Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader preview: Owlcat reveals the 10th companion

Warhammer 40K Rogue Traders is incredibly exciting.
If you were wondering if Warhammer 40K Rogue Traders is good, look no further - it's an amazing CRPG (Image via Owlcat Games)

Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader has been in beta for over a year, and I’ve finally had a chance to get a peek at it. It’s been a point of confusion for me for years why nobody made a CRPG or turn-based RPG set in either Warhammer setting. We’re finally going to get one by one of the masters of the genre: Owlcat Games. I recently went to New York City, where I got to take a look at the title and chat with the developers.

What I saw didn’t spoil the game for me, though it was deep into the story of Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader. I sat through a scenario approximately 80 hours into the game and chatted with the developers about it as we went.

You have a nice, wide variety of party members you can potentially recruit, and the gameplay looked great.


Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader is a colossal CRPG based on the tabletop

When I asked, “Why now, Why Rogue Traders?” the developers gave me an honest and interesting answer. They said they had been playing a Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader tabletop game for about 3 or 4 years at that point and decided to make a pitch for it internally. The game started development around the same time as Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous.

Your Rogue Trader can be pretty much whatever you want them to be - he or she isn’t bound to a particular character archetype, and that’s fantastic. You can make them a Psiker or a tankier type of character. Alternatively, you can wish to make them an assassin, which is possible too.

Rogue Traders brings tactical excellence to the Warhammer 40K universe of video games (Image via Owlcat Studios)
Rogue Traders brings tactical excellence to the Warhammer 40K universe of video games (Image via Owlcat Studios)

If you’ve played the tabletop RPG, it will look and feel very familiar when you make your character. However, it has more skills and attacks than you’d find in the Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader tabletop. That’s because this is a humongous game, and you can reach some serious power levels - at least level 40.

While it’s not a perfect 1:1 of the tabletop, it’s certainly inspired by it. The developers created some new houses and similar things to fit their new characters into. These were then tied to the main lore of Warhammer 40K, so you can see how it all weaves together.

The Necron forces are going to be powerful, but you can handle it (Image via Owlcat Games)
The Necron forces are going to be powerful, but you can handle it (Image via Owlcat Games)

However, the developers also pointed out that it’s not going to be so complex that non-CRPG fans won’t be able to play it. Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader has a deep encyclopedia of information and a solid tutorial. Even if you didn’t play the tabletop game, you can easily get into it.


Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader has 10 total potential party members

While I was there, I received the scoop on the final unannounced party member. Part of the Drukhari race, he’s an incredibly powerful melee monster. When he shows up in the game, he’s in a tenuous position and only really has two choices: Join or die. It’s very fitting for Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader, that’s for sure.

However, like all popular CRPGs, your decisions determine who joins, who stays, and who winds up trying to kill you. For example, this Drukhari character - Marazhai - isn’t fond of the Imperium, and if your choices are pro-Imperium, he could wind up as an enemy.

In this build of Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader, he was set up as a melee character, and each time he struck an enemy, he grew more powerful.

If you let them, the Necron will simply keep returning (Image via Owlcat Games)
If you let them, the Necron will simply keep returning (Image via Owlcat Games)

You can also recruit a Space Marine and a Battle Sister, but if you decide to aid the forces of Chaos, they’re obviously not going to be keen on helping you and could turn on you. That’s what makes these sorts of games so interesting.

All 10 companions

  • Abelard Werserian: Seneschal
  • Idira Tlass: Unsanctioned Psiker
  • Ulfar: Space Wolf
  • Cassia Orsellio: Navigator
  • Jae Heydari: Leader
  • Heinrix von Calox: Interrogator
  • Pasqal Haneumann: Magos Explorator
  • Argenta: Sister of Battle
  • Yrliet Lanavyss: Aeldari Ranger
  • Marazhai: Drukhari Assassin

The developers wanted to limit the number of companions for this game. Perhaps if there’s a sequel, there could be more options down the line.


Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader preview mission in brief

As this takes place about 80 hours into a roughly 100-hour game, I won’t spoil anything major. All I can say is that the party was seeking information about their Dynasty, and it led them to a small Necron outpost.

Stealth didn’t work, so the team of the Rogue Trader, Marazhai, Jae Heydari, Idira Tlass, and Pasqal Haneumann had to fend off the space zombies. However, this base had two teleporters. If you don’t destroy them fast, you can be overrun by a constant flow of the Necron menace.

The turn-based gameplay is exceptional. It uses an Initiative system, so each character goes when it’s their time. You also have to worry about friendly fire and be extremely careful how you position and use your allies. Even though they were level 40, they had way less HP than the Necron forces.

There's never just "one" Necron nearby (Image via OwlCat Games)
There's never just "one" Necron nearby (Image via OwlCat Games)

Normally, you can position your characters in tactical ways, but the party, in this case, was ambushed. This means you have far fewer options when it comes to setting people up. You certainly need to take advantage of covers, flank enemies, and get any kind of advantage possible.

You have a meter for your regular actions. There’s another blue meter, which is your Momentum Meter - your Ultra, special powers. There are two types of abilities to use there.

You can either have a Heroic Act if you’re doing well. If fortunes aren't favoring, there’s an alternate version that can have some very negative consequences. It’s up to you if it’s worth using.

In search of wealth and success, you will travel to a variety of places (Image via OwlCat Games)
In search of wealth and success, you will travel to a variety of places (Image via OwlCat Games)

You have to take your time in Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader - but not too much time - and destroy these enemies before scavenging through the loot to find weapons and salable items for your Merchantile Empire. That’s what Rogue Trader is about after all, you are a merchant.

You’re trying to build a powerful, vastly wealthy business, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty.


The visuals and sounds perfectly fit the Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader setting

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I love the visual design of Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader. The characters all look incredible, and the bombed-out, devastated planet we were on looks like something the Necron would call home. The sound effects and dialogue all made sense for the grimdark future of 40K.

I also went into the beta myself to look through a little bit of the game, and I loved what I saw. While I enjoy fantasy settings a great deal, I also appreciate the power of the storytelling you can do in the far-flung future.


In Conclusion

Whether in a starship or on the ground, the Rogue Traders work is never done (Image via OwlCat Games)
Whether in a starship or on the ground, the Rogue Traders work is never done (Image via OwlCat Games)

Though I’m still quite new to Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader, I’m really enjoying the setting and gameplay. Your consequences have actions, and it’s going to be a great deal of work to create a truly titanic business empire.

It’s also going to require you to do a great deal of killing and looting. That’s just how it is in the grimdark Warhammer future.

The game will have roughly 100 hours of gameplay, and I have confidence that it will be paced well and ultimately be an enjoyable experience. Having loved Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, I know this company also excels in making top-notch CRPGs. If you’re a fan of Warhammer 40K, don’t pass this game up.