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Warhammer: Chaosbane leans on an army of miniatures, but remains faithful to them

Staying true to ready-made baddies poses a different challenge to developers

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Not being a Warhammer player, I’m not sure I really understood the fidelity Warhammer: Chaosbane showed to that long-running canon’s bestiary in all of the baddies, bosses and hordes of pests I slaughtered in the sewers underneath Nuln.

But Eko Software, the Paris-based developer working on the Diablo-like hack-and-slash, pored over Warhammer’s catalog of goods and arrived at Chaos as the best source of evil for the dungeon crawler. The grotesque daemons, hordes and assorted horrors seemed most adaptable to the gameplay style Eko is going for, particularly for the way they’re all attached to one of the four Chaos Gods. But they still had to be recognizable to Warhammer fans, and true to the way Games Workshop created them, in look, animation and combat behavior.

Even if I am not familiar with Warhammer’s universe, or the long-running existential threat Chaos has posed to it, I could appreciate the gameplay Eko is trying to build when I played two closed betas over the past two months. It’s a game that needs to present a challenge to groups while still being solo-able. Sure, there’s a lot of button pressing, as any good dungeon crawler will require, but it also expected me to lean on my full array of talents, attacks and assists to clear out a clot of gibbering Nurgles, or the lumbering damage-sponge Chaos Spawn that punctuated a particularly loot-rich run.

I, of course, gave all of these my own non-canon nicknames, not knowing what else to call them (“hell puppies,” and “Ol’ Hemorrhoid Arms” for example) but this development featurette is edifying in that it shows this stuff isn’t just made up on the spot.

Eko Software also had to remain faithful to the colors of Warhammer, particularly the tones applied to these bad guys — very important when you’re talking about a 36-year-old franchise based on painted miniatures. That itself posed specific challenges to the designers. “it’s hard to animate characters for Warhammer because with figurines, you only have their basic poses,” observed animator Alexandre Blanc. He tried to avoid copying other Warhammer video games’ interpretations of boss characters, for example, so Chaosbane wouldn’t seem so rote to fans who have played those.

Warhammer: Chaosbane launches June 4 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.

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