The Warhammer franchise is vast, and deeply entrenched into modern video games. There is a Warhammer game in every genre I can think of (except for platformers, and puzzle games—I’d love to see that). So when I heard that there was going to be a Diablo-style action roleplaying game set in the grim darkness of space, I wasn’t surprised. But the combination of setting and genre seemed to fit so well together, I had to check it out. Despite a little clunkiness, Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr turns out to be a pretty solid game.
You play as an Inquisitor—judge, jury, executioner, etc. Basically, you have discretion to dole out the Emperor’s justice as you see fit. You are sent to investigate a derelict ship called the Martyr. An ancient, ornate temple ship that has been stuck in the warp for over a century—its crew twisted and mutated into servants of chaos: the perfect setting for a zealous Inquisitor to mete out righteous fury to these corrupted beings.
There are three classes in Inquisitor, each with three of their own subclasses: the Power Armor wearing Crusader, the Warp-wielding Psyker and the assassin who uses stealth and subterfuge to her advantage. Choosing a subclass affects your loadout initially, but later on you can actually change armor and weapons—both of which affect which skills you have available to you. The Psyker acts more like a typical caster class, while the Assassin is a mixture of melee and guns, depending on which direction you want to take. The Crusader sort of bridges the gap between them having both ranged attacks available with a wide array of Imperial kinetic and energy weapons. Everyone has melee weapons available to them, if that’s your thing. You can even wield a ranged weapon in one hand, and a melee weapon in the other.
The actual combat in Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor—Martyr is pretty bombastic—enemies explode into little giblets as destructible cover and environmental objects shatter into pieces. The combat can also feel a little slower for those used to Diablo 3 or other modern action roleplaying games, but once you get used to it it’s just as fun. My major complaint is the use of a cover system. Despite the idea being a decent one, the implementation is awful. Enemies can use cover quite effectively, but occasions for you to use cover are far less frequent, as it’s often destroyed by enemy fire as you’re moving up to it. The game is also very picky about what it wants to consider cover, and objects that you should easily cower behind don’t exist as cover in the game’s mechanics. The destructible objects and sheer amount of carnage can cause slowdowns too, even on beefy computers.
Loot you collect works on an item power level, which seems to be the trend in modern roleplaying games. While loot is the main draw for many, I found it one of the more lackluster parts of the experience. The item power system makes comparing stats useless most of the time, and I never once received a piece of gear that I was excited about. There is a wide array of staves, swords, bolters, flamers, autoguns, etc. so there’s no lack of variety, at least.
Even though most will play Inquisitor with loot in mind, the campaign story is worth mentioning. While it isn’t the best example of video game storytelling, it’s actually a surprisingly compelling romp through 40k space while taking the role of a dreaded Inquisitor. The story of the Martyr, its initial fate and how it ended up in its current predicament is surprisingly full of twists, and so chock full of lore that I ended broadening my Warhammer 40k knowledge a bit more. The voice acting can be uneven, and the video chat animations look like they’re from the ‘90s, but I had to see how it ended. Also, the setting is so appropriately grimdark that it reminded me of the earlier, darker days of action roleplaying games.
Despite the Martyr being the main focus of Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor–Martyr, the large ship isn’t the only location you’ll be splatting chaos jerks. You have multiple systems to choose from within the Caligari sector, each carrying a series of potential side missions to fight back the enemies of the Emperor—and there are always battles to fight in Warhammer 40k. Luckily, you aren’t confined to corridor shooting, as some stages are larger open fields or the interiors of Empire facilities that aren’t the Martyr—though interiors all resemble each other. Still, it’s a nice change of pace once in a while to fight across a snowy, battle pocked field, or through the rubble of former Imperial cities.
Despite the different locations, Chaos is always your main enemy. No Tau, Waaagh, Eldar or anything else, unfortunately. There are a good variations of enemies, though—whether you’re fighting rebel Imperial Guardsman, Space Marines, or giant abominations of Chaos. I would have liked to see something not touched by Chaos, or the multitude of other Xenos that inhabit the 40k universe.
For those (like me) who are sad to be only facing off against the multitude variations of chaos spawns, you will be happy to know the developers’ long term plans include adding in other races, as well as a bunch of other things to continue support for Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor–Martyr. According to updates on the Steam page, there are global events planned, some of which will have a permanent impact to the sector of space featured in-game. There is also some more endgame content planned, like the planned Warzone and endless missions featuring powerful enemies with powerful loot.
There are a few different ways to play Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor—Martyr. You can play solo through the story mode, or instead try your hand at the challenge modes which ramp up difficulty, but also ramp up rewards. There are multiplayer modes as well, that let you team up with your friends or with three other Inquisitors to do missions across the sector. There is even an arena player versus player mode that lets you try your build in 1v1 or 2v2 modes. The player versus player mode is a little lacking, though—despite how easy it is to find a match all of the fights feel like a DPS race. In other words: the prevailing strategy, at least at my level, was to simply out damage your opponents. Kills are worth points, and the idea is to kill your foes to accumulate more points than them.
It turns out the grim darkness of space is a good setting for an action roleplaying game. Despite its clunkiness, Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor—Martyr is fun. It’s technically out of Early Access, but it feels like it needs more polish to bring it to its full potential. Thankfully, though, the developers look like they’ll be doing exactly that.
Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor—Martyr is available now on Steam.
A copy of this game was provided to us for review purposes.