Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters Review
I would like to start this review by addressing a few things. Firstly, I am a newcomer to the Warhammer franchise, and this was my second encounter with the universe (my first being Warhammer: Vermintide 2). This review will be focused predominantly on how my experience was with the title, but will most definitely not reflect on how veterans of the franchise will feel.
With that established, I'd like to mention that Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters (Daemonhunters henceforth) is a good entry for those that know of the world and story. Those who understand the lore of the universe will relish due to the numerous lore mentions and implications that are, quite frankly, lost on a novice such as myself. So this part of the review is for the veterans:
Daemonhunters is a good title for those that already have a connection with the universe. Although some issues get in the way, such as wonky cameras that fail to showcase the battlefield properly and uninformative UI, the depths of the lore in this title will surely make up for it. That said, be wary of a lot of complaints about technical difficulties, as I not only experienced numerous crashes but several freezes after gruellingly long loading screens.
Now that I've mentioned that, let's start with the review from a newcomer's perspective: I have a fair bit of experience with turn-based strategy games, as I've played numerous titles for countless hours, including reviewing both Expeditions: Rome and King Arthur: Knight's Tale, along with handling the preview for The Iron Oath. Each of these titles offered me plenty of information that, as a newcomer to turn-based strategy games, offered ease of access that allowed me to enjoy them, despite my general illiteracy with the genre. What all of these titles did fantastically was teach me everything clearly and concisely without overbearing me with information that eventually became too much to take; that is a problem that Daemonhunters struggles with.
Coming into the Warhammer universe, I was threatened but excited for the vast amounts of lore that I would be able to encounter, and I knew full well that there was nary a chance I'd understand half of what was said to me. Despite that, I managed to understand very little of what the lore surrounding Daemonhunters is. Although some terms are thrown around long enough for me to comprehend their significance, and you do eventually get good momentum with the numerous characters in the story, none of it helped to encaptivate me and enchant me the way I expected it to. In fact, the fan service with numerous mentions and references to other titles managed to overwhelm me and make me feel tiny and worthless in a world where I had no help. Quite frankly, Daemonhunters managed to break my immersion time and again, as I didn't know what I was doing, yet I was appointed commander. The game offers little guidance in terms of its lore, and that is a big problem.
So, you play as the newly-appointed commander in charge of battling a spreading plague by the Chaos God Nurgle. The Bloom threatens to be a catastrophic event, and you will work towards annihilating all life forms on any given planet to prevent its spread at all costs. The story in and of itself was supremely enticing to me, and I was excited to learn about it and immerse myself; unfortunately, the game seemed like it was blocking a major part of the enjoyment behind references that I wouldn't understand. Worse yet, I'm not sure Daemonhunters could have held my hand through the lore, as the information dump was a big part of the problem as well.
In the short tutorial, the game explains the fundamentals. Anyone that's played a tactical turn-based title will know most of the things taught, but it's still worth looking over as it does introduce some unique mechanics to the game. Despite the tutorial being rather expansive and in-depth in some areas, going as far as explaining how to walk, it failed to really explain much at all. The tutorial teaches you about some systems in-game that are commonly seen in other titles that will only be useful to brand-new players in the genre, but my frustration lies with how poorly the game explains its UI.
Coming from both Expeditions: Rome and King Arthur: Knight's Tale, I was spoiled with informative UIs that made the game easy, accessible, and enjoyable. Everything I needed to know was present on my screen in a clear and concise manner that didn't make me jump through hoops to understand what it means, and it was a very informative system that really helped me acclimate to the genre. Daemonhunters, on the other hand, is far less forthcoming with this information, making combat situations tedious and difficult to manage. Considering that every Knight has a Shoot command to utilise their ranged armament, I thought it would be obvious to implement a clear tell for when a Knight can shoot a foe without having to make an irreversible move. But that isn't quite the case. This might not have been too much of a problem if the precise movement wasn't so important in the combat of Daemonhunters, as one false move can lead to your Knight being exposed to numerous hits and pinned by the enemy's obsession with the Overwatch ability.
Movement in Daemonhunters is pretty simple to manage and it has a very handy mechanic where you can set the path that Knights will take to allow them to manoeuvre through obstacles and Overwatch abilities so that you may come out unscathed. The Knights move swiftly enough (though, irritatingly, only one at a time, which can make the battle feel extremely slow at times) so that it doesn't feel ridiculous. For each 1 AP (out of 3), you can move five spots in any direction. Being able to move 15 tiles felt like freedom when compared to King Arthur: Knight's Tale's limited movement, but it soon became a stressful factor because it doesn't matter whether you move one or five, it'll drain your entire AP. This led to me losing my AP needlessly whenever having to move carefully through the battlefield and discouraged taking the game in stride. Not only that, but the game doesn't have a very clear tell on how many AP points you'll use to move in any given direction, as the grid merely expands when you move the cursor outside of the five hex range and change to reflect how many points you'll be left with. The problem with this was that, despite carefully watching, I often associated the numeral on the cursor with how much it would cost me to move to any given position, not how much AP I'd have left, leading to me only being able to make one final move after walking.
What's frustrating about Daemonhunters is how much I actually enjoyed the game whenever everything worked the intended way, but time and again combat was ruined by numerous aspects. The uninformative UI led to me making dumb mistakes while the camera needlessly and inaccurately panned to certain objects, not allowing me to see the battlefield and what my enemies were doing. This, paired with how incredibly slow enemy turns were — even at the fastest speed — slowly dwindled my excitement for combat. What could have once been easily some of the best tactical turn-based fighting (especially with gorgeous cinematic shots that make the game seem almost movie-like) turned into a tedious mess of lazy and horrible design choices that weren't user friendly.
The vague lore, worthless UI, and frustrating lack of information were only overshadowed by how much I really wanted to like this game. Each poor choice left me yearning for what Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters could have been, but isn't.
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters made me wish I was a veteran of the genre to appreciate it the way it deserved to. Ultimately, it left me yearning for the game it could have been.