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.
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!
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.