For The Emperor!
HIGH Great dungeon crawl gameplay, strong attention to detail.
LOW The EXP gain seems to tank in co-op.
WTF The “Rotwang” system.
Anyone who listens to the So Videogames podcast has probably heard me say that thanks to patches, fixes and updates, the best time to play any game is at least six months after it launches. However, in the case of Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr, it might be more accurate to say that the best time is… two years later?
Before I jumped into this isometric Diablo-like dungeon crawler, I had multiple people tell me it wasn’t worth my time, and early reviews from release (August 2018) seem to back this up. However, I was intrigued by recent videos and in the mood for the genre, so I gave it a try — and I’m glad I did. While Martyr may have been rough at launch, the devs have clearly been working hard on improving the experience. As of February 2020, this game is fantastic.
I’m not intimately familiar with the Warhammer 40,000 universe, although I do know a bit about it since it’s hard to avoid in gaming circles. However, familiarity with the IP is not required for enjoyment because the premise is simple — the player is an Inquisitor, which seems to be a cross between a puritanical investigator and an OP death machine.
While story is rarely the high point of any dungeon crawl, the devs at Neocore have gone the extra mile. Not only is the plot intriguing — a mysterious ship called the Martyr has reappeared after being missing for 5,000 years and is now emanating a distress signal, so go investigate! — nearly every mission begins with a fully-voiced intro, there are great cutscenes throughout the campaign, and multiple characters the Inquisitor will chat with over the course of play. I can’t say how faithful it is to 40K lore, but as someone with only cursory knowledge, the story beats kept me moving forward and I appreciated the dead-dry humor in the banter.
Story aside, there’s no question that gameplay and loot are what drive a dungeon crawler, and Martyr shines on both accounts.
Players of any class can have two separate loadouts at a time, and these can be swapped between with the push of a button. Each weapon, whether ranged or melee, has between two to four attacks that give various effects in addition to damage – things like armor piercing, splash damage, burning, and so on.
Besides the weapon options, encounters include a wide variety of enemy types, attack types and behaviors. The player must constantly engage in situational awareness and active combat management from start to finish. It’s never simply about mashing a button or spamming the strongest attack over and over – moment-to-moment play is about trying to carefully line up an armor-piercing shot before switching to an AoE burst, and then taking cover to boost healing and then repositioning before the next group of foes surges forward. Between the encounters and the weapons, content which would become dreary and static in a lesser work manages to stay fresh and exciting all the way through.
Level design is also strong. Missions offer a variety of objectives (kill ‘em all, rescue, find the info, and more) and environments come in flavors ranging from the narrow hallways of abandoned space hulks to the wide-open expanses of snowfields. At some points, the player may even find themselves working with allies or taking control of larger units, like a tank or a mech suit.
Inquisitor offers co-op play both locally and online, and enemy scaling is quite good. I was going through missions with my wife (20 levels behind me at the time) and nearly any mission we picked offered difficulty that kept us both busy. The loot that dropped was useful for each one of us, also — it never felt like I was babysitting her character, and walking away from a level 9 mission with gear that was genuinely useful for my level 29 character was a good feeling.
The only downside to co-op is that the experience gained takes a strange nosedive in comparison to playing solo. I can only guess that this drop prevents high-level players from power-leveling others, but it was a bit of a bummer. Still, the co-op works like a dream and still worth engaging in for the loot alone, so it’s just something to keep in mind.
For those concerned about running out of content, the main campaign is quite lengthy and there are also several small DLC campaigns available, along with the recently released Prophecy expansion which adds an all-new storyline and the new Tech-Adept class. There are also challenges to work through and plenty of missions that are unrelated to the campaign. I’ve also heard tell of a system that unlocks once a player is in the endgame past level 50 (the cap is 100) but I haven’t made it that far yet. There’s also a robust crafting system for those who want to engage with it, though it’s not necessary – the drops are plentiful, and the local shop has rotating stock at fantastic prices.
This is the point in my review where I generally start listing my criticisms and go into detail about a game’s problems, but there’s not much to complain about with Martyr. The story is solid, weapon variety is great, moment-to-moment gameplay is strong, the co-op is smooth… This is one of those rare occasions where I’m struggling to find something to complain about. The UI for customizing your avatar’s color scheme kinda blows, I guess?
From start to finish, Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is an outstanding dungeon crawler that checks all the boxes I want checked and then goes on to polish up all the other details as well. It might not win over those who aren’t already fans of the genre, but players looking for the next great dungeon crawl can’t afford to miss this one.
Disclosures: This game is developed by NeoCore Games and published by Bigben Interactive. It is currently available on PS4, XBO and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 35 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the base campaign was completed. 10 hours of play were spent in online multiplayer mode. (Local co-op is also supported.)
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore and Violence. The official ESRB description is as follows: This is an action role-playing game in which players create and control agents of the Inquisition in a space-gothic universe. From a ¾-overhead perspective, players explore dungeons and battle enemies (e.g., aliens, demons, heretics) by using ranged and melee weapons/attacks. Characters use guns, axes, fireballs, and other magic attacks to kill enemies in frenetic combat. Enemies explode into blood and chunks of flesh when killed. Several environments depict large bloodstains and limbless corpses.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The onscreen minimap is excellent and displays all sorts of useful info including where enemies are at all times. All dialogue is subtitled (the size is rather small) and no auditory cues are needed for gameplay. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable but there are several preset configurations. One example is seen below.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
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