With Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader expected to release by the end of 2023, fans of Owlcat’s previous work may wonder how it will compare to Pathfinder: Kingmaker and Wrath of the Righteous. With Rogue Trader’s beta being released to those who preorder it we now have a lot more information regarding how the game will play.
Even with several features missing, because beta, the three acts we get to play in give us a decent look at how the final product will shape up. With several hundred hours sunk into both of Owlcat’s previous games I immediately saw the familiar, and not so familiar aspects of Rogue Trader. So, with this new hands-on experience under my belt, we’re going to go over how Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader compares to its older siblings in the Owlcat library.
The first major difference between Rogue Trader and the previous titles is obviously the setting. While Kingmaker and Wrath of the Righteous took place on Golarion, the major setting of the Pathfinder RPG, Rogue Trader takes place in the far flung future of the Warhammer 40K universe.
Where Pathfinder holds a distinctly medieval fantasy vibe, Warhammer is grim-dark sci-fi through and through. This change in genre also brings with it cascading changes to the gameplay as well. Guns and space travel are majorly important to the setting of Warhammer and Owlcats gameplay formula has changed to reflect that. But we’ll go over that in a minute.
Despite the differences in setting, Warhammer and Pathfinder still hold a lot of things in common. While Pathfinder has fighters, assassins and mages slinging steel and spells at their enemies, Warhammer has much the same thing. Psyker’s take up the mage role, using their connection to the chaotic Warp to bend reality to their liking. In whatever destructive way they see fit. Despite the futuristic setting, sword combat is still very useful for taking out any Hive scum that ambushes you on a space dock. And instead of a bow you’ll be using a sniper and a myriad of other guns to take out your foes from afar. Both settings even have demons that make it their mission to ruin your life.
While Owlcat has changed up the setting of this go-around, there’s enough overlap that even a die-hard fantasy fan can have fun. As long as they don’t mind a healthy futuristic wrapper of course. As I hinted above however, the change in setting also brought with it a change in gameplay to accommodate these new additions. Which segues perfectly into our next section.
Anyone who’s played Owlcats previous games can instantly feel their hand in the gameplay for Rogue Trader. While new elements were introduced the game still plays like an Owlcat game overall. This is great news for anyone who was obsessed with their Pathfinder games like me.
I do want to bring up, before we start breaking down the gameplay differences between the games, that much like the Pathfinder games, Rogue Trader is also based off of a TTRPG. And, funny enough, this change brings about our first gameplay difference. While Kingmaker and Wrath of the Righteous were based off of its TTRPG counterpart, Rogue Trader was based on the Rogue Trader RPG published by Fantasy Flight Games in 2009.
Anyone familiar with different tabletop games knows that not every game has the same system. And this is true here. Where the Pathfinder games use a D20 system, Rogue Trader uses a D100 system or percentage system. While it seems Owlcat had done some homebrewing to make the system work for a video game, anyone who’s played the old Rogue Trader tabletop is sure to see some familiar rules and systems. Just like my previous experience with Pathfinder helped when I first picked up Kingmaker, I’m sure the same will be applied here.
Although familiar, character creation is a little different in Rogue Trader. Just like before you are given the choice to either play a prebuilt character or make your own from scratch. If you choose to make one from scratch you’ll be given the usual appearance options with a couple more options for things like implants which are prolific in 40K. After that is when we get some new options that will help us shape who we want our rogue trader to be.
The first one is our character’s homeworld. The universe of Warhammer is vast and your character can potentially be from anywhere. Mechanically, these homeworld options also provide unique stat upgrades and talents to reflect how where your character grew up. For example, the Death World homeworld gives you bonuses to strength, agility and toughness to show that your character needed to be at their physical peak to survive the apocalyptic landscape of their world. In turn they take a minus to intelligence and fellowship (the 40K version of charisma) because the harsh environs don’t exactly breed charming, book learned people.
After that the player gets to choose their character’s origin. Much like homeworld, a character’s origin will give them unique bonuses or negatives. This origin also determines what your character’s profession was up until the start of the game. What’s cool about this is that NPC’s will react to your origin and comment on it throughout the game. While I haven’t found any dialogue options that mention your characters homeworld, I have found armor and items that are specific to certain homeworlds so it wouldn’t be too far fetched for them to be included in the final game.
Next we have our characters triumph and darkest hour. While these options have not been implemented in the beta, we can only assume they will work like the homeworld and origin option.
After that we have our characters, doctrines, or classes. While the doctrines aren’t as numerous as in pathfinder, there’s an interesting mechanic where your doctrine only goes to level fifteen. After that you choose a second advanced doctrine with new skills and abilities to add to what you already have. Since I haven’t played the tabletop for Rogue Trader I don’t know if this is how it works there, but it does make choosing a doctrine easy for someone not familiar with the system.
With so many options to choose during character creation that seemingly will play some part in-game besides stats and abilities, this game is shaping up to be a roleplayer’s paradise.
Combat is different this go around as well. While the previous Pathfinder games had the option for turn-based and real-time, Rogue Trader is only turn-based. I was originally skeptical about this decision as real-time was excellent for taking out chump mobs quickly in the previous games. After playing the game however, I’m sure this is the way to go. Combat doesn’t play exactly the same as the Pathfinder games before it. It feels more like the modern XCOM games spliced with the pathfinder games. Which isn’t a bad thing.
Rogue Trader feels more like a game of chess where you are using your movement, attack points and abilities to win the day instead of simply overwhelming whoever attacks you. It slows down the combat a little bit, but adds a fun tactical element to combat.
While Kingmaker and Wrath of the Righteous gave you a map to travel and discover board game style, Rogue Trader is a little different. Since you’re going to different planets and star systems, the map handles more like Mass Effect 2’s map where you travel a system and find what’s in the system. It’s a nice change that fits the setting and I’m all for it.
One completely new addition to this game is the addition to faction relationships. This is an interesting mechanic because it’s tied to looting as well. As a rogue trader, your character basically has infinite wealth. So running out of money to buy a sword wouldn’t really make sense. This is where faction relationships come in. Essentially whenever you loot something you have the choice to add it to your inventory or your cargo. When added to your cargo it will take up a property depending on what it was.
When you meet vendors in this game they’ll be attached to a faction. To buy from them you’ll need to trade cargo with them to raise their relationship with them. And each faction will be looking for cargo with different properties. Like I said before, as a rogue trader you are one of the richest beings in the star system. The idea that you need to raise a faction’s relationship to buy specialty goods from them is a cool change to the typical looting system because it doesn’t break your immersion. It remains to be seen if these faction relationships will play into major story beats but I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t.
Alignment works differently in this game as well. Where the Pathfinder games had you choose your alignment in the beginning and then shift it depending on your interactions throughout the game, Rogue Trader does half of that. First and foremost there’s only three alignments: Imperialis, Hereticus and Benevolentia. Imperialis is your belief in imperial law and worship, Hereticus your devotion to corruption and warp taint and Benevolentia your belief in the value of human life.
Just like before these alignments are affected by decisions made throughout the game. Unlike previous games you can progress through these alignments at the same time. Raising your Hereticus level doesn’t take away from your Imperialis level. This means you can open yourself to the chaotic taint of the warp, but also believe human life should be saved. Each alignment also has perks you get when you hit certain levels. Just like before you can potentially be locked out of certain options if not high enough in whatever conviction it requires.
I love this change to the classic alignment system. While alignment did play a role in Owlcat’s previous games, I believe this take on it proves to be more realistic than previous iterations. Because it’s difficult to narrow the complexities of someone’s personality neatly under a couple labels. By allowing the player to progress through each alignment simultaneously you end up creating more complex and interesting roleplaying options. Especially since each one of your companions adhere to a specific conviction as well.
Join the High Ground
With all that said, it’s clear to see that although there are familiar elements of Owlcat’s previous games present, Rogue Trader is shaping up to break the mold in a good way. Owlcat seems to be making a game that fans of their previous titles and new fans will both enjoy what this game has to offer. And if this game proves to be as successful as their previous titles, I’m curious to see if they continue to adapt different systems.
And that sums up the similarities and differences between Owlcat’s Rogue Trader and Pathfinder games. Do you plan on picking up Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader? Have you already started playing the beta? Tell me what you think about it in the comments below and subscribe for more content like this in the future.