Previously working on not one, but two Pathfinder titles, Owlcat Games tackles the Warhammer 40k universe with Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader. Is this the game Warhammer fans have been waiting for? Check out our review and find out.
Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Review
My knowledge of the Warhammer 40k universe is limited, but Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader taught me a lot.
Things kick off with you making your character, picking your class, and becoming a Rogue Trader. In the Warhammer Universe, Rogue Traders act as explorers, conquerors, and even merchants under the authority of the God Emperor. Put simply, you are a VERY big deal in the game. Still, you are meant to be taught the basics before being sent out into the universe. It ultimartely becomes a trial by fire, and you need to figure it out as you go.
The ship you start on is attacked, your Rogue Trader teacher is slain almost immediately, and you need to rally the troops and reclaim the ship. After you take back the ship, the crew looks to you for the next command. Your first job is to rebuild the ship, get a new navigator, and contact the nearby imperial settlement. Things quickly erode as the enemy of humanity (the Xenos) steals the system’s sun, and you are forced to flee to another sector of the universe. I’m not sure how long the main story is, but I have over 100 hours and still haven’t done all the side content I want to do.
As the Rogue Trader, you do get to lay claim to settlements and planets throughout the galaxy. However, doing so then has them falling under your protection. If they fall, you will then look weak to the other Rogue Trader houses – and weaklings do not last in the Warhammer 40K universe. Still, the benefits of having multiple settlements add up quickly. You get to make buildings, claim resources, get new weapons and armor, and sometimes even get permanent stat boosts. The best part is that you can do it all from the start menu, so you rarely need to go back to planets. You just hit the settlement manager, pick your project, then play as it completes – EZPZ.
One downside to landing on these colonized planets is that you are almost always ambushed when you land or meet the governor. The game mentions a couple of times how we expect to be attacked when we land for the first time. It wouldn’t be so bad, but you are always outnumbered, and the AI allies are pretty bad – even when it comes to shooting you. I get that the universe is chaotic and dangerous, but I have heavy flamethrowers, a Psyker who can call lightning down, and a dude in heavy armor with a huge sword. I have a feeling the dagger-wielding bandits might stand down after seeing us.
Since Rogue Trader is a tactical RPG, the combat is from the top-down perspective and is turn-based. If you’ve played that series, you can think of it like X-Com because the 95% to hit shots still miss. What starts off as a simple game of finding cover and taking potshots quickly evolves into a profoundly satisfying combat system that sometimes takes too long to finish. You level up so fast that you constantly get new abilities and tools to use for battle. It can get overwhelming, but if you focus on key traits and skills, you can wreck the dozens of enemies the game will sometimes throw your way.
Ship combat is another part of the game, but overall it isn’t that complicated. Once you learn how the cannons and torpedoes work, you can easily take on five or more ships yourself. The most difficult part of the whole process is figuring out where to park your ship each turn so you don’t get hit with missiles, and the bad guys don’t run away. Thankfully, your ship also levels up and can get new moves, such as a 180 flip, which makes the enemies behind you less annoying. Along with leveling, you get new parts, cannons, shields, and engines for your ship. If you can’t tell by now, there is a ton to upgrade and do in the game.
Naturally, as a Rogue Trader, you will also be doing some trading. The economy is unique in the game, and it grew on me very quickly. Instead of gold or credits, you get Profit Factor. Your Profit Factor is your total wealth as a Rogue Trader and only goes down if you pick choices that make it go down. So if you have 12 Profit Factor and the merchant has five items for 12 or under, you can buy everything and your Profit Factor will remain the same. Instead, you donate loot to certain factions, and they give you Rep. The higher your Rep, the more gear you gain access to. It was nice not needing to make choices on what items to buy because I could get them all.
Exploring the universe itself was similar to Mass Effect. You scan planets, see if there are any resources or outposts, and then land or head to the next system. The only downside to jumping from system to system is the fact that the Warp is unstable. The further you jump, the more you risk your ship being damaged or, even worse, Chaos Forces invading the ship. You can calm down the Warp with Navigator powers, but sometimes you just need to risk the jump.
One last thing I want to hit on is the class customization. The base classes are pretty easy: melee fighter, gun user, support officer, or a debuffing operative. While each class has its skill list, you can easily make an officer into a melee guy if you want. However, at level 16, you unlock the more advanced classes. My sniper character was pretty dangerous until I made him into an assassin, and he became downright lethal. My critical hits keep doing insane damage, and the chance to get them increases. If you like a particular play style, this game will let you buff it up as much as you want.
Now for the bad; this game is very buggy at the moment. Crashes, frame drops, no text during conversations, T-poses, items under the floor, and me under the floor – among other minor annoyances – plague the game. I could fight through most of it if not for the crashes and lockups. They have done a ton of work in the couple of weeks I’ve had it, but I still crash occasionally. I don’t know how bad it is on PC, but the PlayStation 5 version could have used a few more months to cook.
Even with the bugs, Warhammer 40K fans will enjoy Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader immensely. If you are a tactics RPG fan looking for your next fix, this is your game.
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