PREVIEW: ‘Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters’ Delivers Grim Tactics

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Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters Preview

Games Workshop has been very liberal, licensing out Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 (Warhammer 40k) for video game adaptations. These games have covered the entire spectrum of final quality, from the fantastic strategy sims of the Total War: Warhammer series and horde-based chaos of Vermintide to a slew of less successful mobile titles. One of the newest titles just over the horizon is Warhammer 40k: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters

Developed by Complex Games and published by Frontier Foundry, Daemonhunters is a long-awaited sequel to the 1998 original. The game seeks to deliver a high-stakes tactical experience that puts you in control of an elite team of Space Marines tasked with fighting a new plague from the forces of Chaos known as the Bloom, and I was lucky enough to get an early look at the title. 

The preview began with a tour of the strike cruiser that serves as the player’s home base. The ship is as impressive looking as any vehicle in the setting, but it is in rough shape at the start of the game. That’s because your team of marines just finished a mission and was on their way back home to resupply and get repairs before a superior boarded their ship and told them they were being assigned to another mission. This means that as you play through the game, you’ll have to manage your resources to make field repairs to your ship’s systems, upgrade the broken gear your marines are working with, and conduct research to try figuring out what the Bloom actually is and how to stop its spread. 

To get these resources, you have to complete missions on various planets across the solar system where the Bloom originated. There are a handful of planets to visit during a playthrough, and repeat missions on them will never be quite the same, as their environments dynamically react to variables like how infected they are with the Bloom and what strain of Bloom is present there. These missions also have a variety of objectives while also being subject to randomized events that help keep you on your toes as you never know when enemies will appear to flank you or a strong mini-boss will appear. 

To embark on these missions, you’ll assemble a team of four Grey Knights. Like many games in this genre, each character can permanently die, be injured, heal at the base, and be fully customized. You’ll also have to assign each of your soldiers with one of the game’s four base classes or four advanced classes that you have to unlock via research and kit them out accordingly with armor, weapons, and skills as they level up. 

After being shown the preparation that goes into a mission, the developers were finally ready to give a look at how a mission tends to play out. The most apparent comparison for Daemonhunters is the modern XCOM titles that have stripped back the resource management a bit in favor of more personal missions with a cinematic presentation. Daemonhunters is presented similarly, although there are some significant differences between the two. 

Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters Preview

The most readily apparent difference is the speed of combat. The grey knights in the demo made quick work of their opponents but were drastically outnumbered the entire time. This makes a lot of sense with Daemonhunters’ setting. Where XCOM has you controlling humanity on its last desperate stand, Daemonhunters puts you in control of the best soldiers from a fearsome culture that only exists to produce proficient murder machines. 

This is also present in the game’s apparent focus on melee combat and away from cover. Of course, you can still place soldiers in cover and will want to throughout your mission. Still, the demo made being caught out of cover not seem nearly as damning as it is in other titles in this genre, mainly because so many of the troops can only attack in melee range. 

Its melee combat is also augmented by its original precision targeting mode. This mode activates whenever you attack an enemy that has been stunned or get a critical hit. The camera zooms in when this is done, and time slows down as you are presented with three weak points to hit. Each weak point has a unique debuff for the enemy, such as bleed damage that will hurt them over time, decreased accuracy, or halving their movement speed. If they are close enough to death, you’ll even be able to choose a flashy execution move that kills them instantly. 

Daemonhunters’ final standout combat feature that was shown off in the preview was its destructible environments. Destructible environments are nothing new to the genre, but the developers have taken the system a step further here to really encourage players to engage with it tactically. For example, the preview showed a group of enemies being dropped into a bottomless pit by destroying the bridge beneath their feet and toppling a towering statue on the heads of others by shooting its foundation to weaken it. 

There is undoubtedly a lot more the developers are waiting to show off, but even so, Warhammer 40k: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters not only looks like a great Warhammer game but a great tactics game as well. It will be very interesting to see what else the team has in store and just how intense and fun of a journey it will be once it releases this May. 

Warhammer 40k: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters launches for PC on May 5.

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