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GAME ON: “Chaos Gate’ Grey Knights stomp Nurgle’s minions in new ‘Warhammer’ game

by Jason Bennett | March 27, 2023 at 2:41 a.m.
"Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters" is a tactical, turn-based sci-fi game that's violent and pessimistic and the origin of the subgenre "grimdark" — which comes from the game’s slogan, "in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war." (Photo courtesy of Frontier Developments)

'Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate — Daemonhunters'

  • Platform: Windows
  • Cost: $44.99
  • Rating: Mature for violence, themes
  • Score: 9 out of 10

"In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war." This line, part of the intro to every written work of the "Warhammer 40,000" universe, perfectly encapsulates the setting. It's also the origin of the "grimdark" subgenre.

For those new to the "40K" setting, getting started can be intimidating. There's a vast amount of lore, with more than 350 books, graphic novels and short story collections, all documenting in Tolkienesque detail every minute bit of a war that spans eons. The participants in this war are a sci-fi and fantasy mashup of humans, elves, dwarfs, daemons, aliens, the undead and others. It's a lot, but that means there are also a lot of entry points into the setting.

"Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters" is one of those points, focusing an incandescent laser of annihilation on a battle between plague-ridden daemons and the Grey Knights, a mysterious chapter of the superhuman Space Marines, who are themselves one army among many belonging to the Imperium of Man.

There have been quite a few 40K video games in the past decade or so, of various genres such as "Total War"-style army battlers, first-person shooters, third-person shooters and turn-based, with some good, some not so good. "Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters" is a solid entry. It's "X-COM" but with Space Marines, wielding powerful relics of war and stomping through battlefields clad in nigh-invulnerable suits of power armor. The alien invasion in the "X-COM" series would have been over in a week if Earth had the Grey Knights as its defenders.

They have a harder time here, though, as the chapter must fight the minions of the chaos god Nurgle, who has unleashed a plague throughout humanity's solar systems that threatens the lives of trillions. (Yes, trillions, humanity is both basically uncountably large and simultaneously facing a series of extinction-level threats.)

"Chaos Gate" starts by putting you in command of a severely damaged Dreadnought space battleship, with its Grey Knights depleted to just a few after an intense battle claims the life of the ship's commander. While repairing the ship, training more knights and acquiring better weaponry, the knights must fight Nurgle's plague-carrying minions as they spread disease and death among various worlds.

Joining the Grey Knights is an emissary of the Imperial Inquisition, a high-ranking member of the secret intelligence faction of the Imperium of Mankind, and while the two factions are at odds, they must also work together.

Combat in "Chaos Gate" is fun. In many tactical games, it pays to hang back, lure in enemies, snipe from afar, work your way methodically and carefully through the map. The Grey Knights have other plans. Charge them straight ahead, perhaps using their psychic abilities to teleport right into the middle of an enemy formation, and dish out intense melee and ranged damage. In "X-COM," it paid to progress slowly, but here aggression is key to victory. Charge forward!

But every turn, and every use of psychic abilities also fills a warp meter, and every time it fills, a warp rift happens that either spawns more enemies, buffs enemy stats, creates battlefield danger zones or saps the strength of your forces.

With missions spread out across a star system, and time ticking forward, the plague (called the Bloom) continues to grow, and your ship can't be everywhere at once. If a planet gets too overrun by the Bloom, all hope is lost and it's up to your ship to unleash an attack that will destroy the planet — and billions upon billions of human residents.

There's a roguelite quality to "Chaos Gate." Turns can't be undone, and while a mission can be restarted if it's not going well, once that mission is done, it's permanent. It's entirely possible to get dug into a hole in a campaign that is unwinnable if not played smartly.

There are a few major changes from the "X-COM" formula. One is that hit chances are gone. If you can hit something, you'll hit it, but that damage can be reduced by armor, by cover (full or half), or by distance from the target. The thrill of battle is still just as intense, though, and needing to be closer to the enemy adds to the aggressiveness needed to win.

Despite the power of the Grey Knights, the fights are dogged. In a number of missions, I was able to beat the objective, but then still had to flee an unbeatable number of enemies for several turns while waiting on a teleport to safety

All in all, this is a solid game, and I'd call it a must-have for those looking to scratch that "X-COM" itch.

Print Headline: ‘Chaos Gate’ like ‘X-COM,’ a solid entry


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