Review RPG

Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader – Preview

Warhammer has quite a storied history when it comes to video game adaptations, heck you only have to look through the reviews here to see that the pendulum of Warhammer games swings both ways at regular intervals. Interestingly enough, while the franchise has lent itself to tactical RPG-style games in the past, never have we had something a little grander in scale, at least that is until now. The ever-looming Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader hopes to fuse the world of Warhammer 40k with traditional cRPG elements.

Early Praise of the Emperor

Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader is developed by the talented team at Owlcat Games, famous for the Pathfinder series of games. This is a series held in high regard among fans of the cRPG genre. Being the absolute diamonds that they are, Owlcat Games have given us access to an early build of Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader for preview purposes. I couldn’t wait to praise the Emperor, offer thanks to the Omnissiah, and banish the Chaos scum while making some sweet profit in the process.

The version of Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader we have played is the closed Beta version; one that the developer estimated around 80 hours to see everything this current build has to offer. Admittedly, I haven’t yet hit that magic number so these impressions are from the first 10 hours of the game for preview purposes. Hopefully, when the game does launch, I can provide a full review of the title expanding on what I talk about here.

The “C” is for Chaos…

Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader is a cRPG in the style of Baldur’s Gate, Fallout 1 and 2, Pathfinder, Pillars of Eternity, and the Divinity series. Now, I’ve always known cRPGs as role-playing games that are usually exclusive to PC, typically with some connection to D&D, whether it be actual lore or gameplay systems like hidden dice roles. These tend to be more open than JRPGs and generally allow you to perfectly craft your own adventure through a plethora of stats, abilities, and a wide range of party members whose morality swings violently. By that definition, Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader is most certainly a cRPG.

Character Creation

In the build I played of the game you can either select from a few pre-built characters which is what I did or you can spend hours going through the character creation to design your ideal avatar into the world of Warhammer 40k. While you can only be a “human” character, you have full reign to decide their past, their strengths and weaknesses, and aspects of their personality which will come into play in the many, many dialogue sections.

Once your character is made, then you are thrust headfirst into the world of 40k as your character is set to become the next “Rogue Trader”. Naturally, nothing is simple in Warhammer. After a tutorial section and a rather lengthy introduction area, you’re left in control of a ship with a washing list of important “Rogue Trader” jobs to do, free reign to monetize planets in the name of the emperor, and the wrath of the forces of Chaos. It’s always Chaos in 40k games, isn’t it!?

Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader - Story

Chronicles of the Trader

Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader somewhat expects you to have a base understanding of the universe. Unlike games like Boltgun or Darktide where you can just get stuck in and ignore the story, Rogue Trader needs you to know your Tech-Priests from your Orks and fortunately comes with a rather extensive glossary to learn the many, many terms essential to get the most out of the story. Even then, this game can get pretty heavy with the terminology and as a Warhammer gaming casual I spent a lot of time lost until I dug in and did my research.


Combat is your traditional, action-point turn-based affair. It doesn’t offer much new but rather adds a certain level of polish to make it feel chunky. Bodies explode into mists of blood and the use of area-of-effect attacks when they hit do get your blood pumping. The combat does start quite deceptively in that I was missing my shots a lot of the time, but then it became much easier as I started gathering more party members. Then the game decided to humble me until I started thinking about the ideal position and skills to use. Again, it’s nothing new, but the combat is that healthy mix of tough but rewarding with a dash of avoidable with certain dialogue options.

On the subject of combat, Rogue Trader also has space battles where you take on enemy ships. Not being familiar with Rogue Trader the tabletop game, this was a complete surprise to me. Again, it’s a turn-based tactical affair, that while an interesting distraction from the main meal, did have me missing Battlefleet Gothic: Armada. Still, it’s early days for the game and tweaks are to be expected.

Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader - Monster


Trading is unsurprisingly key to being a “Rogue Trader”. The ultimate goal is setting up the most profitable and powerful trading route in the empire. Rather than giving you a monetary figure to work with, you have a profit factor number and this is the level that represents how much you can spend. Through successful trading of loot, which you’ll find during quests, you can build this number up so you can “buy” more equipment. This replaces the need to grind for pennies as the lore behind Rogue Traders is they have access to a vast amount of wealth.

The trading goes further in-depth when you can start colonizing planets and sending troops out on missions without you, further expanding your pool of resources. Again, the game is still in beta and I would imagine this system is going to see a few more tweaks to make it a little more user-friendly before the final release drops.

Computer Graphics

The game has a very distinct visual style. It manages to recreate the grand gothic style of Warhammer 40k with a mix of hand-drawn environments and chunky low-definition 3D graphics for the character models. It’s gory where it needs to be and beautiful when it wants to be.

Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader - Map

Concluding Thoughts

I will note again that these are preview impressions from the closed beta and I did run into issues such as a few crashes and quests not activating properly. Pathfinding was a pain as my group would routinely decide they had to walk through every trap on the map too. Minor gripes aside, the beta was in a great state and fills me with a lot of optimism for the final release.

Mark my words, Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader is going to be a special game when it reaches full release. In its current state, it’s already a fantastic experience and makes you wonder why something like this hasn’t been tried before with the license. It’s got fantastic writing, brilliant combat, bells, and whistles to keep it interesting, and is already head and shoulders above other Warhammer titles. This has the potential to convert those on the outer reaches of the fandom. Now if you excuse me, I have a Trade empire to rule over!


Platforms: PC (Steam)

Want to see more RPGs? How about checking out our review of Like a Dragon: Ishin?

Many thanks go to Owlcat Games for a PC preview code for this title.

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