Listing our first impressions for Owlcat Games' first Warhammer 40K strategy game: Rogue Trader
Rogue Trader takes place in the 41st millennium, a dark future of conquest and war. Spanning multiple systems inside entire galaxies, the Imperium of humanity leads the charge against dangerous forces that seek to threaten mankind's existence. On the frontlines are the Rogue Traders, explorers sanctioned by the Emperor himself to explore the black edges of the Koronus Expanse; the Imperium's perilous frontier. There, you assemble a cast of unique warriors, Psykers and droids that will help you hunt heretics and plunder worlds, all while capturing conspirators in your own ranks, as is the God-Emperor's will.
Developed by Owlcat Games, Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader is an isometric turn-based strategy RPG that takes place in the Warhammer universe. We got our first exciting look at the game at the PC Gaming Show 2023 Preview back in November, and recently Owlcat Games started releasing keys to the playtest for their unreleased title. And after 20+ hours of diving into the beta, we've gathered all of our biggest first impressions on their latest turn-based adventure sim.
Here are our first impressions for Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader. Light spoilers ahead!
All incoming vox transmissions report that the beta of Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is available to play! Check out what adventures await you in this perilous journey: https://t.co/HjzjotNphR pic.twitter.com/KpLdFr6XjX
— Owlcat Games (@OwlcatGames) June 1, 2023
Welcome to the 41st Millenia
Massive cathedral ships and candle-lit alters set the scene for your grand welcome into the fold. In my playthrough, I played as an Astra Militarum commander who held a distant relation to the current Lord Captain Theodora von Valancius. Shortly after characters are introduced, leadership gets unceremoniously ended by treacherous heretics after the Warp turned the ship's crew mad.
After the game's intense prologue, you're left as the last heir standing. Soon after, you take on the duties of the Rogue Trader and get to explore nearby worlds to continue your directive. As you progress, you get to visit fairly populated cities and war-torn battlegrounds that helped make the world of an intergalactic pseudo-religious empire come alive.
Rogue Trader's story is told in text. The interactions you have with a wide cast of quest-givers determines your playthrough. And in spite of some hackneyed lines from some of the protagonists, Rogue Trader's dialogue had a lot of meat on its bones. Important skill checks either opened up new avenues for conflict resolution or led me to the most obvious choice. Some even led to character upgrades! On the other hand, wrong choices can make notable NPCs disregard your character, so saving frequently is key.
Tried and Tested Gunplay
The strategy-dependent gameplay itself was very reminiscent of Owlcat's Pathfinder's system, and it works well for both cases! But if you're used to getting a lot of high-octane action in your games, don't expect the same from Rogue Trader.
Animations felt a bit slow in the beta. However, Owlcat's signature stat modifiers helped enrich the gameplay with elements that makes the tabletop iconic. And although the barrier to entry felt unusually higher than other strategy games, Rogue Trader's captures the spirit of the source material and does its best to provide an enjoyable Warhammer experience. If you want a serious sci-fi turn-based action RPG, Rogue Trader is definitely worth a shot.
At present, Rogue Trader's simple progression system lets you assign points to improve your odds in battle. This can be in the form of upgrading or attaining new abilities. When you get a handle on how your skills work, making your Rogue Traders synergize during hard encounters becomes way easier. And if you pay proper attention to enemy stats and the encounter log, you can end most encounters faster than they begin.
The game removed my training wheels pretty early in my playthrough however. When I wasn't being careful with positioning, stronger mini-bosses would stunlock and sometimes wreck my whole team inside 3 turns. But instead of diminishing my fun, it motivated me to learn more about my squad's skills, leading to me using wiser tactics. That said, it did take me some time to memorize all the modifiers and confusing percentage multipliers that let me min-max my way out of those situations.
Nevertheless, the skill trees in Rogue Trader's beta demanded a lot of thought, but felt worth it as I shaped my characters in a variety of different ways. This was just a demo, but it already made me feel optimistic about Rogue Trader's replayability.
A Stellar Rogue Trader Soundtrack
As far as videogame music goes, Owlcat Games took it up a notch to accommodate Warhammer's grim future. They hit the nail on the head yet again, as the game wasted no time pulling me in with its siren song before I even laid eyes on the main menu screen.
A swelling brass orchestra followed by a haunting choir to symbolize how war and religion go hand-in-hand, with small hints of synth to represent technology's pervasive role. Rogue Trader's music greatly added to the demo's experience as a result. The game's melodies perfectly set the tone for what I was about to get into. The game's still in its early stages, but it's clear that it's music is already fully cooked.
There Is Only War
If reading copious amounts of text to enjoy a videogame isn't your thing, don't expect much from this game. Rogue Trader relies heavily on its story material to keep you interested. Simply put, it prefers to tell more than show. Furthermore, I had to wrestle with an annoying camera that would move out/too far from the frame I needed to see. But despite the lack of voice acting and harmless bugs, the beta still gave me a ton of exploration which I didn't expect from a game so early in its development process.
All in all, Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader is shaping up to be an entertaining adaptation for the hugely popular war game, and we can't wait to see how the game turns out on release.
Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader is set to release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
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