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Review: W40K: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters | Great game that hides its beauty

Published: 09:55, 17 May 2022
Updated: 10:08, 17 May 2022
Complex Games
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters review
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters review

Complex Games took a titanic task upon themselves with the content of Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters and they duly delivered.

What you need to know

  • What is it? Turn-based tactics, in the spirit of XCOM
  • Reviewed on: PC - Ryzen 5 3600, Radeon RX 5700 XT, 16 GB RAM
  • Developer: Complex Games
  • Publisher: Frontier Foundry
  • Release date:  May 5, 2022
  • Available on: PC

Warhammer 40,000 games are a coin flip these days, with equal chances of getting a masterpiece and garbage you wish you never added to your library. Thankfully, Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters belongs to the first group as it offers beautiful storytelling, great graphics and even better gameplay. 

Most importantly, the game has a pretty deep process of unfolding each fight, providing a lot of replayability which is extremely handy because one playthrough will leave you wanting for more.

Story

Despite the achievements when it comes to graphics and gameplay, the most ambitious part of Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters is actually the story. We are taking control of a strike force in one of the most secretive organisations in the Imperium to take on a threat that is greater than any we've faced in previous W40K video games.

Incorporating a live Primarch, in an active role, is a challenge no other video game has taken up so far. The closest we got to was Battlefleet Gothic Armada which had a brief cameo in the form of a few lines of spoken text or the mobile card game, which was technically W30K. Here, we get to witness and battle an actual traitor Primarch in the grassroots level of a huge invasion by Nurgle.

Complex Games Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters Bring on the Moth Man

This story is a huge deal and Complex Games proved to be up to the challenge. What we get with Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters is an unexpectedly good storytelling experience with fantastic voice acting all around but it's hard not to mention Andy Serkis once again. Once the man's character appears, you know it by the voice and yet, it fits so well with the game that it doesn't take away from the immersion in the slightest.

The rest of the characters are also well written and played and my only complaint here would be the player's own dialogue with them aboard Baleful Edict. For some reason, the main three characters you work with will speak only one line out of their entire paragraphs, which can lead to a weird feeling of hearing disjointed sentences. In this case, it feels like it would be better if none were voiced at all.

Complex Games Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters To speak, or not to speak, that is the question

Gameplay

Gameplay in W40K: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters is a mix of fantastic vibes that make me want to play XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2 again as well as confusion over whether I want another run through Daemonhunters first.

Turn-based games are generally just classified as "XCOM but in setting" even though that description is often not accurate. Merely being turn-based is not enough to make a game feel like XCOM. When you take a similar UI, combat board, base rebuilding concept, cover mechanics, action camera and randomised but highly customisable soldiers that deploy on missions four at a time, that's when you get to call it an XCOM-like game.

Complex Games W40K: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters This definitely feels like XCOM, I promise

Daemonhunters does all these things and it really feels like XCOM in 40K setting at times, which is quite the homage to the original Chaos Gate - that game was an XCOM clone, almost 25 years ago. When you get such a set of similarities, you know it's not just a coincidence and you know the devs were looking to give those longtime fans something special. 

Oh, and it doesn't do diabolically cruel things like XCOM's frequent 95 per cent misses. Thank the Emperor this wasn't a source of inspiration for the devs.

Having tasted what Daemonhunters has to offer in terms of tactical possibilities that stem from the mix of the base building at your pace, progressing soldiers each on their own and then throwing them into randomised missions that get randomised further, I would say Complex Games achieved this goal as well. 

Complex Games Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters This guy's arm isn't a result of Habsburg-type gene roulette. He mutated mid-mission

Your soldiers aren't always recruited as rookies, you will get them at more advanced starting levels but that means they already had some skills invested. With the skills branching out in four different directions, this can either lead to you shuffling the deck in hopes of getting Knights that are more to your liking or adapting tactics in order to play with their strengths.

As such, each new recruit presents an opportunity for more variety and with each base upgrade or research, the replayability opportunities grow exponentially. Overall, the game's cohesive system of randomness has been interwoven in such an impressive manner that new playthroughs are highly likely to be seamless but fresh experiences, despite going through the same story.

Action camera, the thing that is absent from so many so-called XCOM-like games, is present in Daemonhunters. It is done very well but the game does it too much sometimes. The whole process of "slow-mo, zoom in, screen shake, zoom out" gets old quickly when it happens on every grenade toss and every door my Knights kick down.

Complex Games Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters Iolanthus looks like he's about to tell Superman he's not brave

Thankfully, this is only the default setting, which you can modify in options all the way to turning it off entirely if you want. I would suggest just reducing the frequency of the action camera though, the game is pretty cinematic and it adds to the flavour.

On the side of things that I didn't particularly like would be the UI. This thing dominates so much of the screen that it obfuscates Daemonhunters' qualities fairly often. To make matters worse, despite taking up so much of the screen, some crucial information will be hidden from plain sight. For example, you don't see how many bullets your Knights have before needing to reload, until you click on the fire button. 

Complex Games Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters UI off

There are several other examples where UI doesn't do its work while gobbling up visual resources but in my opinion, the most egregious part about the whole thing is that it makes Daemonhunters look like a mobile game at first glance, despite having such beautiful graphics. Unlike the action camera, there is no way to modify the UI size.

Complex Games Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters UI on

Graphics

Complex Games were bold in more ways than just featuring a traitor Primarch in their game. While the most successful W40K games have attempts at realistic graphics as a common denominator in order to pain the image of the grimdark future of this universe, Daemonhunters takes up a different art style and succeeds.

As you'll probably notice during dialogues and briefings, Daemonhunters leans into the style similar to XCOM: Enemy Unknown where the characters are halfway between cartoonish and realistic. During the stage where all we got to judge from were screenshots and promotional videos, I had doubts over the choice of the style but the moment I started interacting with these characters, I saw I didn't give Complex Games the benefit of the doubt they were clearly due.

Complex Games Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters Looking great without desperately clinging to realistic graphics type

These devs created a more vibrant visualisation of environments suffering from Nurgle's plagues and various characters from the universe and it all felt so clearly 40K. At no point during gameplay did I stop to think "what's this Fortnite man doing here?", which was often the case with video games over the past few years.

To compound the success of the different but beautiful art style, Daemonhunters is a well-optimised title. It's the first one that didn't try its best to cook my hardware in what became a long line of games that I reviewed recently as even the CPU fan kept quiet.

I did notice people complaining about performance issues across various forums and social media but with the hardware listed above, I didn't encounter a single hiccup during the Grey Knights versus Mortarion grudge match.

Conclusion

Warhammer 40K: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters is a triumph in more ways than one as it successfully introduced a new way to look at the war-torn universe, provided immense replayability, brought forth a Primarch for an epic showdown and all of that happened with a price tag that is lower than that of AAA games .

I can't stress enough how big of a deal it was for Daemonhunters to feature Mortarion so prominently. This meant the game had to tread the lore line extremely carefully, with the eyes of fans and Games Workshop fixed on it, which undoubtedly left the team at Complex Games with a significant load of pressure.

Complex Games Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters To our knowledge, no one exploded from sheer pressure during the development of Daemonhunters

Happy endings are not exactly a theme in the 40K universe but it looks like the process of delivering this game had one. Complex Games successfully worked through the pressure to deliver an unforgettable Grey Knight escapade and provided 40K fans with another game in the "Good" column.

If I had a custom rating sticker, I would rate W40K: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters bold and beautiful.


We would like to extend thanks to Heaven Media for providing the review key.

The Good

  • Beautiful art style
  • Several layers of randomisation for better replayability
  • Fun soldier progression
  • Deliciously detailed Grey Knight models
  • Great story
  • Impeccable voice acting
  • Good optimisation

The Bad

  • Partially voiced dialogue sounds disjointed
  • Massive UI elements, still hide some details
9/10

Our Rating

Excellent

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