Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters Looks Like XCOM with Space Marines

If you’ve ever been on your way out of work and someone stops you to do one more thing, you might understand how your crew of Grey Knights feels at the start of Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters. The “one more thing” they asked you to do probably wasn’t to fight off a daemonic plague threatening an entire sector of space, but you know, details. Fresh off of a pitched battle against cultists of the blood god, Khorne, these dutiful servants of the Imperium have been rerouted by the Inquisition to shoot, psi-blast, and chainsword their way through turn-based missions and a dynamic strategic layer. It has the feel of 40K meets XCOM, and that is entirely my kind of campaign.

The problem with this unplanned detour is that their previous campaign did a number on their ship and their chapter, so you’ll be commanding a weakened force of the Emperor’s finest aboard a vessel held together by tape, scrap, and hope. Repairing the very Warhammerly-named Baleful Edict is the main strategic progression system. Fixing up the engines allows you to travel around the sector faster, while getting the hospital back to full function will reduce the amount of time injured characters will need to heal.

Death or Dishonor

Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters Screenshots

And just because we’re dealing with Grey Knights here doesn’t mean those medical facilities won’t get put through their paces. The developers want your squads to feel powerful, but not invincible, with serious injuries and even death being on the table. Getting a squadmate taken out the first time will still allow a comrade to pick them back up, but any further damage might mean their gene seed needs to be sent back to home base while somber music plays. There will also be an option for the truly masochistic where getting downed the first time means immediate death.

Perhaps the coolest tactic is the ability to target specific body parts on your enemy with combo attacks and finishers, Fallout-style.

Luckily, the Grey Knights have a lot of advantages on their side to prevent this. Perhaps the coolest of these is the ability to target specific body parts on your enemy with combo attacks and finishers, Fallout-style. In one battle, one of our squad was grabbed in the tentacles of a monstrous, warp-mutated monstrosity and was having the life squeezed out of him. But with a well-placed strike, his battle brother was able to sever the tentacles, freeing him and preventing that attack from being used again for the rest of the fight.

Collateral Damage

The environment can also be a potent weapon in Daemonhunters. Aside from simply providing cover, knocking a statue over onto an enemy or destroying a bridge to cut off reinforcements were shown to be very effective ways to even the odds. The scenarios we got to see looked downright daunting, even for Space Marines, and it seemed like trying to hunker down and fight it out without looking around the level for these kinds of opportunities would be a great way to get chewed up in a hurry.

The environment can also be a potent weapon in Daemonhunters.

I was really impressed overall with what we’ve seen so far in how fluid it looks. The lighting and unit models are spot-on for the gothic, grimdark future of Warhammer 40K. And the animations, especially, are a joy to watch. Both the stalwart Daemonhunters and their pox-ridden, drooling foes move, emote, and fight so smoothly that I looked forward to seeing each move play out with cinematic flair.

Forbidden Knowledge

Being a member of the Grey Knights isn’t all slashing and blasting either, though. You’ll also have to do your homework back on the ship. The Bloom, the daemonic contagion that’s constantly mutating and spreading throughout the sector, can overtake everything and end your campaign in defeat if you don’t learn enough about it fast enough to counter its spread. Affected planets will gain modifiers that make missions there more punishing, too. That’s where the Librus Malleus comes in: a codex you’ll progress through as you gain more knowledge about what’s really going on, and how to stop it.

In a world where Warhammer 40K games have become nearly a dime a dozen, Daemonhunters is one of the handful I’m really looking forward to. It looks excellent, the tactical combat has tons of depth, and it’s never going to stop being cool to customize my own squad of Space Marines and send them into battle. Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters will be suiting up on May 5.

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