Get more info on the development of Warhammer: Chaosbane with Jean-Georges Levieux, the EKO Software games director in charge of production.
Where did the inspiration for the game come from? And are you big fans of the tabletop game?
We are indeed! 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 humor with tragedy in a very interesting way. Naturally, the IP also showcases an impressive cast of races, deities and antagonists, making for an extensive pantheon of Chaos abominations for players to fight. Add to this 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.
Did you always set out to make a game based in the swords and magic side of Warhammer over the 40K side?
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. So, we were thrilled right from the start. Also, it was a way for us to have a new take on the universe, as Warhammer 40,000 already had Action-RPGs.
How big a part does the story play in the game? And what inspired the core tale?
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), someone that would be able to tell a unique tale on a vast universe. We worked with Mike Lee, a renowned Warhammer author, in order 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 onto the grasp of Chaos, as enemies are launching a desperate attack towards Magnus, the newly crowned emperor.
With there being so much lore and tales in the Warhammer universes how and where did you start picking from?
Our idea was not to have a story too deeply rooted into the Warhammer lore. We wanted to please the fans of course, but we also wished to have something that any newcomer would be able to apprehend. The perfect balance for us 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.
How did you choose which enemies and features to include – are there any that didn’t make the cut you wish were included?
The Warhammer universe is massive, so we obviously couldn’t put everything into a single game. We therefore had to choose what to include, and we quickly focused on Chaos with its four gods, its unique characteristics, the bestiary, the colours, etc. 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. For example, 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.
How much did the likes of Diablo inspire you? And how does the game differ from it beyond the licence?
We understand that our game can be compared to Diablo and we are very happy if our game reminds people of this cult franchise. Blizzard teams made a great job on this IP, one of the most popular in the video game universe. There are two main aspects that make Chaosbane’s approach to the Action RPG feel fresh when looking at the genre as a whole. First of all, we are emphasizing gameplay variety, meaning characters are not only differentiated by skills and attributes but by gameplay mechanics as well. Secondly, the game has a strong emphasis on story and characters that we’re hoping will help appeal to players who are not familiar with the Warhammer Fantasy setting.
Did Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor-Martyr ever have an impact on the game’s development?
Actually no, it was not one of the games that was part of the benchmark we used in order to develop Chaosbane.
How closely did you get to work with Games Workshop on the game and how much access did you get to their archives and models?
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 component: lore, characters and enemies design, locations… Because we know that their fans have such a strong love to the franchise, we had to make sure that we remained faithful to it. And who better knows all of the aspects of the Fantasy Battles universe than Games Workshop?
Working on such a well-established brand, do you feel you have been able to inject any of your own flavour into the game and world?
We feel like we were able to have a really dynamic take on the Fantasy Battles universe with our fast-paced gameplay and an original story. This is actually the first A-RPG based on this universe, as there were no other games like that before. And, as fans of the setting, we hope that we injected our passion for Fantasy Battles into this game.
Is there anything in the game what will be new to fans of the table top game – for instance, new units or heroes? And will it be seen as canon moving forward?
Each character has its own playstyle and gameplay mechanics in the game (you will see that, if you play the game with friends, it’s even more interesting because everybody can have a different role). However, we have to stick to the existing elements of the franchise and we know it will live independently from the tabletop game.
How did you go around picking and balancing the classes to work both solo as well as multiplayer?
With the different characters and races available in the lore of Warhammer, we knew there were too many so we had to pick some. And based on our ideas but also on the different archetypes that players are expecting in this kind of games, we then chose characters that would fit these archetypes and that would allow immediate fun. Each class has their own unique archetypal move, these are fitting for the character, the lore and their style of gameplay. So for example, the Empire Soldier uses his shield to stun enemies, which can prevent them from swarming his allies. One of our favourites is Elontir’s archetype skill, which allows him to control the movement of the last spell he cast. This presents a lot of exciting opportunities, where you can create fields of fire that will burn the enemies walking across it and you can use these crowd control skills in order to find synergies between the different characters and thus, have an even more interesting multiplayer experience.
What are your plans for post-launch support?
We plan to support the game for quite a long time after release, with regular updates. Some of them will, of course, be free and accessible to all players, but there will also be paid updates which will be included in the Season Pass. If you consider free content, we will add new difficulty levels, a Permadeath mode that was requested by the community, a new system that allows player to continue to advance their characters. And on top of that, we are working on a free new character and a free new game zone where players will be able to right new enemies, travel to new locations, find new loot, etc. And as part of the Season Pass, we will add new emotes and pets for the game characters, but also an alternative skill tree that allows for more character builds. And we saved the best part for the end: we will add a new game expansion based on the Tomb Kings, one of the fans’ favourite!
This interview appeared in short form a couple of weeks ago in Scotch Corner, and this is the full version courtesy of the Scottish Sun.