Friday, December 08, 2023
A first look at Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader
Being a fan of tactical, turn-based CRPG, I decided to buy Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader. It supposedly is the least buggy of Owlcat Games' releases, so I hope I don't regret not having waited for the inevitable patches. While I wouldn't call myself a fan of Warhammer, I always found the world building very good, and was interested to learn more about the specifics of the Rogue Trader role-playing game. Having said that, I do wonder how this game is going to be received by the more "progressive" parts of the gaming press. Warhammer 40K is fundamentally a satire about how evil humanity can get, and requires a certain type of humor to be enjoyed. Some people might consider that it needs a huge trigger warning, and the game deals with a lot of really dark stuff, and human lives are considered to be cheap in this universe.
The game launch wasn't perfect. The game was supposed to be released at 5 pm in my time zone, but for 40 minutes on Steam the base game wasn't available, you could *only* buy the DLCs. Or, with a workaround, buy the $100 deluxe edition, but not the $50 base game. Needless to say that struck some people as possibly intentional, but I tend to apply Hanlon's Razor to such situations: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by neglect, ignorance or incompetence.". 40 minutes later the situation was resolved, and thanks to my new fibre optics internet connection I had the game downloaded and installed within minutes.
I only played through the prologue up to now, which expectedly was rather linear. But by sheer luck I seem to have made a reasonable choice for a character, a sniper operative. The problem I tend to have with Owlcat Games is that sometimes I choose a character and then I meet the premade companions, and discover that given the other people in my party I'd rather have played something else. For example, if I had chosen a warrior / tank build, I would have ended up with the same build as my first companion, and that would have been rather annoying. In the prologue you get a tank warrior, a psykker operative, and a soldier. So if you want something different, you need to take either an officer, or one of the other three classes with a very different build than the companions. As the psykker is somewhat special, I don't mind that my main is another operative; as a sniper he plays very different, and the special abilities of two operatives work well together.
Character creation and combat is pretty deep, but fortunately slightly less deep than the previous Owlcat Games, which were based on the Pathfinder RPG. I decided *not* to overly optimize, but just take the choices at each level for each character that seem reasonable or fun. But I am playing only on a medium difficulty level, as I believe that playing on "unfair" requires too much optimization and doesn't leave you with many options to try out some fun stuff. Personally I do like the design decision to have have a lot of low level enemy minions in each combat, as it allows for characters to feel powerful against those, even if the boss mobs are tough.
Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader was the last game I had on my radar for this year. I might have missed something, of course. But between the long hours this game will require, and some games I still want to play "for free" on the Game Pass, I think I got the rest of the year covered.