It's no secret that, as with RPGs, modern strategy games trace their roots back to the tabletop. And if there's one wargame that can truly be called genre-defining, it'd have to be Warhammer 40,000. That's why it's almost poetic that Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters is seeing so many comparisons to XCOM.
In a way, it's like we've come full-circle.
Space Marines, Inquisitors, and The Warp: a brief primer
Set in the grim darkness of the far future, Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters puts you in command of a squad of Grey Knights, one of the most memorable Space Marine chapters.
Most Space Marines are super soldiers created from genetically-engineered demigods known as Primarchs. These Primarchs, in turn, were created from the DNA of the God Emperor of Man — the most powerful human being to have ever existed, now little more than a living corpse. The Grey Knights break the mold in a few ways:
- They have no Primarch. Their genes derive directly from the Emperor himself.
- Officially, the Chapter does not exist. All but a select few believe them to be a myth.
- They embrace the powers of The Warp, yet somehow not one of their number has ever been corrupted by it.
- They do not follow the tenets and doctrines outlined in the Codex Astartes.
- They almost exclusively hunt daemons, working as part of The Inquisition to do so.
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters releases on May 5, 2022, on PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store. Preorders start at £34.99/$44.99/€44.99
The Warp is an alternate dimension composed entirely of psychic energy, and home to the terrifyingly powerful Chaos Gods. These malevolent extradimensional entities are a perpetual corruptive influence upon sentient life, and are responsible for the creation of daemons.
The Inquisition, meanwhile, is functionally an intergalactic intelligence agency. Its personnel, known as Inquisitors, are equal parts secret agent and secret police. They spend their lives hunting down anything they deem a threat to the Imperium of Man — through what constitutes a 'threat' can range from a daemonic incursion to a colonist with the wrong opinion.
Yeah, Inquisitors aren't exactly nice people. Unfortunately, they're also one of the highest authorities in the Imperium, and even Space Marines must defer to their command. When they say jump, the only non-heretical response is obedience.
It's one such agent that kicks off the narrative of Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters.
In the wrong place at the right time
In the wake of a successful mission, you were promoted to acting commander of your ship, The Baleful Edict. Reparations to return to headquarters were nearly complete. Then an unexpected visitor turned up.
Now you have new orders. Though supplies are running low and The Baleful Edict is in desperate need of repair, Vakir has directed you to the nearby Tyrtaeus sector. There, a new threat is brewing, a supernatural plague known as the Bloom which is already consuming entire worlds.
Those of you who are fans of Warhammer 40,000 probably already see where this is going. Nurgle, the Chaos God of disease and decay, has engineered a powerful new weapon. And if you don't stop it here, there's no telling how far it may spread — or how much damage it will do.
Even for a well-supplied squadron of Grey Knights, this would be no simple feat. To help the Bloom spread and ensure it can continue to infect and mutate, the Plaguefather has deployed his own forces. You'll have to contend with everything from vile Plague Marines to towering Greater Daemons, eventually going toe to toe with Nurgle's greatest champion: Primarch of the Death Guard, Mortarion.
The odds are stacked against you and your Grey Knights, and victory is far from guaranteed. But that's nothing new. This is your war to fight, just as you've fought countless times before.
You are the hammer
Calling The Baleful Edict a ship is like calling Australia an island. The colossal vessel is equal parts laboratory, armory, and war room. It will serve as your base of operations for the entirety of Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters.
The Strategium contains the ship's war room and barracks. The former is where you'll monitor and direct your efforts to curb Nurgle's plague. The latter, meanwhile, is where you'll customize each of your Grey Knights, managing their cosmetics, equipment, and upgrades.
At the start, you'll have four basic classes to choose from, each with its own massive talent tree:
- Justicars are your tanks, frontline warriors who charge fearlessly into the fray.
- Interceptors are all about speed and mobility, and they can teleport around the map during combat missions.
- Purgators are devastating heavy weapons specialists.
- Apothecaries provide healing and support for their Battle-Brothers.
Deeper into the game, four advanced classes will become available:
- Clad in terminator power armor, the Paladin is a melee powerhouse, his skill with weaponry allowing him to carve a swathe through Nurgle's armies.
- The Chaplain utters prayers and litanies to buff his allies, giving them the edge they need to face even the most impossible odds.
- The Librarian is a potent psyker that can decimate a battlefield, destroying daemons with the very energies that created them.
- The Purifier is pretty much "kill it with fire" personified, burning away Nurgle's corruption with a powerful flamethrower.
Within the armory, you can unlock new weapons and war gear for your marines. Virtually every piece of equipment present in the Grey Knights Codex is accessible here, even further expanding the endless customization options for your marines.
Finally, the Libris Malleus is where you'll go to research the Bloom, developing new psychic abilities and tools to help you better combat it.
To say that your mission is unenviable would be putting it lightly. Purging the Bloom from one world can mean it'll grow stronger in another. This means new enemy types, additional environmental mutations, a higher chance of Warp Surges, random events with the capacity to empower your enemies, debilitate your allies, and more.
The good news is that you'll never be taken by surprise. Prior to the start of each mission, you'll be able to peruse a comprehensive dossier on the planet. This details pretty much everything you need to know — enemy forces, level of corruption, the likelihood of a Warp Surge, and the specific strain of the Bloom you're dealing with.
You can also select extra challenges and objectives prior to missions, known as Glorious Deeds, for additional rewards.
It's not just the Bloom you'll have to consider, either. You'll also have to balance tensions between Vakir and your crew – making a decision that upsets one might please another, temporarily affecting the various progression systems across the Baleful Edict. These interactions don't shift the course of the story, but they represent yet another vital element in the game's strategy layer.
The main reason to engage with your crew, though, is to learn more about your mission and how it fits into the wider fiction of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. See, Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters is as much a narrative work as it is a strategy game, with a story penned by New York Times bestselling Black Library author Aaron Dembski-Bowden. Ensuring these characters felt authentic was a priority for the team at Complex Games.
Into the fray
Combat is where Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters really shines. Though capable at range, Grey Knights are most comfortable getting up close and personal — something which is portrayed magnificently in game. Watching a Paladin smash through a wall to crush a demon into a paste will never stop being awe-inspiring.
Speaking of walls, a lot of in-game terrain is destructible. Want to crush a Plague Marine beneath a statue? You can do that.
Want to drop a crane on a group of Poxwalkers? It's a valid strategy.
Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters also features a precision targeting system that allows you to choose how and where you'll strike an enemy. Unsurprisingly, melee combat is where this system shows its teeth. Any unit in melee range of a stunned opponent can target specific weak points — hitting one spot might hobble them while striking another could destroy their weaponry.
The most notable thing about the game's approach to combat, however, is that it mostly does away with RNG. Your units will never miss a shot, but they'll occasionally land a critical hit. It's heartening news for anyone who found themselves frustrated by the ruthless randomness of titles like XCOM.
It also makes sense in-universe. Grey Knights are the best of the best, some of the most powerful, best-trained, and most-disciplined soldiers humanity has ever seen. Seeing one whiff of an attack would practically be immersion-breaking.
Purify the plague, purge the daemonic
Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters has all the makings of an instant classic. Cinematic, strategic combat, an excellent story, and endless customization. Whether you're a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe or simply a strategy buff, we think it's safe to say that this one is a must-buy.
Speaking of which, if you pre-order the game from Steam or the Epic Games Store, you'll gain access to two exclusive in-game items, powerful relics straight from the hallowed vaults of the Grey Knights' citadel.
- Domina Liber Daemonica. An ancient tome containing some of the most powerful prayers, litanies, battle rituals, and words of banishment known to humanity. Wielders of this relic can send daemons howling back to the warp with a single utterance.
- Crys’yllix Daemon Hammer. The first Nemesis Daemon Hammer ever created, a centuries-old weapon once used to shatter the Lord of Change Crys’yllix.
Additionally, if you choose to preorder the Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters – Castellan Champion Edition, the legendary Castellan Garran Crowe will join your squadron partway through the story. Wielding the infamous Black Blade of Antwyr, Crowe is subject to several special in-game rules. This version also includes the original soundtrack, composed by Dawn of War 2 veteran Doyle W. Donehoo.
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters releases on May 5, 2022, on PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store. Preorders start at £34.99/$44.99/€44.99.