Windows Central Verdict
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is a fun RPG with stellar writing that truly captures the dark future of eternal war. Choices and options aplenty never detract from or feel ill-suited to the setting, and a clever layout makes this a solid entry point for any Warhammer newcomers. There are a number of bugs to be wary of, with progression issues popping up from time to time.
Deep RPG systems
Great art direction
Unimpressive character models
Various bugs derailing progression
Why you can trust Windows Central
Plasma melts a cluster of miscreants into blue goo, their companion's head being taken off by a sniper shot. Lightning crackles between another group of foes. A leering Daemonette of Slaanesh tears into reality, clawing at one of my squad members.
That's just another day in Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, the latest role-playing game from Owlcat Studios. In-depth writing and clever combat systems are matched perfectly to the dark, horrific future envisioned by Games Workshop, and the result is a great game to cap off the year that's approachable by newcomers and deep enough for franchise veterans to appreciate.
Things aren't perfect, with some glitches and issues popping up across the dozens of hours this adventure takes to complete, but if you're patient (and willing to save frequently), it's an experience worth seeing through.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Owlcat Games. The companies did not see the contents of this review before publishing.
What is Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader?
Price: $50 at GreenManGaming
Developer: Owlcat Games
Publisher: Owlcat Games
Genre: Turn-based RPG
Install size: 35.29 GB
Playtime: 60+ hours
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PlayStation 5
Reviewed on: Windows PC
Release date: Dec. 7, 2023
Xbox Game Pass: No
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is a turn-based role-playing game developed and published by Owlcat Studios, the team behind the Pathfinder games. Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is set in the Koronus Expanse, a wild region of space with a number of systems not yet colonized or conquered by the Imperium of Man.
Throughout the game, players will have to guide their leader — a titular Rogue Trader, individuals in the Imperium with an extremely abnormal amount of freedom and power — through the wild reaches of space. That means gathering allies, striking trade deals, resolving problems, and engaging in combat. Lots and lots of combat. Turn by turn, you'll have to cleverly dispose of mutants, heretics, monstrosities, and more with an array of deadly weaponry.
In traditional RPG fashion, you'll be joined by an eclectic cast of characters drawn from across the Warhammer 40,000 universe, including a Sister of Battle, a Space Wolf, an Aeldari sniper, and many others. With these companions at your side, you'll have to make tough decisions in a cruel, grimdark universe.
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader — Story and characters
The story in Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader kicks off with your chosen character (you can go for a fairly prebuilt option or fine-tune every last detail) in line to become an heir to the Von Valencius noble dynasty. As is so very often the case in Warhammer 40,000, there are traitors everywhere, and events transpire to induce Chaos to the point that you are forced to quickly take charge as the leader. That means expanding new colonies, making contact with old ones, and unraveling the mystery of who attacked you.
Something that Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader absolutely nails is the writing. It's easy to make light of how absurd this universe can be at times, and for sure, many games or other pieces of Warhammer media take a skin-deep, near-satirical approach, but that's not the case here. Instead, this game completely understands the scale of horror that unfolds on a daily basis. It asks you to understand how many thousands will die at your command on a whim, which makes it all the more meaningful when you are given the chance to try and save just a handful of lives.
Your companions serve as roughly hewn gems, cloudy facets to see a small glimpse of the world through. From the cold, calculating opinions of Pasqal, a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus, to the righteous zeal of Argenta, a Sister of Battle, you get a great overview of the opinions that make up the Imperium of Man.
All of that culminates in the payoff of your decisions. Planets full of people have their fates determined by you, and in traditional top-down role-playing fashion, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader doesn't shy away from letting you have as many kind or cruel acts as you so desire, but there are always consequences to be paid.
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader — Gameplay and customization
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is a classic RPG, and that means you have a ludicrous amount of control in customizing your character. Would you prefer to be a former navy officer who buffs your allies, focusing on the tactics of a fight? Or do you want to be a frontline brawler, focusing on soaking up damage? Either path (and many more) is possible.
If you've played a turn-based game like Baldur's Gate 3 or XCOM before, then you'll instantly understand the basics of combat in Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader. With each turn, characters can move a certain distance and use ranged or melee attacks. Myriad weapons, armor, equipment, abilities, and skills will have to be managed in order to find success.
Being a rogue trader means having command of a powerful ship, and when in space, you'll have the opportunity to engage in naval battles in between scanning planets. Combat functions similarly here, playing out over turns, but you can assign your squadmates to different offices on board. Having a powerful psyker in the right spot means being able to flip an enemy vessel's direction. You'll also always have to travel a minimum distance, which changes how you have to think about combat.
Taking charge of massive mercantile endeavors means it would be weird to spend time haggling over the price of particular pieces of gear, and that's where Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader has a truly innovative system. Instead of having to "purchase" things like new guns or armor with money, your ability to requisition supplies is determined by your reputation with a particular faction and your overall "profit factor," the former of which is increased by selling off collected cargo to particular groups, while the latter is an indication of your overall level of wealth.
As a result, you won't ever have to worry about not having enough money to grab more medical supplies. As long as you're in good standing with the faction in question and your overall business ventures are profitable, you can just take anything listed from any factions you trade with.
Unfortunately, there are a number of progression issues right now, with various quests not triggering under the right conditions, lines of dialogue not going off, and more. Reloading saves helped me through the vast majority of these problems, but if you're going to play, you need to make sure to have a few different save files, and you need to make sure to utilize them frequently. It's extremely frustrating to get through a tough 20-minute long fight only to realize you have to do it over again because a something didn't click properly.
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader — Visuals and audio
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader isn't a full-priced game — launching at $50 instead of $70 — and while that is reflected at times in the visuals, particularly the unimpressive character models, overall, this is a game that appears to punch above its weight. Levels are expansive, selling the scale of towering, impossibly large warships and cities. Sharp art direction means the environment is positively drenched in Gothic tones, while different worlds shake things up with calm, beautiful coasts or bombed-out, ruined bunkers.
Additionally, combat plays out with a stunning array of color and detail. Crackling Lasguns, explosive Bolters, boiling plasma blasts, and a ludicrous array of melee weapons reduce hundreds of thieves, cultists, and mutants into chunks of salsa. All of these effects are backed up by a stellar soundtrack composed by Paweł Perepelica, with his work capturing the hopes and horrors of this universe in spades.
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader — Accessibility and approachability
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader has a few accessibility options, including the standard colorblindness settings that have become something of a baseline across the gaming industry. You can also adjust the text size dramatically, something that'll be important depending on your vision because you'll be doing a lot of reading.
Despite the depth and complexity of many game systems, this is a surprisingly approachable entry in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. As mentioned above, you'll be doing a lot of reading, and whenever a key term is mentioned, you can check it to instantly get an overview of what's being talked about. There's also an extensive in-game encyclopedia, meaning you can learn as much as you desire at your own pace.
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader — Should you buy it?
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is a gem. A gem that could use more polish, but a gem all the same. Perhaps nowhere else can you find such a great entry point into the Warhammer universe that also provides a deep, intrinsic examination of particular factions and ideas.
That's great on its own, but it's backed up by solid gameplay mechanics that exemplify just how fun it is to go from facing overwhelming odds to watching your enemies reduced to chunks of meat. The only caveat is a big one, though, and that is that you need to be saving frequently in order to ward off any potential progression issues from not being able to complete a quest.
If you're happy to save frequently and inevitably reload your progress from time to time, then I highly recommend diving in. If you're a Warhammer veteran, you'll feel right at home. If you're a newcomer, this is a great way to explore the depths without drowning.
If you can't get enough turn-based RPGs, or you're just looking for a fun-filled grimdark outing, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is an experience that'll last you for dozens of hours. A tangled web of possibilities awaits, though you should be cautious and save frequently when playing.