Warhammer 40,000 is one of the most insanely popular tabletop miniature gaming franchises on the planet. It’s been around since the late 80s and has only grown in popularity since then. Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters is the newest video game set in the 40k universe, with all of the grimdark connotations that this implies. In particular, this is a 40k-style take on the gameplay of the X-Com series, but is this a match made in heaven or an eternal mistake? The only way to find out is to read on.
A New Coat of Paint for X-Com?
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters, as well as having one hell of a title, is a strategy game developed by Complex Games, a team with a 20-year history in the industry, as well as at least some history with this franchise, having previously worked on The Horus Heracy: Drop Assault. This new title tells the story of a battalion of the Grey Knights, demon-hunting Space Marines who are as mysterious as they are utterly terrifying. After the death of their last commander to a giant demon (go figure) you must take command of the battered ship.
As stated at the top of this review, Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters is a turn-based strategy title that bears many similarities with the X-Com series. To be frank, it is X-Com in all but name and overly dark world dressing. That’s not to say that this game is a rip-off of X-Com, more a loving homage, and there is enough difference between the games in the details that makes this game feel unique. For a starter, I don’t remember anywhere in X-Com being able to charge an enemy with a giant electrified battle ax and then do a psychic scream at him to make it hurt more.
A Perfectly Polished Game
That said, the main crux of the gameplay is mostly the same. You control a squad of soldiers on a grid-based map and have to complete various tasks depending on the mission in question. At the start, they’re mostly about killing everything that moves, but you do end up with some different tasks at various points, such as capturing an enemy specimen or protecting a location. The main gameplay consists of taking turns to move your units around the map and either attack or activate their special abilities. You have all the old favorites on hand, including hand grenades, the ability to automatically fire on an enemy as they enter your view, and of course just straight up shooting or smacking people.
Here comes the kicker: If this is just X-Com again but with Space Marines, then why is it so good? Clearly, Complex Games has got all of the tiny little details about the game just spot on. The balance is really perfect, meaning that you always feel accomplished when you win, but can pinpoint your own mistakes when you lose. On top of that, the customization goes incredibly in-depth, allowing you to change all of the cosmetic details on every piece of your unit’s armor. There’s also a relatively compelling storyline about the commander you’re taking over from and the sudden intrusion of an inquisitor in your ranks.
The Devil is in the Details
All of these factors go together to essential make Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters the best possible version of “X-Com but 40K themed.” Each ground-based combat mission is designed in such a way that you shouldn’t have any trouble clearing them, as long as you’re not making continuous mistakes. Then between missions, you have to upgrade your ship, research new items, and generally decide on which part of the galaxy you’re going to be able to save in time, and this presents you with a wealth of upgrade choices to make each run through the campaign feel different.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some elements to the game that could be better. For a starter, the game has a bit of a slow burn at first while you’re learning the ropes. The missions are overly simple at times during the first hours, and you’re sort of railroaded into choosing certain upgrade and research options as a way of the game teaching you how these various systems work. There’s nothing wrong with this style of teaching, but if you’ve done this sort of thing all before, it’s going to feel a bit drawn out and tedious before you finally are given access to the more open-ended map and upgrade systems.
A Better Sense of Scale
Speaking of the map, it’s a stroke of genius to have a slightly more constrained map compared with what X-Com had. There are several nodes in the section of the galaxy for you to deal with, rather than covering locations across an entire planet. Sure, technically the area of the galaxy you’re in has numerous worlds, but because the scale is zoomed out considerably, it feels much more manageable when stuff starts getting complex in the later stages of the game. There’s also plenty of content here despite the smallish map, with the game’s length coming in at around 20 hours, possibly slightly less if you’re great at it, or slightly more if you suck at it.
There’s also a semi-decent amount of variety in the maps too. At first, it’s mostly just the same sort of industrial desert repeatedly, but you’ll also find some more exciting maps as you progress, including some demonic-looking churches and cathedrals at certain points. Not that it really matters too much towards the quality of the gameplay. Most of the time, you’re going to be too focused on the game of 4D chess that you’re playing with your burly space jocks.
Is Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters Worth It?
When all is said and done, Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters is an excellent strategy game for fans of Warhammer 40K, or even for general strategy fans too. Attention has been put into all of the tiny little details that make the game feel like a highly-polished experience, and even better, it managed to make Space Marines feel compelling to someone who previously had no interest in them. If you’re searching for a game to fill the X-Com-shaped hole in your heart, then this will certainly do it.
WePC received a free PC code for this review from the publisher.