Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader PAX West Preview

Rogue Trader is going to be a very in-depth title; though combat did not appear too time-consuming, there’s enough dialogue options and story that even the current beta available has up to 60 hours of content.

Owlcat Games has been gaining prestige incorporating the role-playing aspect of popular tabletop franchises with fun tactical turn-based combat.  The studio is now trying its hand at the Warhammer universe through Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, a new party-based RPG set in the hostile Koronus Expanse.  RPGamer got the chance to take a look at how things are looking with a sit-down preview of the title at PAX West.

The eponymous Rogue Trader is a title for the player-created protagonist that will be fleshed out by their choices.  The studio promises robust role-playing and combat options that diversify them from the preset companions that join the party.  The protagonist is taken on an original journey inspired by the Warhammer 40,000 universe, meeting a cast of eight companions that can join the player and bring their own specialties.  For example, Abelard is a tank who helps mitigate damage for the active party of six, while others include Jae, a smuggler and all-around good leader and great support character, and Marazhai, a whirlwind of death and destruction.  Each of the companions will be there for more than just combat, as they also have storylines of their own that Rogue Trader dives into.  The presentation showcased the crew exploring a planet for a downed space shuttle and coming across the robotic and skeletal Necron along the way.

Combat turn order is decided on initiative with everything shifts from real-time isometric exploration to a traditional cRPG turn-based tactical system.  Searching for cover is very important as without it players are sitting ducks; half cover is even destroyed quickly making everyone scamper in every direction to make sure they stay safe.  It rarely pays to stay defensive though, so to balance things out there’s a lot that characters and companions can do on their turns.  Many characters have options that allow them to attack multiple times per turn and Marazhai is able to move after dealing damage.  The preview had combatants almost falling like flies, with enemies or players going down in one or two hits.  Combat looked tough and fast-going, but also fair as it was strategic use of cover and abilities that won the day.  Luckily, any character who loses their health is just sent back to their ship and as long as there are companions alive the quest will continue.  Part of reasoning for this decision is to incorporate co-op, though there’s no information on how that will work at this time.

Defeating enemies and exploring the galaxy is all to gain valuable cargo, and by extension reputation.  Cargo can be found while travelling or by defeating enemies, which is traded to a number of different traders for reputation.  Reputation is used to upgrade the ship, which in turn takes allows player to visit more locations and get better equipment.  This loop is at the heart of the game, along with the alignment system.  In Rogue Trader, players can decide to stay loyal to the Imperials, go against them, or attempt to help everyone.  Helping everyone is the hardest of these options, as allies will be less forthcoming than the other options.  These choices factor in to the companions as well; some of them may disagree so vehemently with the choices players have made that they’ll leave the party or become enemies and attack.

Characters can learn abilities that penetrate barriers, latch on to the momentum of the situation to string along attacks, and use powerful psychic abilities called Psyker.  Some of these abilities have drawbacks; for example, using too much Psyker summons demons to the battlefield that have to be dealt with before moving on.  Combat doesn’t just stay on the ground either as exploration in space can find players fighting in their ships as well.  How this works out exactly was not shown in this preview, but should add an interesting new dimension to deal with down the road.

Rogue Trader is going to be a very in-depth title; though combat did not appear too time-consuming, there’s enough dialogue options and story that even the current beta available has up to 60 hours of content.  The full release will aim at around 100 hours of content.  While Warhammer 40,000 has has a number of video games, it hasn’t yet had a full cRPG to take advantage of its history and rules, there’s hope that Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader will fulfill that niche and provide fans of the franchise with an engaging story as they trade, smuggle, attack, and pirate their way through the cosmos.  The beta is currently available for PC with the full game also planned for release on consoles, though a release window has not been announced. 


Ryan Costa

Friendly neighbourhood reviewer that thinks every RPG should be discussed, because one never knows where a hidden gem can appear.

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