Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters fuses XCOM with 40K

Knight watch.
Warhammer 40k Chaos Gate Daemonhunters Header

The Daemons of Chaos are having a great year so far. In Total War: Warhammer 3 we saw them take to the battlefield with the arrival of five new playable factions, and now they’re all set to wreak havoc in Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters, a reboot of the 1998 strategy game coming out in May.

If only it wasn’t for those pesky humans constantly standing in their way – as corruptible as they so often are. On this occasion it’s the Grey Knights, an elite chapter of Space Marines whose sole purpose is to thwart the corrupting forces of Chaos. These aren’t your typical Astartes super soldiers, as they must dabble in dark magics while being led by 40K’s zealous Inquisition.

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Daemonhunters will feel instantly familiar to fans of the genre. Turn-based battles will see your Knights drop to a planet’s surface, feeling their way through the fog of war until you encounter enemies. As in the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game, Grey Knights can specialise in a number classes that will determine their combat role, whether cleaving through foes at close range, laying down fire from afar, or performing supportive actions, such as the Apothecary’s healing.

There’s some undeniable overlap with games such as XCOM though there’s plenty of that distinctive 40K flavour pumping throughout. This is not only seen in the story, but also in Chaos Gate’s visuals, and the wealth of customisation options you can tap into. Complex Games has also tried to weave in some nuanced game systems of its own including a precision aiming mechanic. This allows you to add bonus effects to certain attacks which could help disarm and stun enemies, for example.

Warhammer 40k Chaos Gate Daemonhunters Preview Precision

Battles flow smoothly as one team makes all of its actions before passing over to the opposition. The UI and overlays make it easy to command your Knights in Daemonhunters, seeing where best to position them and the AP cost of performing actions. If there’s one thing that irks me about these kinds of strategy games, it’s the downtime between skirmishes – turns in which nothing happens apart from moving across the map. Using these quiet moments to heal and reload can feel like cheating. However, Chaos Gate will punish those who dawdle as a corruption meter fills between turns. Each time it reaches 100% it will reset, chucking a handful of Daemons in your direction. It’s an effective way of prodding players to the next objective in a similar fashion to the AI directors found in Left 4 Dead or Vermintide.

The objectives you take on are fairly straightforward from the early gameplay we experienced; it’s the combat encounters along the way that keep Chaos Gate feeling fresh and dynamic. Tapping into 40K’s rich lore give Complex Games ample fodder to chuck at the Grey Knights, from zombie-like mutants and cultists to lesser Daemons and warp-bending Psykers.

Warhammer 40k Chaos Gate Daemonhunters Preview Combat

Our final mission had us thrown in at the deep end, trudging through a blighted pool of pus, barbed with horn-like protrusions. During the prep phase we were given a closer look at the loadout options available with more weapons, powers, and upgrades being made available as your Knights level up. On the other side, the Chaos Gate had been kicked wide open, revealing a Greater Daemon of Nurgle for us to face. It’s a rotting, bulbous behemoth with a bell in one hand and his spilling entrails in the other. That’s 40K for you.

This battle was set at a different pace to what we had previously played – instead of scouting large maps for pockets of enemies to engage, our target was right there in front of us, waiting to charge. Quickly, we were forced to adapt to the Daemon’s powerful sweeping attacks, capable of batting Knights around the battlefield. Instead of lazily supercharging the Daemon’s stats, Complex Games dialled difficulty by tossing us another ball to juggle. Not only were there plague-ridden grunts protecting their master, we were tasked with eliminating festering pods that continue to spew Nurglings. Leave them for too long and they’d overwhelm our squad.

Warhammer 40k Chaos Gate Daemonhunters Preview Nurgle

One part of Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters we didn’t see much of is what happens between missions. Your Grey Knights stalk the galaxy in their delightfully gothic mothership and it’s here that you can perform research and upgrades while planning your campaign. It’s this meta layer that interests us most, teasing us with a shiny hook destined to reel 40K fans in for hours-long sessions. Similar to XCOM, you’ll need to decide carefully which missions to target as you attempt to hold back the alien threat across an entire sector of space.

There’s certainly been no shortage of Warhammer 40,000 games, both good and bad in recent years, but Daemonhunters is planting its flag firmly within the former category, giving turn-based strategy fans exactly what they want. Hopefully, the focus on a lesser known 40K faction will forge a compelling narrative for our campaign that explores the Inquisition and the tainted powers of the Warp.

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Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualSense at this point.