came to crafting the story Jean-Georges sought help from the best source. He said:
“We knew from the beginning that we wanted to work with an author from Games Workshop’s Black Library — the publishing house for all Warhammer books. That would be someone who could tell a unique tale on a vast universe. We worked with Mike Lee, a renowned Warhammer author, to create the core story of the game. Our story begins as the Empire just recovers from the Great War against Chaos, a famous chapter of the Fantasy Battles universe. As a new threat arises, this is where players will have their part to play: stop the Empire of Man from falling into the grasp of Chaos, as enemies are launching a desperate attack towards Magnus, the newly crowned emperor.”
The team also got plenty of support from the Games Workshop. Jean-Georges added:
“We’ve worked very closely with the Games Workshop licensing team, on a daily basis. We made sure to respect the licence and all of its components: lore, characters and enemies design, locations… because we know their fans have such a strong love to the franchise.”
That attention to detail brought its own pressure because the team wanted to attract newcomers to the universe. Jean-Georges said:
“The perfect balance was a plot that could be understood by anyone, with just the right amount of Warhammer characters and easter eggs so the fans would be pleased by the story we are trying to tell.”
That philosophy was also used when it came to the monsters and demons. He added:
“The universe is massive, so we couldn’t put everything into a single game. We had to choose what to include, and we quickly focused on Chaos with its four gods, its unique characteristics, the bestiary and the colours. Above all, we needed to be very faithful to the franchise, so we could work with enemies who are already in the game and who have some interesting skills. We have the Horrors of Tzeentch, the Pink Horrors which spawn and multiply when they die; Chaos Spawn, which explode when they die; and Nurglings, which are tiny creatures that swarm and pile up on top of each other to create little creature mountains.”
Despite the desire to stick to the Warhammer culture, the team have left their mark on Chaosbane. Jean-Georges said:
“This is actually the first A-RPG based on this universe. And, as fans of the setting, we hope we injected our passion into it.”
My Friend Pedro (Switch and PC, £17.99)
IF you were blown away by the likes of John Wick 3 or The Equalizer on the big screen then My Friend Pedro brings you the gaming equivalent. Swedish developer DeadToast Entertainment have created a 2D action pack shooter where the skill is in the kill and being cool reigns supreme. This is a short but sweet arcade blaster clocking in about four hours where kills boost your score and the fun is finding different ways to rack up the points. It’s like the team has thrown every cool action movie idea in a blender, ramped it all up a level . . . and then set it on fire. Don’t believe us? Imagine having to clear a room in a hail of bullets in slow-motion then jump on a skateboard and role on to the next one. Get the picture? Then you get new and interesting elements to spice things up — the skateboard or being able to kick knives at enemies as they fall through the air.
The game is always egging you on to use these mechanics to land more and more crazy kills as you move from room to room. You get a fun arsenal of guns and you can dual wield them to split your aim. If you are falling down a lift shaft with enemies on both sides you can go into bullet time and split your aim to the left and right in a beautiful aerial show of carnage. Behind the body count there is a story — you are a masked hero who wakes up in a backroom of a butcher shop before Pedro turns up to tell you to get your revenge. It’s a wafer thin and not amazing, but it’s a frame. Oh, did we say Pedro is a talking banana? Yeah, that about covers a story that can’t even be saved by some seriously funny jokes.
There is a crisp, colourful look to the game and when bullet time kicks in everything looks really good. The soundtrack is also a banger — very bass heavy. If there is a gripe it is that this is a play it and it’s done affair. The leader boards only appear after the credits roll. This is a true love child of modern-day action flicks and epic game mechanics. It’s over the top and brutal, but it is a blast . . . literally.
Another Sight (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £24.99)
THE joy and strength of being an indie studio is that you can take a gamble on something the over AAA outfits’ shareholders would consider too high-risk. Italian developers Lunar Great Wall Studios have proved the point with Another Sight. Initially, it looks like a puzzle platformer but it actually has a really interesting and touching core tale. It is 1899 London and there is a real steampunk vibe as you are a young girl called Kit. She is virtually blind but certain sounds allow her to see certain points of the world. Kit is joined by a ginger moggy called Hodge who helps her along the journey. You can play as the cat at different points. The game has a surreal feel at times — it’s almost a fairy-tale Alice In Wonderland vibe but, in an interesting twist, you meet real historical figures along the way like Claude Monet, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. It is a gripping enough tale to pull you through a five-hour adventure that’s as much about trust as anything else, and have some hankies close by because it can get emotional.
That puzzle platformer element will have you pushing and pulling objects, flipping switches and jumping around to move Kit forward. The levels are OK, although they can be a bit run of the mill and not too challenging. You also have to bear in mind that because Kit can’t see she moves very, very slowly. That can strangle the momentum. On top of that, Hodges’ jumps are a bit hit and miss because you need to grab pipes and edges . . . and he is a cat. We would also question why, when you can play two characters, there is no co-op. That would have been a really interesting move. There is a charming art style with the tale mostly being told through pre-rendered cut scenes that have a really hand-painted vibe. The main game gives you an air of wonderment as it embraces the steampunk and fairy-tale vibe. The lighting is outstanding and the sound sets the tone really well.
The voice acting is also a good standard throughout and helps bring the more touching moments of your journey to life. This is what indie games should be all about — trying something different and pushing boundaries. The subject matter and the gameplay are excellent. The gripes are that the controls are poor and the price is very high for a game of this length . . . but not high enough for us not to recommend you having a look.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…