Warhammer 40,000 Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters looks a bit fancier than what you might expect in the 41st millennium but preserves the overall tone of the grimdark future, presenting players with engaging combat and story in the meantime.
Warhammer 40K games tend to have elements that radiate the vibe of brutal military machinery all over the place - from the speech, over the art style and eventually the UI. After all, the setting demands it in order to sell the player on the idea of a bleak future where war and fanaticism are all that most creatures know in the entirety of their lives.
Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters does not follow all these rules but still manages to stay true to the 40K setting while showcasing the Grey Knights' superior equipment and training through little facts that you absorb while playing the game instead of just throwing up expositional dialogue and being done with it.
Our time with the preview build of W40K: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters quickly alleviated worries that this wouldn't feel like a true 40K game and ushered a sense of security that the full game will be something you wouldn't want to miss out on.
Black Carapace, blue interface
As weird as it might seem to start the impressions with the interface, it is the first thing that will catch one's attention. The universe of 40K is dark, brooding, depressive and features all kinds of colours as long as they aren't vibrant.
Daemonhunters breaks this mould with bright blue and green colours that are sometimes almost neon-like. The blue is constantly around as it's the colour of your interface and is probably the thing that will throw off some enthusiasts as something that looks too cheerful for 40K.
Granted, Grey Knights often use Power Weapons of the same colour and it's a similar shade to that of their visors but it remains to be seen if choosing this to be the dominant shade throughout the game was for the best. That said, I didn't check the options during the preview session and I'm not sure whether we are able to customise the UI.
Similarly, there is an animation of pulsating growths on the side of the screen when it's the enemies' turn and while this is on-topic 100 per cent of the time, a player can end up feeling the interface is dominating the screen at the expense of the action.
Imperium worlds, now Nurgle's
While the shiny interface might give you a reason to worry about the game being true to the dark universe, you need to look no further than the first seconds of gameplay. As soon as I got to utilise your Grey Knights, all the grimdark elements were on full display.
Nurgle is taking over entire worlds with gross blooms and his minions are all over the place. Disgusting disfigurements and horrendous gore are there for the player to witness, instantly vaporising any fears you might have about this being a "lighthearted" version of a 40K game.
Given Nurgle's status, we are not foolishly flailing puny weapons at the granddaddy himself but that doesn't leave the battlefield devoid of significant enemies. There are several champions that serve as in-game bosses and when the devs said they can hurl and crush your knights, it was no joke.
The boss fight I had access to saw one of these champions slapping my knights all over the battlefield while they were scrambling to disable sources of his power and eventually prevail. It truly felt like a battle against a force of nature where wit and teamwork had to be used to the fullest in order to prevail.
When there are no champions around, you are on a timer to complete each mission. Technically, you don't fail when the timer fills up, it's just that enemies become more powerful or your knights might get nerfed in some way, giving that sense of urgency without causing an anxiety crisis.
Ambition, as dangerous as Chaos itself
Normally, Grey Knights have missions that call for enemies more formidable than mere cultists but this time around, they are doing an inquisitor's bidding.
This unforeseen arrival created a triangle of internal struggle for influence. You, the commander, are responsible for coordinating the mission and your word is law but you are still beholden the Ordo Maleum and thus, to the inquisitor's instructions. Besides her, there is a Tech-Priest that has her own mind about certain things and would like to influence your decisions otherwise while Brother Ectar is your reliable Grey Knight ally.
With this cast of characters, we are thrown in a bit of an intrigue between the missions which serves to sprinkle up the multi-layered experience that will have you discovering new things for a long time.
Aegis armour and the other cool toys
These "new things" are mostly weapons and armour. In the way of weapons, there are multiple types to use with their own advantages and drawbacks and the system was too deep for me to analyze in such a short time. From what I did see, the intention was to make the player feel like they are in a ball pit - so many things to pick up and enjoy but you really just want to dive into them.
Meanwhile, the armour pieces are customisable for cosmetic purposes only and frankly, it works extremely well. It was already evident the game was not being made by random people who got stuck with a 40K title but rather enthusiasts who know and love what they are working on. As such, the customisation is tasteful and basically offers variations of several parts of the Aegis that are true to the setting. You will not run into anything akin to modern game skins that look like you gave spray paint to a toddler.
Besides the UI peeves I ran into, W40K: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters had a lot of good to offer in the short amount of time I spent with it. If you're a fan of the universe and are hyped for the next big video game release, you are right to be. I know I am and had it not been for another game I'm eagerly awaiting in late April, May 5, 2022, would seem extremely far away at this point in time.
From what I could see so far, Daemonhunters is truly worthy of being the first 40K video game where we have a proper brush with a traitorous Primarch