This Warhammer 40,000 RPG is like if Star Trek's Federation was evil

Rogue Trader, keyart image, party fighting dark eldar
(Image credit: Owlcat Games)

Rogue Trader from Owlcat Games is set to release later this year, letting players take on the role of a daring space privateer in a classic CRPG format reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate 3. It’s the first Warhammer 40,000 RPG of its kind, and it’s ambitious as heck. 

Heavily inspired by Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader – the officially licensed tabletop roleplaying game released by Fantasy Flight Games back in 2009 – Owlcat’s game sees players take on the role of the Rogue Trader and their bridge crew; a grimdark take on the Star Trek formula. Players can discover strange new worlds, seek out new civilizations and then brutally conquer them. It is as grim and dark as you might imagine. However, as with any well-realized dystopia, this premise makes for some morbidly fascinating and compelling stories. 

Back in university, the game blew my mind. Sitting down with friends every week, we told the story of a starship captain and his band of eclectic, morally repugnant space buddies. We traveled to forbidden tomb worlds, engaged in pretentious honor duels, built a merchant empire, and even started a civil war. The scope and possibility of the pen-and-paper game has earned it a special place in my heart, and Owlcat Games has some big shoes to fill in its attempt to transmute the experience into a full-on video game.  

To the stars

The bridge of the voidship

(Image credit: Future)

Even in its alpha state, I can create a truly distinct Rogue Trader. Just as in the tabletop game, my choice of background and planet of origin had direct effects on my character’s traits and abilities, allowing me to create a character who not only had a bespoke backstory but whose backstory actually mattered

My Rogue Trader is a well-spoken naval officer. Brought up in a backwater Feudal World where resources and technology were scarce, she joined the navy to get off the planet, rising up to become a tough, no-nonsense captain.

Everything from the dialogue to the combat system allows you to express your character’s idiosyncrasies within the game world.

Everything from the dialogue to the combat system allows you to express your character’s idiosyncrasies within the game world. On arriving at a local space station, I met with the Liege – the noble in charge. In the ensuing conversation, I could treat him like an equal, threaten him, act irreverently or make him beg for his life. Given the sheer variety of Rogue Traders out there in the 41st Millennium, it was gratifying to see a spectrum of different attitudes represented during the tense, high-stakes dialogue.

Whatever action you take will have consequences. Even my relatively minor decision to arrive at the station incognito, to avoid drawing attention to myself, wound up with our group being ambushed by a street gang. The poor gangers had no idea who they were messing with. With Boltguns, plasma fire, and good, old-fashioned swordplay, we cut these would-be cutpurses to ribbons. I had arrived, and Footfall Station was at my mercy. 

Cast away

turn based combat in Rogue Trader

(Image credit: Future)

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. As in any good RPG with an ensemble cast, Rogue Trader’s array of supporting characters are not only fascinating and well-developed in their own right, but also act as mirrors against which your own character can compare themselves. A practical, no-nonsense Rogue Trader like mine might get on with the equally practical and no-nonsense Abelard, a prim naval officer who’s found his vocation in managing your trade empire. However, if you’re more of a rebel, you may find that Jae, the piratical outlaw, is more your speed. 

No matter your persuasion, all of the characters react, sometimes quite strongly, to your decisions. Each character represents a different element of the vast Imperium of humanity and thus, has different interests and political agendas. 

Rogue Trader’s supporting characters are fascinating, and act as mirrors against which your own character can compare themselves

For instance: Cassia Orsellio, your Navigator, is part of a noble line of mutants with the power to direct the ship during faster-than-light travel. Her thoughts and feelings often represent the Imperial establishment. Take the serfs and lowborn of the Imperium too seriously, and she’ll turn her nose up at you.

Similarly, Pasqual Haneumann is a Magos Explorator, a sort of tech-shaman, who is tasked with recovering lost artifacts of humanity’s past. His responses to your actions reflect his ongoing mission to recover lost wonders, but, dabble with alien technology, and you’ll swiftly earn his disapproval.

Character creation

(Image credit: Future)

The fact that I was able to get such a strong feel for these characters over such a short space of time speaks volumes both as to the high quality of Owlcat’s writing and to the extent the developer clearly understands and cherishes the 40k setting. For all its overblown melodrama, it is a setting sufficiently broad and detailed enough that great stories can be spun within its expansive boundaries. 

With its previous title, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, Owlcat showed that it was a force to be reckoned with when it came to CRPGs. However, with Rogue Trader, it looks like Owlcat is ascending to new heights. I enjoyed my time with the alpha so much that I found myself returning to a Wrath of the Righteous campaign I’d not touched in over eight months. It is as if Owlcat made this game for me, specifically, and I cannot wait to see the finished product.

Cat Bussell
Staff Writer

Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on,, and, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.