Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader review - A solid debut that hammers home the true feeling of classic RPGs

The new game does justice to both the genre of CRPGs and Warhammer 40K (Image via Owlcat Games)
The new game does justice to both the genre of CRPGs and Warhammer 40K (Image via Owlcat Games)

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader's announcement caught me by surprise. After all, a new CRPG in the Warhammer franchise can be pretty hard to say no to, especially for someone like me who loves the genre. Expectations were high for this title due to the franchise involved and also because of Baldur's Gate 3's release earlier this year.

That said, having great ideas is one thing, and delivering on them is another. There are so many video games that have been doomed due to their developers' inability to pay for the basics.

I had the good fortune of reviewing Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin very recently. While the release from Frontier could only generate mixed opinions in my mind, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader's impressions are far stronger.


Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader's biggest strength is its fundamentals

CRPG games are not simple by any stretch of the imagination, and several aspects of them are yet to be polished. Baldur's Gate 3 set the benchmark for this genre high. However, Owlcat Games are no amateurs in this field; if you liked Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, you'll love Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader even more.

The developers have actually taken some core aspects of the former title and incorporated them into Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader. As a result, you'll see plenty of the basic mechanics here that can be found in every other CRPG title. However, the additional flair added by the lore of Warhammer 40K makes a big difference in holding all the fundamentals together.


Story and presentation

A good CRPG with a bad story is a paradox; it can't exist. Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader adopts a plot different from the last few entries in the universe. This game makes every effort to put you directly in the center of all its action and attention.

You, of course, play as a Rogue Trader who has been called onto a gigantic voidship ruled by Theodora Von Valancius. If fate worked perfectly, you could replace Theodora as one of the heirs. However, things start going wrong as soon as you set foot on the ship. What follows is a tale of trust and betrayal as you try to discover what's happening around you.

youtube-cover

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader's story will lead in the direction you want, meaning which path you want to take this title's narrative down is up to you. Each playthrough of the game will be different. However, making crucial decisions will remain a consistent affair, and they will make a massive difference.

You can choose to be as idealistic or evil as you want. Owlcat Games has followed the same style of presentation found in Pathfinder as well. The new title's story is supposed to be narrated via text, and I may have encountered a pre-launch bug here. While some of the dialogues were voice-enabled, others only had words. Nevertheless, a gripping plot is just as fun to read as it is to hear.

The designs of the void ship and characters don't miss their mark at all. The Steam-punkish style, which has become a signature of the Warhammer: 40,000 universe, is evident in this title's aesthetic. Its core gameplay can be divided into two broad aspects — exploration and fights. While I will discuss both in the next section, it's worth mentioning here that a few kills can be extremely gory.

When you decide to chop down an enemy, the game ensures that it feels like you're doing something violent. When your bullets hit a foe, this title makes their brain splatter over their burned bodies. The gruesome nature of all your actions in a fight makes it even more enjoyable.


Gameplay

A large part of your actions and decision-making in this title will be text-based. You can set up a team before a battle begins or pick a suitable formation. Each match has two types of action: movement and attack.

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader has MP and AP, with MPs deciding how much you can move. This separate system certainly helps ensure that you only end up with a valid attack by mistake. It also maintains an overall balance, as movement is key to attacking your opponents on the grid.

Character customization adds diversity (Image via Owlcat Games)(
Character customization adds diversity (Image via Owlcat Games)(

Like any typical tactical RPG, utilizing any form of cover in the environment is essential in this game. Doing so helps ensure that you don't have to bear the full brunt of a ranged attack. This is also something to keep in mind for when you're on the offense as well. To keep things more manageable, you'll be displayed the odds of how successful your attack will be.

I decided to take the plunge with the normal difficulty, although you can choose between five different settings. This helps to fine-tune the exact type of experience you might be looking for. There's no right or wrong choice here, as the easier difficulties are beneficial if you're new to CRPG or just looking to enjoy this title's lore.

The game offers plenty of diversity in terms of squad and character-building. Moreover, you won't have to fight alone for too long, as the early missions set you up with Abelard, Idira, and Argenta.

While each of them has different roles, you can further diversify their builds as they level up. Leveling up in Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader grants you ranking points that help to grow your and your teammates' abilities. This title has plenty of depth in its character-building; even if two units have the same role, they can be used in entirely different fashions.

There's a wide set of choices when it comes to customizations (Image via Owlcat Games)
There's a wide set of choices when it comes to customizations (Image via Owlcat Games)

Diversity in a team can also be maintained with the help of other equipment. There's a loot system within Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader as well that allows you to find more resources and weapons.

Overall, the diversity in squad building and character customization goes exceptionally well with the story. Like differences in your characters, the decision you make as a future heir will have repercussions for this title's plot.


In conclusion

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is a solid offering from Owlcat Games that shows how capable this studio is in making CRPGs. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous felt good to play. However, this one feels even better. Its story and environment design pay the perfect tribute to the rich lore of the Warhammer 40K franchise.

The ability to make crucial decisions and the game's focus on character builds ensure units are diverse to a great extent as well. While I did encounter a few stutters on rare occasions during my playthrough, I expect them to be patched now that the full release is available.

Some of the main difficulties I faced were a result of playing Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader on a console. Learning all its controls on your DualSense can require some practice, although they're quite streamlined. Once you get the hang of them, the real fun starts, immersing you in a delightful experience that's full of suspense, action, and gore.


Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader review

Detailed scorecard (Image via Sportskeeda)
Detailed scorecard (Image via Sportskeeda)

Reviewed On: PS5 (Review code provided by Owlcat Games)

Platform: Windows, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox Series XlS, PS4, PS5

Publisher: Owlcat Games

Developer: Owlcat Games

Release Date: December 7, 2023