Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader

Perhaps the friends we made along the way represented the true bleak darkness of the distant future.

Perhaps the friends we made along the way represented the true bleak darkness of the distant future.

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27/12/2023 toolmxh.com

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Review game Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, Perhaps the friends we made along the way represented the true bleak darkness of the distant future.

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As I approach the 65-hour mark in developer Owlcat’s magnificently intricate and vast Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, I can say with confidence the following: One is that this game is enormous; depending on where I am in its complex but manageable story, I may only be approaching halfway through. Another is that it’s a fantastic look into the 40K universe, revealing aspects of it that are frequently overlooked and including some of my own personal favorite races and factions. Even though there are still a lot of issues to work through before assigning Rogue Trader a final grade, it’s already quickly rising to the top of this ambitious CRPG series from this studio.

It’s also regrettable to say up front that I encountered a ton of bugs—enough to fill a Space Hulk. There were missing tooltips, misfiring abilities, unbeatable opponents, T-posing servants, and one instance where my advancement on a vital mission was stopped. Similar to my opulent, gothic spacecraft, the Fortunatrix, it’s not precisely polished to a flawless shine. Up until now, though, I’ve been experimenting with a pre-release build, and we were informed that there will be numerous fixes in the Day 1 patch, which should be available by the time you read this. In order to go back and see if there are any frustrating moments that have been fixed in the release version, I created some test saves. If so, I will update this review accordingly.

That being said, Rogue Trader places you in the shoes of the game’s titular character, a powerful Imperium figure and the heir to the von Valancius dynasty. It’s fun to roleplay this character in any way you see fit, with satisfying dialogue options ranging from a sly pirate to a sanctimonious servant of the Golden Throne. Because of your status, you can often command respect and get your way in situations where your average adventuring hero would be laughed at or made to kiss a ring. Because of your immense wealth, it is abstracted as a “Profit Factor,” and the purchases of everyday necessities like gear barely register as a dent in your bank account.

From the main quest to reclaim your protectorate and deal with a formidable Chaos cult, to the terrifying encounters on abandoned shipwrecks hidden away in the shadowy corners of the Koronus Expanse, to the dialogues with your varied and multifaceted crew, the writing truly does steer the ship here. The Sisters of Battle, the Craftworld Eldar, and the Space Wolves are my top three favorite factions in the 40K universe. It’s probably not intentional to cater to my ego, but it sure feels like it when one of the Rogue Trader’s recruitable companions represents all three of those.

In Owlcat’s Pathfinder games, combat advances.

Combat in Rogue Trader also advances, departing from the Pathfinder rule system that Owlcat replicated in its previous two games with nearly self-defeating fidelity. While paying homage to some of the beloved Fantasy Flight Warhammer 40K tabletop role-playing games, it is essentially a completely new system. And because of its intentionality, everything about it—from encounter design to character build options—just works better.

However, I should caution you that the system is still very crunchy. Larian’s take on D&D will seem like a soft, gooey nougat that melts in your mouth if you’re coming from Baldur’s Gate 3. Rogue Trader’s ability descriptions sometimes make it feel like you’re reading a research paper on differential equations, and the wordy, excessively detailed tooltip presentation doesn’t help either. After a while, I managed to grasp it and began to appreciate its depth; however, it remains daunting until you become familiar with its visual language, and it never ceases to be somewhat of a chore to comprehend what a new talent truly accomplishes upon first glance.

The combat system’s ability to make support characters extremely potent is one of my favorite features. I created an officer for my Rogue Trader avatar, capable of bestowing free actions upon allies in addition to bestowing buffs. In spite of the fact that I hardly ever shoot anything or use a chainsword myself, this makes me the focal point of the entire gathering. After all, my party consists of Ulfar, a werewolf in power armor, Argenta, a warrior space nun, and Yrliet, an ancient elven ranger with a sniper rifle. I will never be as hip as any of them. Therefore, it would be a great niche for me to find to help them do violence even better. It’s incredibly satisfying to set up a combo where Argenta takes out a full bolter magazine right into the face of a daemon or Yrliet one-taps the enemy commander across the map.

From the narrow passageways of an imperial bunker to the vast stretches of an uncharted jungle world, the galaxy of Rogue Trader appears fantastic. Without being overly melancholy or depressing, it captures the harshness and moodiness of 40K. Every setting, model, or portrait has a great deal of skillful use of color. Even though there is always a chance of danger, exploration is an exciting experience. Character designs also follow rules. Furthermore, the voice acting is excellent despite being restricted to a small number of companion-related quests.

I still have a long way to go in Rogue Trader, and hopefully the developers will be eliminating bugs just as quickly as I’m eliminating humanity’s enemies. So stay tuned for more of my commentary on the story as it develops over the next few days, and stay tuned for the conclusion next week.

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