As GameHype’s resident Table Top gaming nerd and Warhammer geek I was of course given the duty of reviewing Warhammer 40k Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters  when a review code was given to us. Bless the Omnissiah, but did the game from Complex Games and published by Frontier Foundry please the machine spirit of my Xbox Series X or enrage it?

Admit it, they are the coolest looking marines!

For some background, in Daemonhunters you’re the commander in the Grey Knights, the near mythical chapter of space marines who’s calling is to hunt down the hideous warpspawn that dare trespass in the Emperor’s realm. You’ll do this in a turn based tactical game. A genre that is pretty much defined by the XCOM franchise. 

This isn’t Xcom kids, in fact it’s as if Chaosgate decided it wanted to be played as if the player also “knows no fear”. Sitting back and being cautious and tactical looks like heretical hesitation to a Spacemarine. Sitting back will have you drowning in foes and quitting in frustration (not that I, a loyal servant of the Emperor did such a thing…okay, fine, I did.). This is due to the games “Bloom rises” and “Warp Surges” mechanics. Essentially as the levels unfold the level of pestilence increases, when it fills up, the grandfather blesses your enemies, sometimes with reinforcements, sometimes with mutations and sometimes with debuffs on your characters. This ticking diseased ridden clock really does push you to get things resolved quickly as some of Nurgles blessings can really tip the odds massively out of your favour. 

Die Traitor

Your Knights are obviously knocked down when the run out of HP, but each Knight has a resiliency stat, which dictates how many times he can be knocked out before his duty finally ends with his death. Knights can also sustain injuries which will reduce you effectiveness and take in game time to heal. Taking time to heal is often a luxury you can’t afford as the bloom spreads claiming more imperial worlds as the game clock ticks over. Not to mention that you have to check in with Grandmaster Kai everyone and then, if you know who that is great, if you don’t, he’s essentially the assistant manager, the actual master of the Grey Knights is running around the warp, but if we go down that branch of the web way this review will just turn into me hating on Matt Ward (yes, my Templar bias is showing). 

This difficulty is deliberate, but all these mechanics are so poorly explained by the game that it wasn’t long before I was out of my depth and frustrated to the degree that I lowered the difficulty from Standard to Merciful (Easy) which you can’t do once you’ve started a campaign, so it meant replaying a good chunk of the early game. Once I understood everything Merciful became far too easy. If you’re going to play this game, I’d recommend a how to play guide first, and playing on standard once you fully understand the mechanics. 

Craftworlds & Daemon Princes

In terms of Gameplay other than warp surges and it’s desire for you to play aggressively (which actually makes you feel like you’re in command of space marines) it plays like a standard entry to the genre. It’s fun but doesn’t really do much that I’d call new and exciting. 

Having said that, Warhammer 40k Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters has two things that really set it apart from the seemingly same old same old takes on the genre, one of these is great, the other not so much. 

The 41st Millennium is a grim dark place but visually Warhammer 40k Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters  is not. It’s colourful to an almost cartoonish degree and it was off putting almost immediately. I dare say had I not be been assigned this mission by GameHype’s own administratum I would have stopped playing near the end of the tutorial, so ridiculous did the bloodthirster look. It’s not just the blood gods daemons that get a rough time of things visually, the main foes you’ll encounter are that of the plague god. I’ll admit that 40k over the years has never really been all that consistent and Warhammer itself has been known to look gaudy (grinning nagash and goblin green bases anyone?). However, the phrase Grim Dark is now so synonymous with 40k that the bright and strong colour pallet and almost caricature enemy models were so distracting I almost didn’t want to play. Having said that, anything in power armour looks great, but I think thats mostly down to A, how do you really mess up a Space Marine and B, we all know how fiercely GW protect their big boys. 

It’s so gaudy and daft looking.

I will say that the levels look fantastic, each and every location looks like it could be the best gaming board you’ve ever seen, in fact there are a few locations from the game I’ll be trying to replicate on my own table top. 

The movement animations and traversal in general are wonderful to, they perfectly encapsulate both the power and speed of a space marine, especially as you tear through bits of the environment smashing through blast doors to purge the unclean. Although this is somewhat damped when you see a mere human do the same thing your knight in Termi armour just did, but cool of cool, there’s a reason it’s a rule. 

Now on to the reason you need to play Warhammer 40k Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters, the writing. Oh by the golden throne do complex games ‘get’ 40k! The main story could be a table top campaign that I’d gladly roll dice through, I’m not going to spoil any details here, but it made me miss when Games Workshop would run national campaigns and stores would send in battle results to inform the narrative. If the next Crusade book was the same plot as Daemonhunters, GW would have my money and I’ve already played it. 

While trying to remain spoiler free for the main plot, I will go into a little it of details about it’s cast, not the Knights you’ll command mind you, they are great, and you’ll get attached to them, but thats more because of your experiences with them then any actual narrative attached to them. It’s the ‘main cast’ that really stand out while playing. You, well, you’re the commander who doesn’t really have much of a voice, which is no bad thing as you’re meant to feel like it’s you who’s in command.

We all recognise those pipes!

Helping you out with command is Ectar, a Grey Knight of distinguished vintage (reasons for him not assuming command will be discovered), he essentially acts as an advisor and keeps you steeped in the traditions of the Grey Knights and he’s not shy about advising you that such things should priority. Battling Ectars patience and tolerance for all things bordering the heretical is Vakir, Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus, dedicated, driven and open to using almost any means to achieve her goal she’ll often push you to get things done regardless of anyone else’s feelings. Feelings are probably the wrong word for the final character of the trio, Lunete, a Tech-Priest of the Adeptus Mechanicus. I have no love for the cog lovers of mars but damm did Lunete make an impression, she’s fantastic, especially when she’s putting Ectar and Vakir in their places as the pair squabble. 

If this reads like the narrative and characters are the main reason to play Warhammer 40k Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters, that’s because they are. 40k isn’t shy of tactical games, there are so many I’m not even going to name them, but they are all out there competing for attention. I actually thing GW should slow down with the licensing a little to be honest and it’s getting easy to dismiss the releases, which is something I very nearly did with Daemonhunters.

Chibi Inquisitor?