Thursday, 30 August 2018

Inquisitor Martyr PS4 Review

In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war; and now there's a new way to experience your favourite tabletop universe on PC and consoles.
I normally post about miniatures, but I think that a 40k video game has enough to do with the subject of the blog (mostly 40k anyway) for it to be worth posting about. That and the lack of information about the console port of this game was starting to really annoy me, so I figured it was time for me to shove all those better-known video game review sites out of the way so that people have a chance to read something written by someone who isn't a drivelling idiot.
Anyway, I picked up the game on release (24/08/2018), so I've had some time to get to know it. Full steam ahead with the review then!

What is Inquisitor Martyr?
Basically, the game plays a bit like Diablo. It is an action RPG, which means a healthy combination of live button bashing combat combined with plenty of looting and levelling up in a top-down angled view. You play as an Inquisitor; one of the Emperor's agents set to seek out heresy and corruption in the Imperium of Man. The game features both a good single player story mode and multiplayer online (up to 4 player) and local co-op (2 players on the same console).
Interestingly, the developers made the choice to make the story mode single player only and to completely lock out the multiplayer options (even local). It might seem like a strange decision, but they have obviously put a lot of work into crafting the story, and it is actually surprisingly well written and voice acted. Personally, having played some online games, I'm glad that they decided to make that part of the game single player only, as it really preserves the integrity of the game that otherwise might be overrun by wild rushing and speed running that prevails in other titles.

Accessing Multiplayer
I was looking for info on this before I started and it is a question that seems to be answered quite unclearly most places. To clarify, you need to complete the starting missions on The Martyr (5 I think). At this point, it will drop you on the command bridge and give you access to the galaxy at large. You have to play one more mission from the story, and then you'll be able to access both online and local multiplayer from a pair of screens to the right of the star map.
Local multiplayer works somewhat differently than I expected. The second player can't actually create a full character like you might expect, but rather is given a choice of pre-built Inquisitors to play as that simply scale with the character used by the first player. It did feel a bit jarring at first, but there are enough options to pick something you like, or a build you want to try out, and it works well for the drop-in, drop-out nature of local play. I would still have preferred to be able to create a second character though, so I hope this is a feature they will add in the future.

The burning question most people will be wanting to ask is how does the game actually play. Good is the short answer, but read on if you want more detail. I've split it up into sub-headings to make things a bit easier to process as there is a lot to say!

Character Development:
There has been a trend recently for simplification in RPGs. In Diablo 3 you basically have no choice in your character build. The game does it all for you and just unlocks all of your skills as you level up; leaving the whole experience a bit dry. The worst thing about this is that it destroys the replay-ability of the game, basically giving you no reason to ever build and play one of the classes again, as there is no way to customise your character in ways that you simply couldn't modify the first one by switching skills and equipment around. Conversely, in Diablo 2, building an effective character pretty much involved pulling out a calculator before your first level and then putting everything you had into a single skill; pumping it up and up as you levelled as well as anything that synergised with it.
You might ask what the point of that diatribe was, but it helps point out how Martyr works, as it falls somewhere in the middle. Essentially, the skills that you use are determined by the weapon type that you have equipped. This gives you 4 different abilities (such as beam attacks, explosive shots, aimed sniper shots, rapid fire, speed combat strikes, area attacks etc). You also have a special ability assigned to your armour that changes depending on type and is more specialist. This is things like jump packs, shoulder mounted grenade launchers, energy based multiples of yourself etc. You also have a sub-slot for things like grenades, energy fields and teleporters. Overall this gives you 6 different combat abilities to access, but you can carry 2 weapons; making this 10. These come entirely from your equipment, other than for the Psyker who can pick abilities and equip them alongside some of the ones given by his equipment. So from this, you might think that the game is entirely equipment based.
Handily, Martyr also has a large selection of skill trees available. These convey passive bonuses to certain actions and are where the real character creation is found. Every level, you get a skill point to spend on these and over time, you can sculpt your character to specialist in different things such as ranged combat, close combat, area damage, sniper skills, defence etc. These unlock gradually as your character progresses and make a huge difference in the long run to how they play and how effective they will be. This system gives he game a good level of depth for characters and also means that you could happily enjoy making several different iterations of each character (such as a sniper-assassin like the one I built, or a close combat specialist one).
There are 3 classes to chose from, The Crusader, Assassin and Psyker. With a variety of builds available, there will be plenty to keep people entertained.

Combat in the game is in real time, although all of your skills will feature some kind of cooldown, even if it is less than a second. Attacks are satisfying and often reduce your enemies to a bloody pulp, but unlike a lot of games these days, it won't just let you stand in the middle of a room getting shot for long before you die. In fact, there is a feeling of relative power; sure, you can blast an Ogryn to death no problem, but you might want to lure him away from his friends first!
The character classes do play differently in this regard, and getting a good mix of abilities is going to be a matter of trial and error more than anything else. The weapons available are basically equal stat wise and anything can be competitive and work well as better versions will be dropped by enemies as you level up. It's finding what you want to use that makes things more complicated; especially for the Crusader who is the most mutable of the classes and doesn't really have one clear direction to go it (combat, range, heavy weapons?). Add to this the armour systems and sub-equipment, and you'll find there is a lot to experiment with. As an example, my main character is a ranged assassin that uses various sniper weapons as her main gun, and a bolter as the side arm for a bit of crowd control. She does a lot of damage, but is quite fragile, so I offset this with armour that allows her to create multiples of herself that soak damage up and a personal shield that you can activate to soak damage. Pretty cool right.
Enemies run the gambit from cultists, Chaos Marines and Nurgle daemons to Sentinels and I even saw a Leman Russ too, so there's quite good variety, and certainly enough for you to need to change up our tactics that keeps things interesting.

Game Modes Available:
Along with the single player mode, there is a star map that lets you go from planet to planet taking on side missions as you feel. There are also side campaigns that you can initiate that string together a group of missions into a storyline. These are nice and give you choices occasionally throughout that have an impact on the final outcome. A little further into he game, you unlock a tarot card based mission system that allows you to select specific rewards and conditions in exchange for a special resource. These allow you to pick up some great gear and you can select specifically to have a mission that will reward you with quality armour on completion; a real boon if you've notice that one or two bits of your equipment are looking a bit old and rubbishy. There is also an online Vs mode. All in all, there's plenty to be getting on with.
Pros and Cons:
I've talked a lot about everything the game has to offer, but not a lot about what was good about the game, and what could do with improvement. Some of these are double edged, so appear in both categories.
  • Surprisingly high budget feel for a 40k game; with good graphics, and a nicely put together and voiced storyline.
  • Great scenery and really nice industrial level design. Also frozen ice planets and fungal-jungle maps available that give some nice variety.
  • Single player storyline isn't overshadowed by multiplayer.
  • Three distinct character classes, each with multiple builds available.
  • Deep character development and skill trees.
  • Loads of game modes and an expansive map which would take hundreds of hours to fully complete and enjoy.
  • Challenging combat that needs tactical thought.
  • Good level up systems and pace.
  • Continuing support for the game has been promised, with more content coming at regular intervals.
  • Item crafting
  • Use of cover and suppression bring new things to the action RPG genre.
  • Game systems are poorly explained if at all, making the game frustrating sometimes as it can be hard to work things out mostly by trial and error. An example is that you can see what your skills do on your weapons in the inventory screen, but that you have to push in one of the analogue sticks to get this information to display. It says at the bottom of the screen that you can do this, but it is never explained anywhere else.
  • No multiplayer for the storyline. Both a good and bad thing, and I think they could at least allow this locally for consoles.
  • Co-op mode will not allow the second person to make a full character. Again, this is limiting for people who like to play co-op.
  • Some parts of the game feel a bit raw. I wouldn't say unfinished, but it does feel a bit experimental and I could see the game changing a lot as updates come in.
  • Some attack skills can be a bit samey. The ability to fire single shots, rapid fire, and fire while walking forwards or backwards can feel a bit bland when they're all on one weapon together. This is offset by other weapons that have more variety.
  • Online multiplayer requires a PlayStation Plus membership

If you're a fan of the 40k lore and background or just action RPGs in general, I think you'll really enjoy Inquisitor Martyr. As a game, it has a lot of offer, and I think that character development is probably its strongest feature. Combat is fun as well, and the balance and pace both feel good. You also get that nice feeling as your character grows in power and becomes more effective. I found this took a while to kick in when playing Martyr, as my character didn't feel like they changed that much till I had enough levels to start accessing some of the more powerful passive effects, but one I did I got a real surge in power.

I've laid out the pros and cons for the game, but I think most of the cons aren't too bad and are mostly just things that maybe aren't as smooth as they could be, and this will probably change in time.

Overall, I think the developers really reached for the stars with this title, and actually hit for the most part. I'm really enjoying the game, and I think that the great scope and content far outweighs the minor flaws and initial menu confusion. My verdict; well worth the money, and a real treat for gamers and 40k enthusiasts alike.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Zombie Blade 1 - Blood Spatter on the Criminal Negligence of Yesterday

“Looks like we got us a Mexican standoff.” The man known only as Bamburerro Blade grunted the words in a dry gravelly voice that brought to mind the scrape of an undertaker’s shove digging a fresh grave.

The tavern was abandoned; a trashed broken ruin of splintered wood. He stood in the centre of the dilapidated space, cowelled in a long traveller’s poncho and wide brimmed hat; surrounded on three sides by a groaning and shuffling throng of the recently dear and departed. Somewhat less dear now that that had been reanimated by the same foul alien brain cheggers that had infested the populous.

Bamburerro Blade made a slow movement with his left hand; pulling the poncho back to access his shirt pocket. He was reaching for something, and a few of the zombies reacted; turning to regard the interloper with increased interest. After fiddling around for a moment, his hand emerged from the pocket gripping a fresh cigarillo. He flicked the cigarillo into his mouth and slowly started reaching for a match in another pocket.

Enraged by the blatant disregard he was showing them, a zombie leapt forwards towards the lone wanderer; but it caught nothing but air in its grizzled fleshless hands.

What unfolded next was too fast for normal human eyes to catch. Bamburerro’s poncho took flight as he threw it into the air above him. Freed from its constraints, his right hand went into action; drawing an ornate 3 barrelled pistol from a holster across his body. With a flash of light, the weapon discharged; exploding his first opponent’s cranium in a hefty burst of stringy alien mucus.

In that instant, the other undead beasts turned on him; and a wall of festering corpse warriors closed around him. Bamburerro pulled a second pistol; instantly squeezing off another round into the chest of a particularly large lifeless monster. The mass reactive shell exploded outwards; leaving its torso an eviscerated mess on the other side of the room from its legs. He spun his body, moving low beneath the tide and taking out 3 more before they even realised he wasn’t in the poncho anymore as his gun discharged again.



Outside of the OK Saloon, a crowd of terrified farm-folk gathered together wielding pitch-forks and improvised scatterguns. They trembled with fright; staring with horrified rapture as the windows of the wrecked establishment flashed rhythmically in time to the sound gunfire.

It suddenly went quiet. One minute turned into two, and then into three. Still nothing but silence.

A restless murmur passed through the crowd.

“Never should’a hired that cloaked idiot” Mayor Burrows griped a little too audibly; his overgrown moustache wabbled comically in time to the words. “I gave him half the money upfront too! And now somebody is gonna have to go in there to get the money back…”. He looked around for a volunteer, his beady eyes finally settling on the least favourite of his seven daughters. Just as he was about to try to coax her into the death-trap, the saloon door was flung open from the inside.

“I reckon I’ll be taking the rest o’ that money now Mayor” Bamburerro’s low rusty voice was clearly audible as he strode through the threshold; accompanied by the sound of spurs clattering on the hard wood floor. He dumped a handful of zombified heads in front of the bumbling statesman; earning both cheers of celebration and gasps of horror from the gathered crowd of citizens.

“About that” started the mayor, shifting nervously from foot to foot. His jowly face beaded with sweat; obviously gleaming on his rapidly paling visage in the dim light of dusk.

“I don’t really have the money, I didn’t…” he stopped, swallowing loudly “…actually expect you to come back.” An idiotic grin crept across the mayor’s face.

Bamburerro’s eyes narrowed; his dry lips split and his voice was icy cold “Hiring a bounty hunter without the money to pay is against the law”. The statement hung in the air like a dead-man’s curse. There was complete silence; the villagers not daring to even breathe as the deadly tension built.

Mayor Burrows went red in the face, at once threatened and affronted by the hunter.

“Whose law? I am the Mayor!” He stomped his feet at the declaration.

Bamburerro’s poncho flew into the air.

“My law.”

The mayor’s last sight was the shinning triple barrels mere inches from his face. He never saw the finger that pulled the trigger, or his crumpled bloody remains that were left where they fell in the street for the crows.





Thursday, 9 August 2018

Hobby Pitfalls - 10 Things Not to Do!

This picture has nothing to do with the topic. I'm just resurrecting a classic. Jessie and Chester said it best.

So, when you've been around this hobby long enough you see some junk and some stuff; I wouldn't recommend it!

Hobby Pitfalls - 10 Things Not to Do!

1) Don't leave your paintbrush tip down in the water pot!

I know that water pot looks like a nice clean place to leave your paint-covered brush, but leave it in there too long and the water is going to seep into the bristles and wreck them. If the brush is tip down, the contact with the bottom of the pot will splay everything out and leave you with a useless twig headed with something that looks like the ass-end of a witch's broomstick.

Wash it out in the water, re-point the head and then put it back in the little plastic sleeve it came in for next time. You'll thank me for it later.

2) Don't leave bare metal/plastic/resin showing because you were going to paint it grey/metal anyway!

I actually remember an article in an old White Dwarf advocating leaving the new "white metal" on show as it was such a nice metallic tone. I've seen the same thing with plastic though, and occasionally I see marines that are supposed to be grey in bare plastic with one or two yellow details painted on. I feel like it shouldn't be necessary to pint it out, but don't do it. Don't even think about it. Are you thinking about it? Train your mind!

If you want grey, use a grey primer and then paint over it. Trust me the finish is going to be a lot less embarrassing, and you'll be able to effectively add washes and things to get a better tone too. Plus, that sprue-grey isn't fooling anyone.

3) Don't touch someone else's models without asking!

People can be quite particular about their models, and they don't necessarily want your sticky peanut-butter sandwich fingers all over them!

Lets be honest, people's miniatures have a lot of their time and effort put into them, so it makes sense that they value them. Even the crappiest battered and chipped grot might be their favourite, so remember to be respectful.

4) Don't be a bad sport!

We've all seen it. That guy who gets all bent out of shape and upset when he loses. You don't want to be him, it's embarrassing and takes the fun out of the game for everyone.

Worse than that though, it the guy who cheats, and who everyone knows is cheating, and who then brags about all the games he's won. Well, I've got a news flash for you buddy; everyone knows and they're not impressed, so knock of that junk right now!

5) Don't think that you need a wet pallet and a Windsor and Newton Series 7 to paint!

I encourage everyone to try everything in painting, but conventional internet wisdom seems to boil down to telling everyone that they need to be using a Series 7 and a Wet Pallet. How this myth got started, I'll never know, but I have absolute faith that the people recommending this stuff have never actually painted a model to a standard that would be deemed acceptable even among 12 year olds.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with either item, and I'm painting with a Series 7 detail brush myself. The thing that annoys me is that this isn't beginner stuff. You don't need expensive brushes and techniques to get a good finish. If you're just starting out, you'll probably knacker your first brushes anyway, and you don't need a wet pallet or a Windsor and Newton fancy pants brush to learn how to apply basecoats, washes and maybe have a go at dry-brushing. The rest can come later.

6) Don't think you can't paint out of the pot!

Open up that pot. See that little thing in the lid that looks a bit like a tray. yeah, there's nothing stopping you from adding in some water to the paint right there and then painting with it. Heresy? I call it living on the wild side. It's how we did things in the 90s and you too can learn this master level secret technique. Paint with your honour and you will win.

I did it. Dare to be different.

7) Don't do freehand without thinking!

"Yeah dude, I was thinking of freehanding like a wolf or something right across his face … and then like a blazing sword right across the shoulder guard … with lightning bolts and junk".

Stop right there weekend warrior, that sounds like a bigger mess than Giorgio Tsoukalos' hairdo. You need to plan things out and then draw them out before you approach that model with the paint brush, or you're about to make a big mistake. And if you suck at freehand, then don't do it. It works for me.

8) Don't build large resin models without pinning them!

Should be a given, but pins are really essential for large heavy parts. Resin tends to be expensive and fragile too.

9) Don't buy more than you can handle! (and don't fall for those new releases!)

Easier said than done, I know that much. You need to have  reasonable chance of finishing this stuff. I always see people clambering for the next box-set, but next week's set is last week's forgotten memory or unfinished project. Don't get tricked into backing yourself into a hobby corner as it can cause burnout as sure as anything else. Nobody likes to look at their huge "to do" pile and realise they'll never see the end of it. I've known a lot of people who end up selling unopened kits by the dozen for armies they never even started, and all it does is cost them money and cause misery.

That said, sometimes you need a change of pace, or just deserve a present. Just try to be sensible about it!

10) Don't buy competitive units just because they're powerful! 

The rules change so often that it really is pointless to power play like a freak unless you're a dedicated tournament player. After a long time in the game, I've seen a lot of armies hit eBay 5 minutes into a new edition because they were created only to abuse an obviously under costed unit. Remember the Dark Eldar Venom Spam? If you don't, it's probably going pretty cheap right now. Just remember to pack them full of Trueborn with blasters!

The good thing about a balanced force is that as the power levels of different units wax and wane, the force tends to remain more or less level and perfectly playable in any edition.

11) Don't use exclamation marks on the end of every sentence to try to make an impact!

If you've made it this far, I salute you. You've run off the bottom of actual advice and reached the reflective part of the article where I consider my own writing style..... Not really.

Y'know this week, I was walking to work. I look down the road, and there's a car full of stuff parked up by the pavement. As I approach, I notice a few things on the ground. It looks like makeup or something. A few more steps and my eye follows this trail of so called "breadcrumbs". Then I see it. Right in the middle of the footpath; this big honkin' flesh coloured dildo just flappin' about in the sunshine. It's times like those that inspire me to write Bungo. 

Ok, not really but it did happen and it was weird. Well, the flapping part was pure artistic licence, but the rest is true.

Oh, and number 12 would've been - Don't make 40k/Jamie Oliver crossover memes! (No matter how diabolically delicious it may seem at first)

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Steel Legion Basilisk Complete

There's just something about the Basilisk that really speaks to me; maybe it all started years ago when I used to stare at pictures of them in White Dwarf as a kid. Regardless of where it started, I've always had a fascination with the tank, so I knew it was something I wanted to add to my Steel Legion force as soon as possible.

I know that they make an Armageddon Pattern Basilisk, specially for the Steel Legion, but I've never liked the closed crew compartment. Speaking of crew, I plan to paint up some more soon to stand on the back, as a Basilisk just never looks quite right without them. And that one guy is looking a bit lonely.

For this model, I followed the same scheme that I used to paint my Deathstrike the other month. I wrote it all out in a full tutorial, which I'll add a link to for anyone interested:

To round out the artillery, I also have a Colossus that I partially batched with this Basilisk. I'm not rushing to finish it as I think it'll be a little too powerful for the 500 point games that I'm planning to start with. I have to say that with these tanks, I've really been enjoying the weathering process, and it has been fun to be able to get some nice results pretty quickly.

For some reason, this camera angle made the crewman look like he came out of Epic or something... so tiny!

You can see the weathering quite clearly on the white stripe

The only thing I don't like about the Basilisk kit is the strange hole that seems to be left in the back. Someone tell me if I'm wrong, but I couldn't find a thing in the instructions either time I've built one, and I ended up rigging up a fix with an armour panel and a few spares. It really doesn't show and was easy enough to do, but I can't help feel like you shouldn't have to do it anyway!

So, that's another tank down for my burgeoning force; bringing the total to 32 infantry, 3 sentinels, and 2 tanks. On the painting block currently, I have the aforementioned Colossus, an Artemia Pattern Hellhound and the crowning jewel of the planned 1000 points; A Malcador!

WIP fresh from my painting table

Monday, 6 August 2018

Steel Legion Sentinel Squad!

3 sentinels all finished and ready to roll for my Steel Legion! I've always really liked the Sentinel kit since it came out all those years ago. Sure, there have been a few updates, but I've wanted a unit of them ever since I can remember, and now I'm living the dream!

For the weapons, I went with Lascannons and hunter killer missiles. Their battlefield role is clear; hunt some tanks! How good they'll be is still in question, but as a moderately priced option that is fairly robust, they fall into that bracket where they'll be likely to be cost effective even as a distraction. They also help fill a bit of a void in the army, so it's several birds with one stone.

Design wise, I wanted them to look like a squad and not just 3 disparate vehicles. Running with the idea, I decided it would be fun to make a command sentinel (pictured in the centre). I thought a flag would be cool, and handily, I had an Anvil part from the regiments range handy that was perfect for the job. It is mounted on a thick metal rod too, so it is nice and stable out the top there.

I used the missile launcher flipped in reverse with the searchlight mounted on it to build some kind of extra arm/scanner module. No idea what the function is supposed to be, but I imagine it broadcasts orders to the other sentinels or tracks battlefield movements or something.

On the subject of searchlights, I wanted to have every sentinel be slightly different, but still look uniform, so I moved the searchlight locations on each one to give them a slightly different look. I knew they'd be blue as well, so it makes them a more obvious thing to change in the weathered scheme where small things might get missed.

I also added in the red and white stripes that are featured on all of my tanks. It seemed like a good way to lift the scheme a bit and give them a bit more oomph visually. I added a bit of yellow too with some of the symbols to match the uniforms of my troops.

Hunter Killer Missiles anyone?

Just to prove I painted the backs too! (you might be wondering if I did when you find out how long I spent on them)

The urban bases match my infantry. I cut and glued all those bricks by hand! I think I missed my calling in brick laying...

As far as painting is concerned, I used exactly the same method I used for my tanks, which is detailed here:

The funniest thing is that I actually painted all 3 of these in a batch across the space of a single weekend. It wasn't even that full on either, and I feel like I've really hit my stride with the Steel Legion scheme. I was worried when I started them that the way I painted the tanks wouldn't translate too well onto smaller models, but I'm actually really happy with these sentinels. One of the driving forces behind my Steel Legion is for the army to be used a lot in battle, and I think these are going to be an option that I'll take a lot!

They look nice with the force too. I've finished a lot more than this, but it just shows how they look together. I'll put some proper photos of the basilisk up soon.