Entertainment In Warhammer 40,000 RPG Rogue Trader, you’re ‘less of an adventurer’ and more ‘like a god’
In Warhammer 40,000 RPG Rogue Trader, you’re ‘less of an adventurer’ and more ‘like a god’
Despite being very strong entries in the CRPG genre, both Pathfinder: Kingmaker and its follow-up, Wrath of the Righteous, suffer from a similar set of flaws. While telling deep, engaging stories in the finest tradition of Baldur’s Gate, both games are buried beneath an overdesigned and distracting strategy layer.
What has held Owlcat Games back, however, may soon become a real asset as the developer puts together its newest project: Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader. In this new CRPG, slated to release in 2023, you’ll take on the role of an eponymous Rogue Trader – a privateer in Warhammer 40k’s dark galaxy. Plying the stars in a mighty voidship crewed by tens of thousands, you’ll be responsible not only for exploration and conquest but also for the management of your vast trade empire.
This management element is fundamental to a Rogue Trader’s job description. It seems likely, therefore, that the extraneous strategic elements which felt ill-fitting in Kingmaker and Wrath of the Righteous will feel right at home in Rogue Trader. In Warhammer 40k, Rogue Traders set out to carve mighty trade empires that’ll span generations. As such, a Rogue Trader is nothing if they can’t effectively manage their Dynasty.
Off the scale
“We need to convey that you are not some commoner”, creative director Alexander Gusev says. As a Rogue Trader, “you have giant influence” and you “won’t be looking in trash cans for loot”.
This commitment to the epic scale and grandeur of Warhammer 40k is promising for fans of the setting. But it also speaks to Owlcat’s desire to integrate that scale into the core experience – rather than having it sit as an awkward ancillary to the main gameplay elements. For executive producer Anatoliy Shestov, the game is “not just about war”, but also “all the things around it”. He describes a “whole process” of “meta systems” designed to support the narrative and strategic sweep that the team considers necessary to do Rogue Trader justice.
Gusev is keen to emphasize that you start as the “heir to a dynasty” – and though “you won’t remain an heir for long”, even at the beginning of your journey you won’t be just another adventurer. Whether or not Owlcat succeeds in adopting the lofty perspective of the 40k setting will likely determine its game’s success.
Rogue Trader is quite clearly inspired by the tabletop roleplaying game of the same name, by Fantasy Flight Games. Shestov spoke fondly of “over five years” of team sessions at Owlcat.
Though Owlcat does not intend to blindly borrow from the pen-and-paper classic, it clearly wants to do justice to a unique ethos. “It’s a game about searching through space, dealing with anomalies, and trading”, Shestov says – keen to impress upon us Rogue Trader’s unique ability to “deliver believable, diverse stories”. Folks who enjoy the TTRPG will also be happy to learn that the Owlcat game is set in the Koronus Expanse – a fan favorite region of space.
As a veteran of said game, I can confirm that Rogue Trader is at its best when storytellers lean into the sheer scope of the setting. You might be negotiating with an alien diplomat one minute, before rushing off to help your allies in a space battle the next. Perhaps this culminates with a dramatic duel on the bridge of your ship, or maybe a tense political stand-off.
In Owlcat’s game, you may “encounter some mighty figure who is asking for help” and decide, in a Machiavellian power move, to have them drop “to their knees” in supplication and beg for your assistance. The developer is keen to faithfully recreate the power and influence Rogue Traders hold in the tabletop game – assuring us that the CRPG’s player character is “less of an adventurer” and more “like a god.”
40k isn’t “normal sci-fi” or “fantasy” – as Gusev, Shestov, or any long-time fan of the setting will tell you. The grim darkness of the 41st millennium occupies a unique place in the hearts of those who love it. As for Owlcat’s hearts – they’re in the right place. As a lifelong fan of both the tabletop miniatures game and the Rogue Trader TTRPG, I’m very excited to see what the studio produces with this unique opportunity. Though the final product will likely have its flaws, just like the Owlcat games before them, I’m certain that Rogue Trader is in a safe pair of hands.