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Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader First Impressions - A Slow Start Finds a Violent Momentum

Despite a slow start, Rogue Trader might just be one of the better Warhammer titles we've played in decades, as once it finds its rhythm, it's up there with the best CRPG's around.
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader First Impressions - A Slow Start Finds a Violent Momentum
Image: Owlcat Games

Rogue Trader First Impressions - a Slow Start Finds a Violent Momentum

I don’t know how it took 30 years of Warhammer licensed games before we finally got a CRPG set in this grim dark universe. But It’s finally happening!

Developer Owlcat Games (creators of Pathfinder: Kingmaker) are here to right past wrongs and bring a cult tabletop roleplaying experience to our screens with Rogue Trader.

For many, this game comes with a lot of expectations. The three-decade wait, the developer’s reputation in the genre, and the recent success of Baldur's Gate 3 all play a part in that. For those of you who have marked your calendars and are counting down the days - don’t worry. The game is good. But it does have its fair share of issues.

Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader Screenshot
Sometimes the game just gives you the perfect response for how you’re feeling.

The first couple of hours are slow. At times - painfully so. There seems to be a running trend in Warhammer games. They dogpile on you with lore and backstory almost immediately - and Rogue Trader is also guilty of that. Couple that with a bevy of game rules and complex systems and it's easy to get an information overload. The sort of thing that may absolutely put some players off. 

And it’s a shame, because when the game finds its momentum, it really shines. After the prologue, the storytelling is more environmental - and there’s less people saying ‘this is important - and here’s why’. The dialogue is more natural - and sometimes - even quite funny. Your companions become less wooden, and grow into fully fleshed-out characters. 

By the time you get to your second or third location, the game picks up more steam and the things that set it apart from similar titles become even more obvious. The big one is its combat. I think this may well be my favourite use of turn-based combat in a CRPG. It’s tactical, deliberate, and chaotic. 

Enemies have a low time to kill, so you can fire a burst from a boltgun into an enemy pack and mow them down with ease. This feels great. But going too gungho could be your downfall. Friendly fire means you can take your own teammates out of the fight, and if you don’t utilise cover, you could easily be dropped by an enemy sniper. 

Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader Screenshot
‘I will avenge you!’ The Sister of Battle cries, as she guns down her teammate

You get the power fantasy – but you’re still always on your toes. It was genuinely reason enough to keep me going, and as I went from battle to battle - the rest of the game caught up. 

During the prologue, I was pessimistic. After all these years, finally, a game comes along that so many people would get excited for - and it misses the mark. But a little perseverance dispelled that. I’m not going to go back and retract my statement - I still found the start tedious. It struggled in the same way that most recent Warhammer games do - in my opinion. They don’t just let you be - instead they tell you every detail that they think is important.

Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader Screenshot
Quelling an insurrection is all in a day's work for a Rogue Trader.

Thankfully, this eases off. And once the game drops the issues that have hampered so many other titles in the franchise - it sets itself apart. Now, this game isn’t going to answer all the prayers and wishes of Warhammer fans the world over. It might not click with every RPG player looking for their next big adventure. But I think there’s enough here for the game to appeal to a wide enough audience, and once it hits its stride - there’s enough here to keep you hooked and invested -whether you’re there for the combat, the story, the exploration - or just because you like violence.