As Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters begins, your battlecruiser – the Baleful Edict – is damaged and your Grey Knights are low on supplies. A retreat is considered but ceases being an option when a mysterious Inquisitor boards your ship, informing you about a new plague called the Bloom that has begun spreading across the universe.
Finding oneself in a battered state is no deterrent from pushing back the Chaos God’s influence and, as we saw during a recent hands-off preview event, the Grey Knights can be ruthless killing machines even under adverse conditions.
Blending together strategy with turn-based tactics, Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters rewards an aggressive approach, according to publisher Frontier Foundry. To stop the Bloom, players have to employ offensive strategies while using the environment to weaken their enemies.
The gameplay footage shown came from an in-development alpha build of the game, which started on the deck of the Baleful Edict, from where you manage how you approach fighting the Bloom. The battle-worn state of your cruiser during the early game means you’ll have to carefully consider where you spend your resources, developer Complex Games noted.
You can move between several parts of your cruiser, each serving a fixed purpose. From the Star Map, you can check available missions and plan where you strike next.
The Strategium houses the Barracks – where you can examine your Knights, customize, or upgrade their gear – alongside the Armoury, where new wargear can be purchased in exchange for requisition. The latter is a resource you earn from your Chapter Grand Master, who periodically reviews your progress in combating the Bloom.
Inquisitor Vakir’s quarters allow you to use her knowledge and unlock research that helps you in your fight against the Bloom. Here, you can also unlock Stratagems, which are one-time-use abilities that can greatly help you in battle by protecting your troops or improving their abilities. The sole caveat is that you can only take a limited amount of them on missions.
The final section of the Baleful Edict we got to see was the Manufactorum, where you can repair different parts of the cruiser, gaining such effects as improved wound recovery rate or boosted XP gains for your Knights.
Heading back at the Star Map, the developer noted that the Bloom doesn’t spread uniformly across the galaxy, so different planets can be affected by different levels of corruption, influencing the enemies you face.
Before choosing a destination, you can review the rewards you earn by completing its missions. The strain of Bloom you face and the potential mutations and Warp Surges you might encounter are also shown before you deploy, so you have an initial idea of what you’re going up against.
In addition, you can also accept challenges called Glorious Deeds that help your strike force further prove themselves to the Grand Master, gaining additional requisition. During the presentation, the Grey Knight squad could earn +2 requisition by completing a mission while under the effect of a Deed that rendered it unable to score critical hits.
Before deploying, you get to choose the composition of your squad from multiple available Knights. They can use an array of different weapons – including Force Swords, Halberds, or Daemon Hammers – and even swap to Terminator armor, provided they’re trained to use it. You can also pick colors, headgear, voice, and other customization options for your troops.
The units you control can belong to four basic classes – Justicar, Purgator, Interceptor, and Apothecary – as well as four advanced classes that you can unlock during the game.
Promotions then give Knights different abilities, like Hammerhand, which guarantees you score a critical hit when using it in melee.
The mission we saw took the Grey Knights to a cathedral infiltrated by Nurgle’s forces. The developer said that if the Bloom returns to a planet later in the game, you can end up fighting on different maps, should you also return to cleanse it.
Daemonhunters aims for clarity when it comes to its UI, showing how far your action points allow your units to move as well as how much damage they deal when hitting an opponent. After exploring the cathedral a bit, the Grey Knights ran into a couple of Plague Marines, one of which had a Bloom seed that turned it into a prime target.
Proper use of cover alongside mixing and matching your units ranged and melee abilities are all vital if you plan to keep your Knights alive. Although they’re sturdy, enemy attacks still hurt, so you’ll need to know when you need to push forward and take them out. After all, dead foes deal no damage.
Knights can use the Overwatch stance, covering areas and automatically engaging enemies that move through their vision cone. We saw a Justicar destroying the cover that protected an enemy using a well-placed grenade, emphasizing the need for a more aggressive playstyle.
The enemy does, however, come with abilities of its own. One of the Plague Marines covered the area in front of him in some form of unholy goo, meant to block the opposing unit’s approach.
Situations like these encourage you to flank in order to get up close to your enemies. Grey Knights can also spend Willpower to amplify their attacks for more damage. Thankfully, they can also recover it in combat, through the ancient art of killing enemies.
The mission then moved to a later stage, deeper in the cathedral, where a Warp Surge occurred. These are unpredictable events sparked by psychic activity, which can add enemy reinforcements to the mix, improving Nurgle’s units, or making yours weaker.
In response to the additional enemies who just entered the fray, the Knights used the High Sanctuary Stratagem, which granted them extra armor for a few turns. Precision targeting is another highlight of Daemonhunters’ melee combat and came in handy when dealing with an Apostate Preacher, an enemy unit that could buff its allies’ armor.
He was also mutated, which got him a series of stat bonuses when compared to his peers who had yet to receive the gifts of Nurgle.
When you get up close and personal, precision targeting lets you aim at specific weak points on an enemy’s body. Grey Knights can inflict a bleed effect that damages enemies each turn, or opt for a quicker, more permanent approach by cutting their opponent’s limbs. In the case of the Preacher, slashing off the hand in which he holds his Vox Stave also stops him from using abilities.
A small number inside the skull near the enemy’s health bar also shows how many hits it can take before it becomes stunned, further adding to the level of clarity you can expect. When the number reaches zero, units are exposed to a follow-up attack. The Grey Knights could exploit this state to execute enemies, prompting a gruesome, bloody close-up animation.
Using both ranged and melee attacks opens up more tactical possibilities, as you can shoot a massive statue, have it crush enemies under its weight, then charge into melee to deliver a swift killing blow.
You can also exploit flimsy bridges and take multiple units out with a single grenade. The final minutes of the presentation saw the Emperor’s warriors facing a Helbrute.
An Apothecary risked taking damage to bring a fellow downed Knight back to his feet. Although he could fight again, he was also stuck at half-HP for the remainder of the encounter. The Helbrute charged in and swiftly grabbed the freshly recovered Knight using its tentacles.
This is a big, resistant enemy, but precision targeting can make it less of a threat if you chop off its arm, rendering it unable to grab your units.
The Helbrute didn’t survive the battle against a full squad of Grey Knights, exploding upon death and damaging anything in a large area around it.
It was a fairly glorious finale for what was a promising look at Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters. Although it’s hard to say at this point how well its strategic elements mix with its tactical battles, the latter do seem to have quite a bit of complexity going into them.
The precision targeting system looks particularly great and might make it hard to refrain from rushing in when shooting enemies or using the environment against them might be a better idea.
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters lets you take the fight to Papa Nurgle on May 5, when it launches on PC. If you’ve been eyeing the game for a while, pre-orders are also now live on both Steam and the Epic Games Store.
About Bogdan Robert Mateș
When not brewing coffee or debating serious topics with my cat, you'll either find me playing video games or writing about them.