Rogue Trader Beta- Goonhammer’s Impressions

It’s a busy time for video games here at the Goonhammer offices, with the recent Summer Games Showcase and release of Diablo IV we’ve got enough video games around here to melt our brains into a nice, yogurt texture. Like ma’ and pa’ always warned us about.

But I guess it’s not enough video games for us. We crave more. And what better way to get more games in than trying out the beta for the highly anticipated release of Rogue Trader by Owlcat games? 

We gave our impressions of the alpha build that Owlcat provided for us a few months ago, and Owlcat was once again kind enough to provide us with a few keys so we could get our hands on the game and write about it. After getting what time with it we could, a few of the writers here around Goonhammer have come together with their thoughts and impressions based on what they could play.


I wasn’t able to play as much this time around as compared to the last time when I gave my impressions of the alpha version of this game, but what I did play was something very noticeably absent from the alpha build that Owlcat provided for players: a proper start at the beginning, at the prologue with a more in depth character creation.

My finished Character, in all their glory. Credit: Owlcat Games

The character creation was a pleasant surprise. Last time, I played as the gallant premade Rogue Trader, Rogue Trader, who was based on one of a few archetypes and dropped off about halfway through progression. So it was neat to see how the game was going to play closer to the midgame, it felt like jumping into the deep end of the pool. Now, we get a character creator with a few more options that starts properly from level one. There’s already neat stuff in this beta state too that gives some replayability: different backgrounds and homeworlds aren’t just for backstory purposes, but provide tangible stat improvements and drawbacks, as well as special abilities tied to them. In this example, my Rogue Trader hailed from a Forge World, and thus had access to a special charge ability with his mechanically enhanced legs. Some of the backgrounds, classes, and homeworlds were still incomplete in this build, but thats about expected, and the game is kind enough to let the player know what content is incomplete if they wanted to spend more time in the beta rather than just get their feet wet, like I did.

I want to give some special mention to the character portraits you can select from at the start. Most of them are tied to a background of some sort, between both genders, but they absolutely kick ass. Owlcat’s art department has done a stellar job in their past pathfinder games, and they came to the 40k universe with the same energy. The biggest compliment I can give to the art direction in these character portraits is that they’re so good that they add replay value to the game, because I want to go back and play as some of the characters provided in this art.

Credit: Owlcat Games

The prologue itself starts aboard a Rogue Trader ship, where you are brought on to the ship as a possible heir of this Rogue Trader dynasty having your mettle tested. The ship design itself is beautiful and oozes with atmosphere, carried by a really strong musical score that reminds me a bit of the Mechanicus soundtrack. There’s very little time to explore this ship and meet its inhabitants though, as things go wrong within the first few minutes of playing the beta.

Combat still feels great here, though I do miss all of my midgame options available to me as I make my desperate fights through Chaos Cultists. Keeping things always turn based is a major plus for me personally, and just like with the alpha build of the game the combat is very deep and enjoyable to play. My only criticism here is that I think they added a slow-mo effect on death when you defeat enemies now, which threw me for a loop a bit as I thought something was wrong with my machine. But then it kept happening, which is when I realized it wasn’t my machine at all. This slow-mo effect is a little choppy still on frames, but I imagine that will get ironed out when the game gets it’s full release.

Owlcat nailed Meltaguns though. Credit: Owlcat Games

I’m impressed with the size of the beta here. The Prologue through Act 3 are playable here in this version of the game, which represents a whole ton of content to sink your teeth into if you are chomping at the bit for sweet sweet space swashbuckling goodness in the 41st millennium. While I wasn’t able to see all that content myself, I can’t wait to explore it soon.  


Those already familiar with Owlcat Games’ oeuvre already know what to expect when coming into a game like Rogue Trader: a competent cRPG in a similar vein to their successful Pathfinder properties, draped in the skin of one of the biggest IPs on the planet right now. There’s plenty here to scratch your RPG itch, stats, stats, and more stats, with the constant spectre of choice at leveling up time. Do you want to simply raise the weapon skill of your companion, or might it be more useful to expand their knowledge of the Imperium, in case there’s a relevant lore skill check somewhere down the line? The kernel of a good RPG experience is this feeling of choice, even if that choice is sometimes an illusion.

Rogue Trader’s beginning is certainly linear, but I never found myself feeling railroaded down a certain path, the developers allowing ample room for players to experiment with cat skinning techniques. As far as combat goes, it’s a bit XCOM-y in part, though there are some very frustrating parts, it’s very unclear how the computer calculates line of sight, so you’ll find yourself wondering why on earth you can’t shoot the enemy that appears to be in full view, but is on some stairs and therefore you can’t “really” see them at all. Ship combat is… weird, it works but feels like it needs a lot more polish. A system where you’re mostly trying to maneuver your ship in such a way that your guns are pointing in the right direction might feel very realistic, but I wouldn’t call it “fun”. 

Credit: Owlcat Games

The characters are engaging and smartly written, each of them with their own quirkinesses and personalities, that never feel paint-by-numbers or cliche. I’ve played for about 24 hours and I’ve unlocked all but one of the companions, here’s a run-down of who they are:
Abelard is the Seneschal of your predecessor, he’s a classic stick-up-the-arse naval officer, he’s a constant source of both advice and admonishment, in combat he’s a Fighter archetype, best suited for getting stuck in.

Argenta is an Adepta Sororitas of an Order Pronatus, originally assigned to guard a minor relic on a backwater planet in the Rogue Trader’s demesne. She’s as zealous as you’d expect her to be, unflinching and merciless. In combat she’s a Marksman archetype, starting out with a strong boltgun.

Credit: Owlcat Games

Idira is an unsanctioned psyker and former pet of the previous Trader, her status and vulnerability to the warp cause her no end of grief. in contrast to most of the other characters, she’s more of a working class slum-dweller, and speaks in a more colloquial style. In combat, Idira is an Adept archetype, with a heavy focus on psychic powers, letting her cast various spells from Chain Lightning to Life Drain. Adept characters can also inflict debuffs on enemies by studying them, and then using the Expose Weakness skill.

Pasqal is an Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator, and is about as offputting as you’d expect him to be, often chittering away in Binharic and uttering strange proclamations. In combat he’s also an Adept archetype, but his unique body allows him to do cool things like one-hand a whole plasma gun with mechadendrites, while wielding his huge axe with the other slot, and as such he’s the only character that doesn’t get a second loadout slot. 

Heinrix is an Inquisition interrogator, and in a way his character is a mirror of Idira’s, she the unsanctioned psyker, prone to bursts of damaging emotion, he the sanctioned, controlled psyker, in total command of his ability. His presence on your ship is an unnerving one, the Rogue Trader has practically unlimited personal power, but are you sure you want to be hanging out with that Xenos when there’s a member of the Space Stasi on your bridge?

Credit: Owlcat Games

In battle, Heinrix is another Fighter archetype, albeit with a slight difference, he’s able to wield a Grey Knights-style Force Blade, a formidable weapon that allows him to inflict psychic damage alongside the normal weapon damage.

Cassia is a member of the Navis Nobilite, one of the Navigators that guide a ship through the warp. Her character is a fun mix of noble lady, innocent waif, horror movie child, and weapon of mass destruction. In one instance we are told that she spoke harshly to a crewman, who then went to his quarters and killed his entire family before dying by suicide. When pressed, she reveals that she was upset by the colour leaking from the man, and merely told him to “lighten his burden”, and that she had wondered why he never came back. Creepy.

In combat, Cassia is a Leader archetype, allowing her to buff other characters to greater heights of performance. In addition to that, she’s got a very damaging cone AoE attack from her third eye that lays waste to entire areas of the combat zone.

Credit: Owlcat Games

Jae is a smuggler, dealer in xenotech artefacts, criminal, general ne’er-do-well that joins the party purely for her own advancement. Of all the characters, she’s probably the most laid back and fun, enjoying the finer things in life. Over the course of your association, it’s revealed that she was a minor daughter of a noble who struck out on her own to find her own fortunes amid the stars. The way she speaks is peppered with words that come from Arabic, coupled with a general MENA style, it’s clear that Jae is supposed to be “exotic” in comparison to the other more Brit-American characters.

In combat, Jae is a Leader archetype, like Cassia, but what sets her apart is her ability to use Xenos weaponry, like Aeldari chainswords, Shuriken Catapults, and Drukhari Splinter Pistols.

Yrilet is an Aeldari Ranger, the only non-human in the player’s orbit, and she’s as strange and tormented as you’d expect, joining your party after an attempted Eldar-orchestrated uprising reveals a Slaaneshi cult threatening to corrupt one of your valuable agri-planets. One thing that tickles me about her character is how the common folk respond to her, believing her to be a particularly strange mutant, rather than a Xenos that a human is really not supposed to be palling around with!

In combat, Yrilet is surprisingly not a Marksman archetype, rather another Adept class that happens to use an Aeldari sniper rifle to wreck enemies from afar.

Credit: Owlcat Games

All in all, I’m very excited to see how the full release will look!


If you’ve played Owlcat’s pathfinder games you’ve got a good idea of what to expect here: A party driven RPG with a nod to Black Isle mechanics with a quirky sense of humor and some pretty smart writing. This gives more of an impression of being like Fallout than Baldur’s Gate with the smaller party size and turn based, grid style gameplay. It felt a bit like modern XCom as well, being grid based and heavily focused on cover, ignoring it at your peril.

Utilizing the Rogue Trader system is going to take some getting used to, Dungeons and Dragons and by extension Pathfinder are so baked into the average gamer’s mindset at this point that tackling them as a video game is pretty practical – intuitive even. The game uses the much less well known Rogue Trader system based on the much more popular Dark Heresy but in order to not ridiculously overwhelm you with choice, has been streamlined into picking sets of feats and skill ups at each level up. It ends up working mechanically very similarly, but character progression is very different. It felt very alien to me and will take some time to get up to speed on in the full version. That said, it was refreshing to tackle something that actually felt new mechanically.

Credit: Owlcat Games

From a story standpoint, coming to an Owlcat Game for a world I’m much more familiar with is certainly an odd experience. While I’ve played Owlcat’s Pathfinder games, I was not very familiar with the world of Pathfinder so the text dumps and highlighted proper nouns were very much appreciated. This game continues that tradition, though the lore dumps are a bit shorter. I assume most of the proper noun lore entries are placeholders, for now. What made it feel so odd was seeing these in a universe I was distinctly familiar with and simultaneously felt like it was agonizingly long and yet not enlightening at all. It will be very interesting to see how someone not familiar with 40k feels in this game.

The actual plot opens with some real oomph. The writers devised a pretty clever way of letting you play almost any 40k archetype you can think of as far as it concerns  “normal humans”. Ministorum priest, Astra Telepathica Psyker or Astra Militarum Commissar are all on the table. As the long distant cousin Xth removed from the Rogue Trader who starts the adventure, it probably took a lot of back and forth to decide how exactly character creation would work so good job on the writers for working that one out. Things get moving real quick after the initial text dump and I also give the writers a lot of credit for exploring morality in the 40k universe – how do you give players choice in a fascist theocracy which not only encourages, but mandates cruelty for failure and difference? The game doesn’t shy away from it, but does let you approach your choices as pragmatism rather than soft heartedness. An early choice involves punishing your officers who were derelict in their duty, and the “good” option is that punishing a bunch of officers after an initial crisis is a waste of resources.

Credit: Owlcat Games

This does extend to the party members who I have to actually argue feel a bit bland on the surface. Again, fascist theocracy that discourages self expression, but I expect that to change further into the game as you (inevitably) tackle their side stories.

Overall, very excited for the game. It’s naturally difficult to go into specifics without spoiling things but as someone who has been very grateful for the isometric RPG renaissance, this did not disappoint and having it in one of the most rich and beloved settings I can think of is a huge boon in its favor.

Thank you again, Owlcat Games, for providing us with keys for these impressions. We look forward to providing more coverage of Rogue Trader here on Goonhammer! And if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at