Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader Review – Enjoyable reign with unclear directions

Reviewed December 14, 2023 on PC


PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


December 7, 2023


Owlcat Games


Owlcat Games

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone respected your authority everywhere you go? That’s the feeling you experience with Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader when you suddenly inherit the titular position. Everyone bows down to you and listens to your every word. The only problem is, you gain this position during a violent overthrow, leaving you to sort out the mess across the Empire.

Being a Rogue Trader has wonderful benefits, allowing you to travel across space with few interruptions. Choosing your class and having a variety of companions gives you access to lots of battle strategies. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of reading to do and it can be confusing for players not familiar with the Warhammer 40K universe. If you spend time learning as much as you can, you will enjoy the strategy & story blend that the game offers.

Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader begins on the ship of Theodora von Valencius, a prominent Rogue Trader. Your character is one of her successors but not first-in-line, with someone else being groomed for the role. Unfortunately, an attack on the Rogue Trader’s ship claims Theodora’s life as well as the lives of the other successors. With no one else available, you quickly take Theodora’s position as Rogue Trader to bring the responsible party to justice.

Suddenly being thrust into one of the most prominent positions leads to a lot of confusion but also lots of opportunities. You get to shape what kind of Rogue Trader you want to be, breaking down established norms or being arrogant. You have several belief systems you can follow that reinforce what you think and what path you want to pursue. These belief systems allow you to equip special equipment while affecting how your companions view you.

There are plenty of opportunities to role-play a character given your lofty position. Unlike games where you usually start at the bottom and work your way to the top, you are already royalty. Your conversation choices shape your personality as a Rogue Trader and the reactions of everyone around you. Given your position, what you say and how you act determine the short and long-term consequences in the future.

“It’s fun to roleplay a character who already starts as space royalty.”

It’s nice to have the freedom to shape who you want to be and see actual pushback. While people can support your actions, there are also people who disagree. It might be wrapped up in respectful words and tones but you can easily tell who isn’t happy. You can also intervene in situations that other RPGs wouldn’t let you investigate thanks to your authority. Being a Rogue Trader has its benefits and it’s fun to roleplay a character who already starts as space royalty.

Despite your status as space royalty, you must dive straight into conflict zones which are less than pleasant. The graphics do a fantastic job of showing the scars of conflict in the environment. Voice acting isn’t always present but you can feel the emotional weight behind the spoken words. Everything blends together to create an immersive experience that makes you feel like an actual space explorer.

Several companions accompany you on your journey for answers and assist you in combat. Many factions and individuals want the Rogue Trader gone because their presence is a nuisance. Your companions cover a variety of classes and can grow into different archetypes or evolved classes. You also encounter enough companions quickly to switch them out based on your preferences.

Every companion plays differently and has their own alignments just like other RPGs. The best part is that you can fully reset everyone’s stats and levels to reallocate them as you like. Instead of making irreversible mistakes that you can’t take back, you can freely experiment. This prevents you from being stuck with an unsuitable class or a skill that didn’t have the intended effect.

There are several romance options for your Rogue Trader and companion quests that you can pursue. Learning more about your companions fleshes them out, giving you insight into their goals and motivations. Customising them for the challenges ahead opens up a variety of battle strategies, letting you adapt to upcoming threats. Your crew aren’t static characters and it’s great to travel with a variety of opinions.

While it takes time to unlock, space exploration is one of the most exciting parts of the game. You can chart your own course and explore planets, setting up colonies to extract resources. Voidship battles open up and you can battle pirates or look for new trade routes. Exploration makes you feel like a true Rogue Trader and it’s exciting to see what’s in the new system you visit.

Combat is a challenge even on Normal difficulty, forcing you to strategise and watch enemy positions. Enemies often outnumber you or come with better equipment. Knowing your companions’ strengths and combos is essential to winning. Experimentation is necessary especially because unexpected events happen all the time.

Maybe your bullet trajectory goes off track and hits some cover. Enemies parry your physical attacks or dodge your bullets. You hit your veil limit and accidentally unleash something horrible. Good and bad events happen without warning, forcing you to adapt to the situation or take advantage of serendipitous opportunities. It keeps you on your toes and makes combat immersive.

The Warhammer 40K universe is large and there are tutorials that help you learn how to play. Unfortunately, there are a lot of concepts and terms that fly around that can be confusing for beginners. Even if you are a veteran of tactical RPGs, abilities and terminology aren’t always interchangeable. This means you are often reading through the lore or poring over combat terms to understand what is going on.

Veil skills work similarly to magic but have a considerable downside the more they are used. It’s easy to miss the threshold or forget about the drawbacks because it’s not often brought up. Wounds and exploits are also difficult concepts to understand because they aren’t easily seen on enemies.

The level of knowledge required presents a high learning curve and leads to lots of early mistakes. While adjusting to a game is normal, it’s not fun to spend most of Chapter 1 wondering what is going on. You might be confused about the importance of a Rogue Trader, who the villains are, and the different roles on a voidship. Most of this is essential information for understanding the events and it’s easy to get confused.

Navigating with the map is also difficult because mission objectives aren’t pointed out. It’s easy to review mission details but your map never indicates your objective locations. This often means running around until you find the objective which can happen by complete chance. It would be easier for players to mark objectives and important locations on the map. Instead, you must hope you stumble upon a location by complete chance and remember how you got there.

Despite its flaws, Warhammer 40000 Rogue Trader gives you lots of freedom to do what you want. Customising your characters for combat has never been easier and you can roleplay different personality types. Combat and exploration immerse you in the game, making it hard to disengage. If it wasn’t for the high learning curve and poor map system, being a Rogue Trader would be an amazing experience.




  • You can shape your personality through conversations
  • Combat and exploration are immersive experiences
  • Companions are unique and have good voice acting


  • There are several concepts and lore pieces you must understand
  • Maps are not very helpful

Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader does a great job of putting you in the shoes of space royalty. You travel around galaxies and explore new areas while addressing issues that plague your rule. Combat is strategic and encourages you to use the strengths of your companions. Exploring new galaxies and harvesting resources immerses you in the role of Rogue Trader, encouraging you to be the ruler you want to be. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of information to learn for players new to Warhammer 40K and the maps aren’t very helpful. But if you are willing to spend the time to learn and experiment, there’s a fun strategy RPG waiting to be explored.