Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr PC Review

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr feels like a collection of ideas that haven’t yet matured.

By Woozie, Posted 17 Jun 2018

The Warhammer 40,000 universe has somewhat of a hit-and-miss history with its video game adaptations. While titles such as Dawn Of War and Battlefleet Gothic: Armada stand at the forefront as successful representations, a good number of titles using the license can be described as less-than-good. Neocore Games’ Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr is the first ARPG set in the universe and while it doesn’t fall in the latter category, taking on the role of an inquisitor in the Caligari Sector doesn’t stay thrilling for too long either.

Each of the three classes in Inquisitor - Martyr comes with its own playstyle. The Crusader is a bulkier inquisitor in Power Armor that can use heavy weaponry; the Assassin is nimbler, able to dodge and has access to exotic weapons, while the Psyker falls into the mage archetype mostly specializing in ranged spellcasting. The latter has the most variety in terms of ability choice, as he’s not limited exclusively to his weapons’ abilities. Inquisitor - Martyr aimed for a slower, more tactical approach to combat from the get go. What resulted, however, is a messy system that’s not sure what it wants to be. Cover is in the game, but serves little to no purpose, as do emplaced weapons. Attempting to shoot from behind cover can result in the Inquisitor shooting the cover meant to protect him. At other times, enemies would land hits through solid objects until I used them as cover. Regardless of class, there’s still an emphasis on constantly being on the move and bringing death upon foes with the press of a button. The most tactical thing required is moving away from the occasional grenade or telegraphed attack, but these rarely stand out amidst the chaos. Although you can technically choose the difficulty of missions, its bipolar nature – where they’re either a breeze or frustrating affairs where your HP melts in seconds – makes it hard to identify what sets each foe apart. Regardless of faction, enemies feel like amorphous blobs, rather than unique entities providing different types of challenge.

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr, Screenshot, PC, Review

The exceptions to this rule would be certain Champions and bosses which surprise you by reviving out of the blue, and dreadnoughts and Leman Russ tanks that can boast impressive amounts of HP at times, but little else. Encounters rarely find that middle ground where there’s just enough challenge, spending too much time near the extremes. As missions reward a flat amount of XP regardless of how many mobs you kill, extra exploration isn’t worthwhile making beelining towards the objective always the better option. Linking skills to weapons means that once you’ve decided on a build, you’ll most likely chase one or two weapon types and that’s it. While it would be intuitive to look for weapons useful in different situations, switching between them also triggers cooldowns making it hard to adjust to new situations on the fly. The available arsenal features a good number of 40K weaponry but the fact that you’re encouraged to mostly stick to one weapon, and can’t switch equipment on the battlefield, makes choices fairly limited.

The various skill trees offer only bland passive increases to certain types of damage or defensive capabilities, and once you’ve found a preferred weapon you’re stuck to using its skills which, in many cases, are lackluster. This makes the entire prospect of leveling up uninteresting as all it does is allow you to go against foes of a higher power level in missions that play out the same. That’s not to say there aren’t a number of choices in terms of playstyle. As a Psyker, I could take a risky approach that boosted damage when Warp Heat levels – generated by casting spells – were high, which also spawned Warp anomalies and demons that would come after me. I could just as well opt for bonuses when Warp Heat was low. Then there are skill trees that make specific damage types more effective or increase single target/area of effect damage. Quantitatively there undoubtedly is choice. The issue comes with it not translating into anything interesting on the battlefield, as you use the same skills with little visible shift or synergy as characters grow stronger.

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr, Screenshot, PC, Review

This is further aggravated by the low quality of the sound effects on hand. There’s no way to go around it, the majority of guns and skills in the game aren’t ones you’ll want to listen to a whole lot; and guess what, that gun or staff you’re very fond off, they all look and sound exactly the same. Beams of molten lava sound weak regardless of what they’re searing through, autoguns sound like they’re shooting toothpicks and even those items or skills which do have impact to them – like the greataxe – aren’t very high fidelity. This worsens in co-op which quickly devolves into a mess of particles and a maddening cacophony which only Slaanesh could be fond of. Some of the visual feedback behind the skills is effective – like in Firestorm’s case which creates a puddle of flame that melts enemies on the spot – but just like everything else in Inquisitor - Martyr, a lot of it is not. There were plenty of times when the screen got too busy with pillars of flame, guts and pieces of the environment shattering with the fluidity of a slideshow. Loot doesn’t help Inquisitor - Martyr much either. It’s scarce inside missions, mostly dropping from Champion enemies. A loot chest is offered at the end of each successful run, with the added ceremony of having to watch green items turn around for a few seconds before you can move on and vendor them. While the smaller quantity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there’s never any interesting loot to be found. A chainsword of the highest quality is identical in terms of skills to a chainsword of the lowest quality; the additional stats are, again, passive increases, never altering gameplay in any significant way. It’s very much a case of getting less loot, but most of it only being useful as vendor trash/crafting materials anyway. Couple this with the lackluster skills and you’ve an ARPG whose core elements offer very little – if anything – to look forward to.

Inquisitor - Martyr does a good job of capturing the grandeur and solemnity of Imperial environments, the industrial nature of Underhives, and the decay Papa Nurgle brings wherever his influence is felt. Imperial skulls adorn support pillars, scrolls fall to the floor when the shelves they’re on get destroyed; blizzards make it harder to see, and towering statues hold vigil in long halls. Although there’s not much visual variation to the items, armors are nicely decorated – when in the item screen at least – with imperial seals and words in High Gothic etched into them. And yet, animations are often clunky and especially awful in the case of melee executions which not only slow down an already slow game but look awkward as characters clip into each other while attempting dramatic decapitations. It’s difficult to tell when you’re stunned in the middle of a crowd, aside from the fact that you can’t move. In one isolated case, my Inquisitor spontaneously turned into a pile of debris, while the remainder of the enemies became invisible, except for the odd rifle. When it’s rendered well, the destruction looks great, but it’s often not and the performance issues don’t stop there, with framerates still falling into the twenties and thirties, albeit not as frequently as during Early Access.

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr, Screenshot, PC, Review

Inquisitor - Martyr is an always online title with a variety of systems in place meant to incentivize coming back. There are resources usable in different scenarios, a handful of options when choosing missions, crafting, co-op and even PvP. It’s easy to see there’s a clear intention of forging a lasting experience. Uther’s Tarot allows for using cards to create missions of specific types which offer a higher chance for specific loot while acting as a catch-up mechanic.  Priority investigations have a narrative component (that’s not particularly well executed) and give contextual choices which can raise success levels but also casualties. Then there’s the Starmap, with a number of planets to choose from out of which only a few will ever be in your level range and which offer random missions. The PvP is particularly lifeless, both in terms of players and gameplay, as it revolves around capturing victory points in a small area. This translates to one player blowing the other to bits, then waiting around the captured victory points until the opponent returns; rinse and repeat for a period of time that’s far too long for action this dry. There’s a crafting system that allows for forging equipment, rerolling traits and recoloring gear. It even has its own tech tree. But this entire framework is rendered pointless when missions don’t take long before feeling identical and the title offers few reasons to push onwards, given its uninspired skills, loot and overall progression. I don’t think I’ve played any other ARPG where leveling up or gaining new gear left me as apathetic as Inquisitor - Martyr did.

Without spoiling any of its events, Inquisitor - Martyr’s passable story follows an inquisitor leading an investigation into something which could help the Imperium, although at a great cost. You gather a retinue of mostly forgettable characters which act as vendors of various items or stations to enter other game modes. There’s even a poorly implemented morality system tied to the Puritan and Radical skill trees. Locking skill trees behind a handful of rushed and meaningless choices makes it so that players will most likely chase extra bonuses over what they’d prefer doing in the context of the story. The story takes you through maps that feel identical to virtually any other non-story map. There are even two sequences where you control a Shadowsword and an Imperial Knight, which feel shoehorned and rough, taking place on bleak, washed out maps and failing to offer any power trip whatsoever. There’s nothing to enforce a sense of a world, regardless of the number of planets or screens you go through when moving across the sector. The linear, mostly corridor-based maps are spread across a number of biomes, but even this visual variety quickly grows stale. Then you’ve the occasional voice line that doesn’t play, missing or vague tooltip, and voice acting that alternates between bearable and outright cringeworthy.

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr, Screenshot, PC, Review

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr is an ambitious project that feels like a collection of ideas that haven’t yet matured. There are plenty of systems in place to theoretically provide an abundance of things to do – even to the point of overwhelming the player – but they’re not supported by core gameplay that makes one want to return to it. By far its biggest sins are the lackluster skills – tied to weapons – and the scarce, unimpressive loot. The combat itself sets out to be tactical, but ends up feeling dull, repetitive and clunky, despite occasional moments of violent catharsis when entire areas are showered in giblets. There’s a cover system that rarely plays a role and usable emplaced weapons which are outright useless. Despite occasional wave-based defense missions, or ones where you have to hold F for a bar to charge while fending off attackers, they are tedious affairs that end up feeling identical to each other much too soon. Add to that a world that fails at every step to convince it’s not just a series of maps barely strung together by attempts at a narrative and you’ve a package that’s not easy to recommend. The most dedicated 40K fans might be willing to overlook Inquisitor - Martyr’s many flaws and severe lack of polish to satisfy a craving they can’t get anywhere else. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that there’s a long way to go until the title reaches the level of refinement necessary to unlock its true potential.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Neocore Games
Developer(s): Neocore Gamers
Genres: Action-RPG
Themes: Sci-fi, Grimdark
Release Date: 2018-06-05

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