Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader Review – A Fantastic New CRPG

Rogue Trader is a great first attempt at a Warhammer CRPG.

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader Review
Overall
4
  • Story And Setting
  • Gameplay
  • Visuals And Performance

Verdict

It might not be the most technically impressive game, but Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is still one fantastic CRPG.

Pros

  • Great Combat
  • Fantastic Warhammer Lore
  • Interesting Companions
  • Perils of The Warp
  • Incredible Atmosphere

Cons

  • Too Complicated At Times
  • Introduction Could’ve Been Better

Over the years, Owlcat Games has slowly been building a name for itself in the world of classic CRPGs, starting with the release of their very first game Pathfinder: Kingmaker back in 2018, and then followed up by a sequel titled Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous a few years later.

Key Takeaways
  • Developer: Owlcat Games
  • Publisher: Owlcat Games
  • Release Date: December 7, 2023
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5
  • Game Length: 60 Hours
  • Time Played: 85 Hours
Editors Note: We picked someone who was already familiar with Warhammer 40k lore to review this game.

But as fans of these games can attest, these are both great experiences, even if they’re far from perfect. Both titles suffer from problems ranging from writing issues, all the way to overly convoluted mechanics and even difficulty spikes that would make a seasoned CRPG veteran cry.

And so with the release of their newest title Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, has the studio finally managed to address the issues that have plagued their previous games? Let’s find out.

Story And Setting

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Review
Story. (Credits: eXputer)

If it wasn’t already apparent from the title, Rogue Trader takes place in the grimdark setting of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. And therein lies the very first challenge that the game had to overcome; can it ease players unfamiliar with this setting into the world and set the stage properly? And the answer is unfortunately no.

Now look, if you’re already familiar with the Warhammer 40k setting, then jumping into the game and getting a grasp of events and the terminologies should be a walk in the park. But if you’re completely new, then boy are you in for a rough start, because this of all properties is not easy to break into.

Rogue Trader makes very little effort to explain things, and from the very beginning, you will be bombarded with names and references that may not make sense. RPGs in general tend to do this, but most have some form of primer or exposition, whereas this does not. It assumes that you are already a fan, which thankfully I am.

Rogue Trader makes very little effort to explain things, and from the very beginning, you will be bombarded with names and references that may not make sense.

So when the Battle Sister is singing the praises of the Emperor of Mankind, or when mentions of the Immaterium or the Adeptus Mechanicus come up, you find yourself lost. And to its credit, the game does offer brief explanations if you hover over the words in the dialogue box, but these are still quite barebones.

Meeting Argenta. (Captured By: eXputer)

As far as the story itself is concerned, it takes place in an unexplored region of the galaxy known as the Koronus Expanse, so most of what happens is of little consequence to the greater lore of the series. And in itself, that’s a great way to write interesting new stories, but unfortunately, Rogue Trader’s narrative is passable at best.

As far as the story itself is concerned, it takes place in an unexplored region of the galaxy known as the Koronus Expanse.

I’m not saying it’s bad, but it’s not all that memorable either. At this point, thousands of new CRPG fans will be looking for something new to jump into after the critically acclaimed Baldur’s Gate 3, and I’m sorry to say that the same quality of character writing will not be found here.

I enjoyed the main narrative a lot to be fair, but there are no exceptionally written and acted companions here, even if some of them like the Space Wolves Ulfar or the Dark Eldar Marazhai have some entertaining writing behind them.

I understand that this is supposed to be a cold and dangerous universe where legends live and die in a heartbeat, but I would have liked to care about some of these people while I was adventuring with them.

Gameplay

Ranged Combat. (Image Captured By eXputer)

Unlike the Pathfinder games before it which made use of a mix of turn-based and real-time combat, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is an exclusively turn-based experience. So a lot of the chaos, no pun intended, that old fans of the studio might be used to, doesn’t occur here, which I think is a good change.

Rogue Trader’s character perks are a lot more convoluted, just like in the Pathfinder games. 

One of the closest comparisons I can draw is to the XCOM games, along with the mostly ranged combat and a cover-based system that allows your characters to hide behind obstacles to mitigate damage. I enjoyed this format being applied to the Warhammer 40k setting, as I genuinely think it was the way to go here.

Also worth mentioning is that Rogue Trader’s character perks are a lot more convoluted, just like in the Pathfinder games. 

You sometimes have to read an incredible of text to decide on new perks while leveling up, and there’s just so much clutter here that I sometimes found myself just sticking with the recommended upgrades instead of making my own decisions. None of this is a deal breaker, of course, I just think it’s needlessly complex.

Archetypes. (Image By eXputer)

I also enjoyed how the studio staunchly stuck to the lore in terms of certain gameplay mechanics like Warp powers. Use of these abilities always carries the risk of causing death or a much worse fate, and so that’s also what happens with characters and companions who are Psykers.

If players, or enemies for that matter, use Warp powers too much, it contributes to a stat known as Veil Degradation. If this reaches 15, Perils of the Warp comes into play, and a slew of negative effects start triggering, ranging from debuffs, all the way to summoning Daemons onto the battlefield.

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Review
Using Navigator Abilities. (Captured By eXputer)

It’s genuinely one of my favorite mechanics in the game, and it ensured that I never relied on Warp powers too much. It also encouraged me to build my Psyker characters in such a way that they could also switch to alternative ranged weapons like Lasguns if I pushed the Veil Degradation too far and had to lay off for a bit.

If players, or enemies for that matter, use Warp powers too much, it contributes to a stat known as Veil Degradation.

Otherwise, combat is mostly standard, but with a distinctly Warhammer twist.

Other mechanics are less combat-oriented but still come into play every now and then, like claiming different worlds as colonies and completing Projects. These are fine I suppose, and they do yield money and interesting items to use, but I didn’t engage with them more than I had to.

There’s also space combat, where you take control of differnt ships and engage in firefights with other enemy craft in a very similar grid-based system. This is much more exciting than colony management, and while not completely different from regular, serves as an interesting change of pace.

Visuals And Performance

Visuals. (Image Credits: eXputer)

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is not the most graphically demanding game that you’ll play this year, and that’s perfectly fine. Gameplay is king here, and it delivers on that front exceptionally well.

And I do hate having to bring Baldurs Gate 3 up again and again, but it’s the best comparison I can make to illustrate my next point. Rogue Trader is not nearly as impressive as BG3 when it comes to the animations and visual effects, and these will be a noticeable step down for you if that was your last major RPG.

Attacks, both melee and ranged, do not nearly have the same level of particle effects or flair, and it’s obvious that Owlcat Games were working on a smaller budget. And that’s fine because they deliver when it comes to the aesthetics.

Rogue Trader is not nearly as impressive as BG3 when it comes to the animations and visual effects.

Whether it’s the Aquila plastered along the walls of your cruiser or the taint of the Warp showcased through literal Eldrich horrors that occasionally breach realspace, the game nails the atmosphere of the Warhammer 40k universe. Even little details like the regalia on my Commissar’s coat add tons of personality to the game.

Performance-wise, the game ran fairly well on the GTX 1660 Super I tested it on, with no noticeable issues or drops to speak of apart from a tiny bit of stuttering.

Corrupted Save. (Credits: eXputer)

The only real complaint I have is that at one point in the first couple of hours, my game did get corrupted and assets failed to load after I booted the save back up, causing me to lose a few hours of progress. I tried to recreate the glitch but it didn’t happen again, so I am willing to chalk the issue up to playing a pre-release build.

Verdict

Verdict. (Captured By: eXputer)

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader might not be newcomer-friendly in terms of both its systems and lore, but it knows what it is. This is a deeply traditional CRPG that makes no compromises with its gameplay, even if chances are that you’ve probably seen what it has to offer before.

It’s a tough-as-nails title that is made first and foremost for existing Owlcat Games fans, as well as hardcore Warhammer nerds who have been waiting for a proper CRPG set in this universe. Don’t expect the level of polish and flair that we saw from some other recent titles, and you should have a blast.

This has been our Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles. 

This is box title
Get This Game
If you are a fan of great CRPGs and you enjoy the theatre and spectacle of the Warhammer 40k franchise.
Dont Get This Game
If you’re someone who enjoys more action-oriented RPGs. This is strictly a classic CRPG, alongside that certain level of difficulty associated with that genre.
Do I Need To Get This Game
If you’re looking for your new CRPG fix, or if you’re a massive fan of the Warhammer 40k franchise, then you need to pick up this game.
Alternative Games
  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Pathfinder: Kingmaker
  • Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
  • Pillars of Eternity
  • Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
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Huzaifa is eXputer's Review Editor, who’s all about RPG games. He’s got several years of experience critically judging games and writing his unbiased thoughts on them. You can also find his content published on sites like Twinfinite & GearNuke. Huzaifa has been gaming for 23+ years, during which he managed to amass 400+ hours on Elden Ring! You can follow his gaming activity on his Xbox and Steam Profiles.

Experience: 5+ years || Previously Worked At GearNuke & Twinfinite || Mainly Covers RPG Guides & Latest Games Reviews || Education: Bachelors in Hospitality.

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