I’m hardly alone in describing Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters as ‘XCOM with Space Marines.’ But now that I’ve gotten my hands on it, it’s much clearer how that actually changes up the tactical formula. Enemy Unknown can feel like a horror game sometimes, as you’re hunted by Chrysalids and Mutons through eerie crash sites and warehouses. But in Chaos Gate, there’s no mistaking it: the Daemons are the prey, and you are the hunters.
That’s not to say deploying into literal Hell is completely without tension. It’s definitely possible to get into some bad situations if you aren’t careful. But when you send your point man to kick down the doors of a massive space cathedral and send various creepy cultists scattering for cover, it’s a totally different vibe from the very methodical and potentially lethal room-clearing routines I’d run in XCOM. The camera gets right down in there and punctuates each breach with enough bravado to get the message across: We’re not trapped in here with these heretics. They’re trapped in here with us.
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters Screenshots
And it’s not empty posturing, either. Using that kind of in-your-face momentum worked out pretty well for me in a lot of situations where I found myself outnumbered. They say fortune favors the bold, and it seems like the Emperor does, too. Especially if you kit out one or two of your squad in terminator armor, which limits mobility but boosts defense, they’re more than tanky enough to shrug off a few hits and let you take apart an enemy position quickly. Using grenades and the environment wisely can crush the opposition even faster, so the battles may be fast-paced, but they still reward thinking and observation skills.
You’ll look great doing it, too. There’s a wild amount of cosmetic customization available for each member of your squad, and they pop against the grim levels in their signature silver power armor – whether you’re zoomed out to line up a shot or getting in close for a melee finisher. I didn’t even really have time to scroll through all the options for details and decals in the limited time I had to play, but I can see myself spending ages with it in the full release to create my perfect team of punishers.
Perils of the Warp
At the same time, Daemonhunters doesn’t want to let us find some one-size-slays-all tactics and fall into a routine. Nurgle’s corrupting Bloom raises every turn, and when it reaches 100 percent, something is going to go sideways – but I never knew what. It could be additional reinforcements, or a miasma of strength-sapping plague getting barfed out of the Warp onto the middle of the map. This is another incentive to get in, kick ass, and get out quickly, but even at top gear I was never able to clear a map without having to deal with at least one of these curve balls.
Was that a mixed metaphor? You know what – take it up with the Inquisitor.
Ah, yes, Inquisitor Vakir. We’re answering to her, and it might not surprise any 40K fans to know she doesn’t always have the health and safety of your battle brothers as her top priority. She’ll ask you to do things like get in close with a plague carrier and extract a sample. What if it tries to bite your face off at the same time? Well, you’re a robust lad. I’ll let you figure that part out when you get there. It’s not entirely heartless of her, to be fair. Completing these objectives advances your research into the Bloom, without which you’ll never be able to clear the sector of Nurgle’s corruption for good.
Threat Level Midnight
I was also impressed with Daemonhunters’ ability to provide some complex challenges with its boss encounters. Going up against a Great Unclean One, I had to avoid his disgusting area attacks while fanning out to destroy a number of nergling nests, or else his grimy little helpers would keep respawning infinitely and eventually wear away the Emperor’s finest to nothing. It was a great change of pace from the more straightforward door-kicking missions, as well as a welcome step up in difficulty. I’m anxious to see what else they can throw at us in terms of big bads if they’re all this intense.