Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr PC Review

It is weird why I have never thought about the idea of having the Warhammer 40,000 universe represented in an action RPG, but surely someone must have? Well until now, that wasn’t the case, but it makes you wonder why it has taken so long before someone in the development world decided that it would be a great fit. In this day and age, it seems anything related to Games Workshop is allowed to be represented in a video game, with various titles covering a broad range of genres, yes, even sports games. NeocoreGames are no stranger to action RPGs – more so for something that plays similar to Blizzard’s Diablo games – as they created The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing trilogy on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Now they move that knowledge into the world of the 41st millennium and science fantasy, which comes with some interesting results and ideas that almost makes it a great title.

Players are put into the role as an inquisitor, an agent of the imperial inquisition of the highest order. These small groups of people are serious power houses who have the ultimate authority, only having to obey to the Emperor himself. This means they are basically Judge Dredd of the 40k universe, being the judge, jury and executioner for anyone who breaks the law. As one of these law enforcers, you initially arrive on a space hulk (a massive space ship) that is twisted with the infestation of Chaos. Things go south and the ship manages to gain a mind of its own and vanish through a portal. Trying to figure out what is going on, your travels send the inquisitor to the Caligari Sector, a vast region in the southern rim of the galaxy that was created specifically for the game. This sector is tainted by the forces of Chaos, leaking their rottenness onto every planet in the system. With all the power bestowed to you as an inquisitor, its your job to slash, smash, shoot and use a few powers to turn all enemies into a bloody mess as you purge the sector clean of this chaos infestation.

As for the quality of the story, it falls into similar traps as other action RPGs, where it feels more of a passable tale, a sort of “well here is a story that makes you do stuff” plot. It works, since it feels suited to the Warhammer 40K universe, so on that note it gains a tick for coming across as an authentic piece of storytelling for that IP, but just don’t expect to be attached to any characters, shocked at any revelations or betrayals that happen throughout the campaign. It’s a plot that throws in random superfluous side content that certainly could have been better, but I would assume at the end of the day, the developers concentrated more on what you are doing in the game – you are here to smash stuff up, and smash stuff up you shall as a powerful inquisitor.

First thing is to create a new inquisitor for the story. The character creation does not feature a fully functional character creator, as the three determined classes have their unique design and background history. Each fit into a typical archetype of Crusader (heavy armour and weapons), Assassin (speed with melee hit-and-run skills) and Psyker (light armour with psychic powers) to bring three styles of play, but the developers also added expertise talents, which each class contains three. The Assassin can be turned into a long range killing machine with the Sniper talents, a fast slicing machine with two blades as an Infiltrator, or a close up gib machine that replaces blades with shotguns for some messy situations as an Eradicator. It’s the same story for the other two classes, which allows the game to tailor the starting character towards a specific direction before opening up the options – such as weapon types and skills – for other builds once having played enough.

The bulk of the game plays similar to the already mentioned Diablo, but the developers have slowed the combat down compared to that title and their own The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. This is to represent the slower and more tactical nature of the Warhammer 40,000 board game, and while this action RPG certainly isn’t as tactical as something like the real time strategy title, Dawn of War, NeocoreGames has thrown in some gameplay mechanics that take inspiration from the tabletop game – cover and suppression – which in themselves are nothing new in the world of video games, but are innovative for this genre.

This is still an action RPG, so there is a lot running around varied locations and mindlessly killing a a bunch of different enemy sizes and types using plenty of gear taken straight from the source material. I found the combat a mix bag when it came to the feeling of impact. One game I felt managed to portray that feeling of being a walking death machine was Relic Entertainment’s Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, but here, only some of the weapons have that kick. Using melee gives the screen a shake and comes with that impactful electric shock, but a few of the weapons feel a little lacking, and with only gibs acting as an indicator to displaying the power of these guns, sometimes when enemies are hit, they don’t do much but absorb the damage until it’s time to die and explode, which is a lovely mess, but there is no sense of impact until that happens, which I feel misses some of that visceral feedback that could have been demonstrated. This could be based on the class I picked, Psyker, as I’d imagined the Crusader with his volley of missiles causes destruction and body parts to fly everywhere.

Still, it’s certainly gory and not scared of making things explode, and as the game progresses and weapons and skills unlock, there is plenty to play with that makes up for some of that missing punch with the combat. Weapons determine some of the moves available, which two sets can be equipped and switched on the fly with a shortcut key. A standard auto pistol can be shot in burst or full automatic by either using the left or right mouse buttons, a plasma gun can do an armour breaking shot that takes time to charge or a slow firing shot, while the sniper can do high damage single shots or a small cone of area of effect damage. It makes each gun behave differently, and even some of the same class can come with some slight twists on the standard abilities they usually feature earlier in the game. Melee weapons have similar properties when two handed, while one handed will feature one attack move. The Inquisitor also gains perks, skills, traits and abilities through the large skill tree that begins firstly limited to the picked class and expertise style, but eventually lets you unlock skills in other areas after meeting level criteria, achievements or challenges. There is plenty to unlock, and it’s probably why making the way to level 50 can take quite some time, but this plays into the game’s randomly generated side content, which I’ll get onto later.

I’ve yet to jump into the meat of the cover and suppression mechanics. Cover feels more important on the higher difficulties and classes that aren’t able to take as much damage, due to the light armours they wear. Simply holding space bar will enable the character to tag towards a cover spot that is highlighted in yellow. Behind cover is the chance to pop up and take shots at enemies, but also it allows any damage that hits the blockage to absorb it until it breaks apart, leaving the character vulnerable again. Suppression is a fatigue metre that brings debuffs – such as movement speed and poor aim – if you spend too long in the open being surrounded by enemies. To lower suppression, players need to get out of combat situations until it cools down. While it might sound like an awkward feature to have when you want to simply kill a lot of things, the idea itself keeps players on their toes when overwhelmed by strong opponents, and I found it to be an interesting addition to the standard action RPG gameplay, more so because the combat is slower here that it fits in, while also representing real life board game elements. Both cover and suppression come across as throwaway on the story difficulty, but crank it up to one of the other four settings and it soon becomes evident that it is something that can help keep people alive.

A character also has a power level that represents how strong they are – think Destiny. As you begin to find more gear from enemies, craft new items in the home hub or rewards from the random loot chest gained on every successful mission, your inquisitor will begin to gain a sense of progression as their power level increases. Interestingly, new gear cannot be accessed until the mission is complete, throwing a spanner into the works, but before saying that this is a strange design choice, I think it could be another board game related idea about equipment being the same as when you are sent onto a mission. If that is the case, then that is a nice reference to the physical version. Every mission in the game has a power level rating with each difficulty bumping up this rating higher. This doesn’t mean the mission is impossible, but it sure is harder to finish when the rating is so high that it highlights it in red instead of the green for recommended or yellow for a warning. In conjunction with the standard levelling and skill unlocks, the sense of character progression is done well.

On my initial visit to the Caligari sector and seeing the game’s galaxy map showcase to me the many systems and planets in the game, I was rather surprised at the scale, but this is somewhat misleading when it comes to the game’s mission design. As with any first time with a video game, there are a few variations in the level design, but soon it becomes a repetitive nature as the random generation begins to set in and things all look rather familiar. It’s not long before the same themes surface again. Everything eventually becomes a blur and looks the same. A shame, since the idea of exploring this huge piece of space could have given so much more, but really, it’s only the story that manages to throw in more distinct designs.

There is a lack of polish with the game’s presentation and Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor – Marty‘s own CoreTech 4 engine that is the developers in house technology. Frame rate performance is all over the place, sometimes it will be smooth, but when things become hectic, I was dropping 30 or more frames on average, with extreme circumstances reducing my fps from 100 all the way down to the mid 30s. This is a machine running at 2560×1440 on a Nvidia 1080Ti, and based on how the game looks, which is entirely fine for an isometric dungeon crawler, it’s clear that these drops are optimisation issues rather than lacking the power required to run such a title. As for capturing the atmosphere of the source material, it manages to do that well, and I can’t see any complaints about how the license is brought to life on screen with its planets, buildings and titanic space ships, while showcasing familiar infested enemies that fans will have seen before.

One of the good things about having new random missions appear is that if players do not succumb to the repetition, they could keep playing Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Marty for many, many hours. New patches have added new end game content, while new missions randomly appear and disappear after certain time limits. There is even a tarot card system that enables random missions (can’t help but feel this is something like the Diablo III rift feature) that uses cards to add modifiers to crafted missions, which are mainly used for farming specific equipment, but there is no harm in proving yourself with the harder challenges on offer through it.

Multiplayer is here too, connecting with up to 3 other people to take on missions or find a random party through the cooperative searcher. Bizarrely, the game is set up in such a way that the story missions have to be done in single player, while everything else can be done as a team. It was awkward to have to keep separating when wanting to continue the plot with a friend. Last thing relating to multiplayer is PvP, coming in 1vs1 or 2vs2 varieties, but I wasn’t too keen on its focus on control point. It’s a nice a to have, but no doubt comes across as a last minute inclusion compared the rest of the game’s content. Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is about working as a team and taking on the harder missions, grinding for more loot, and it mostly does that well, with the occasional issue with lag or a random crash to desktop (happened three times during my 30 hours) upsetting that. The game has already received a few patches, so these should be ironed out in the future.

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is mostly a good title that comes with some innovative ideas, but falls short in other areas regarding its performance and level design. Warhammer 40k fans will get a kick out of it, and its long life through random missions means content is in hundreds of hours for people who enjoy working towards the highest achievements. Others will eventually grow bored of the repetition, but will easily have gained enough hours out of the title to not be short changed. The Warhammer 40,000 list of games continues to grow with quality ranging across the whole spectrum, but the first entry in the action RPG genre for the IP turns out to lean more towards the good side of the list. It brings with it a decent combat system and an addictive loot grind, but is spoiled by the mentioned issues which stop it being up there with the greats of the genre.

7 out of 10