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Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader Final PC Review

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is the latest isometric turn-based cRPG from Owlcat Games and released on December 7, 2023, on PC and consoles. I played a beta version of the game back in June and was excited to dive into the full release. This ticks a lot of my boxes as a gritty cRPG with tactical turn-based combat, character and party development, and a rich story that had me hooked for hours each play session.

Stepping into the boots of a daring Rogue Trader, players forge their own path through the fringes of Koronus Expanse, starting on the voidship of Theodora von Valancius, seeking riches and influence. However chaos quickly ensues as the ship is raided by all manor of beasts and heretics. From navigating political intrigue to brokering deals with xenos, your choices ripple outwards, shaping the fate of your House, your crew, and even entire planets.

Despite having some outstanding voice acting, there is a heck of a lot of reading to be done too. I personally appreciated the reading both from the narrator setting the mood and tone of a scene or a character before they speak, and also with lore objects in each new areas. I don’t know much about Warhammer 40,000 so playing games like this, Darktide and Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters helps me to learn snippets of the history of the lore and settings I’m exploring in Rogue Trader.

Every conversation you have will have choices. Some are just story fillers while others carry weight with certain characters and mission objectives. There are some words that are bolded and hovering the mouse over these gives us a little bit of lore explanation. Right-clicking a tooltip will provide a more in-depth description and the option to switch over to the in-game encyclopedia. These were often a good break of pace after a big stressful fight.

Ground combat is so much fun in Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader and I recommend turning on extra gore in the settings as this made each slow-motion critical hit so visceral with limbs and blood splurting everywhere. Played like XCOM and Chaos Gate, combat is turn-based and makes use of cover mechanics. Each character in your party has movement points (MP) shown in green and action points (AP) shown in yellow. Also be aware that friendly fire is possible, so be sure to hover the skill you want to use over the enemy and look at the red-highlighted path of the attack to see if it overlaps and could hit your own party members too.

As you progress from fight to fight, you will pick up a heap of weapons so you can deck out your party as it grows with various weapons for versatility. Lasguns spit hot lead, chainswords carve through flesh, and Psykers unleash warp-infused lightning and fury. Aside from the traditional RPG inventory for your character and party members, there’s a special type of inventory called cargo which represents the storage vaults of your voidship. You can’t directly sell items to a vendor but can sell cargo containers. Any cargo filled to 100% can be sold to a vendor of the appropriate faction for reputation points. These can be used later for buying better items and gear.

Some party members can use medkits on their turn, and if a character loses all of their HP in a battle, they will be knocked down for the fight. If your main character is killed then you will need to reload. However if you lose one or some of your party during a fight but ultimately end up killing all enemies, the whole group will rise back up and their health is fully replenished. I absolutely loved this feature as I often struggled in Chaosgate with the difficulty of going into successive fights with increasingly damaged units, and losing many to permadeath. Thankfully this isn’t the case in Rogue Trader and it attributed to less burn out for me.

The game offers a wealth of character builds and customisation options by unlocking skills and talents as your party members level up. This allows you to really build your perfect party where each group member is tailored to your preferred playstyle. Whether you favour the righteous fury of a Space Marine Captain or the cunning traps of a Scions sniper, Rogue Trader provides the tools to unleash your inner Warhammer 40,000 badass. My main character was a sniper, so I kept him and the pysker at the backline, while the melee and high toughness characters formed my frontline.

Outside of ground combat, we can take our voidship into the expanse of space and engage in space combat. Unlike the grand fleet battles in the Battlefleet Gothic series, Rogue Trader focuses on smaller, more intimate skirmishes, pitting your voidship against pirates, xenos raiders, and the ever-present threat of Chaos. Space combat plays out in real-time with pause, allowing you to carefully plan your maneuvers and unleash devastating volleys of weaponry. Positioning becomes important because the voidship turns slowly and every weapon can only shoot in a certain direction or arc of fire.

You have a separate HP value for the hull and shields in four directions visible as arcs around the ship, and shields can be restored during combat through abilities. But remember, enemy ships work the same way and have their own abilities, so you not only have to plan your own manouvres but also anticipate those of enemy ships. Different weapons excel against different targets, forcing you to adapt your tactics on the fly. You can also perform boarding actions that allow you to get up close and personal with brutal close-quarters combat. Send your warriors to breach enemy ships, capture objectives, and eliminate key targets in a bloody dance of chainswords and laspistols.

In addition, being a Rogue Trader allows you to colonise your own domain within the Koronus Expanse. Some planets produce resources, which you will need to mine using mobile extractors. There is a colonies tab in the quest journal where you may need resources to complete these quests or by launching projects. Each planet offers unique challenges and opportunities, from lush jungle worlds teeming with life to barren rock formations rich in valuable minerals. Manage your resources, assign tasks to your crew, and establish trade routes to bring prosperity to your fledgling domain.

Owlcat Games has done amazing work to capture the grimdark aesthetic of the 41st millennium. My knowledge of the 40K universe is limited but I am learning more with each game I play in this setting, and I appreciated the immense detail in each environment as I explored. From the opulent majesty of Void City stations to the decaying hulks of derelict starships, every environment oozes atmosphere and peril. The character models are detailed and expressive, showcasing the diverse range of species and factions that populate this war-torn galaxy.

The soundtrack takes the immersion even further with some incredible orchestral music and an eerie ambience that perfectly complements the tone of each environment. Weapon sounds and effects are meaty and appropriate for their use. Whether navigating the treacherous politics of a noble court or facing down a daemonic horde, the soundscape immerses you in the grim reality of the Koronus Expanse.

Overall, Warhammer 40:000: Rogue Trader is a massive and rich cRPG with intense turn-based tactical combat on the ground and in space with our ships. You can dive in deep with the lore with long tooltip descriptions and an encyclopedia of information to read through. However, it was the visceral and diverse ground combat that had me hooked with mixing party members and their skills that were used to devastating effect. Fans of cRPGs will enjoy the depth on offer, and fans of Warhammer 40K lore will be in their element.

This review utilised a key provided by UberStrategist and Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is out now on Steam, GOG, Epic Games Store, Xbox and PlayStation.


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