If there is one franchise no one can say has too few video games under its belt is Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000. From RTS to 4X4 to FPS to MMO, Warhammer 40K has seen it all. Some of it good, some- not so much. Yet the ARPG genre popularised by Diablo remained an uncharted territory for the Emperor’s champions. That is, up until Neocore Games came up with the awkwardly titled Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr. Let’s see how it did, shall we?
Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is an Action Role-Playing Game developed and published by Neocore Games. After spending a bit of time in Steam’s Early Access program, Martyr was relased for Microsoft Windows on 5 Jun, 2018 with PS4 and Xbox One versions releasing on August 23.
Story & Narrative
Like the title suggests, you play as an Inquisitor, an agent of the Emperor, tasked to deal with chaos, heresy, rebellion, betrayal, or any threat to the Imperium of Man. Your character comes upon a mysterious derelict spaceship called the Martyr and, like any other Emperor-floving officer off the imperium, begins exploring the humongous ship and start slaying hordes of cultists and daemons alike. Slowly, the mysteries of the Martyr begins to unravel and the titular Inquisitor finds himself in an age old conspiracy that can have serious repercussion for the imperium.
The rule of thumb is that you don’t play an ARPG for its story, let alone the writing. Yet, Martyr tells a story that is surprisingly engaging. Now now, it’s not the holy grail of storytelling, but it does give you that extra bit of motivation to curb-stomp thousands of ‘daemons’ and chaos cultists alike (not that you need any). Unraveling what secrets lies at the heart of the Martyr one by one feels good and there are several twists and turns along the way. It’s a bummer that the game ends on a cliffhanger (a story for expansions perhaps).
Aside from the main campaign, there is also a Co-Op and PvP mode in which I couldn’t find players to play with, for some baffling reason.
Gameplay & Mechanics
As with any other ARPG, Martyr allows you to choose between 3 different classes having 3 subclasses each. The Crusader, Assassin and Psyker fills the role of tank, rogue and mage respectively. All three are fun to play, but are somewhat unbalanced (especially towards the endgame) with Psyker being the most favored among the three. The combat is fun, satisfying and visceral, if not a bit clunky. Switching between targets and swapping weapons on the fly feel cumbersome when compared to titles like Grim Dawn or Path of Exile. Active abilities are bound to weapons and not characters themselves. As a result, the skilltrees only offer passive bonuses that feels incremental (except that of the Psyker).
Compared to Diablo or its peers, Martyr is more slow paced, story driven and mission based game. While I commend Neocore for not just trying to make Martyr just another Diablo clone, it’s also where the problems start to show up. The entire game is broken up into tonnes of 5-15 minute missions that often breaks up the experience. Just when you start to enjoy the flow of the combat, the mission comes to a halt. Exploration is pretty much non-existent outside mission objectives. You are also not allowed to access your inventory once you start a mission. It’s a real bummer that you can’t try out the badass looking armor you just picked up, without having to finish the mission and going back to the command bridge. The cover system sounds great on paper, but doesn’t translate well into the gameplay. At later levels, cover is either too few and far between, or are easily destructuible, making the whole system redudnant.
It’s hard to not focus on the negatives of the game just because it could have been something much better. The game commits some grave faults when it comes to even some of the basic ARPG elements. There is a clear lack of variety in maps, even when you’re outside in some of the different biomes and planets. Everything looks and feels the same. This also holds true for enemy design (including the bosses). There are only a handful of enemy types. You’ve seen five, you’ve seen it all. You also don’t get XP for enemies you slay. Martyr relies on power level to decide the overall effectiveness of the characters and mission difficulty. Power levels dictates whether you are at an advantage or disadvantage for a particular mission. Meaning that you’ll be constantly ditching and swapping items just to match the power requirements of a mission. This builds up an artificial difficulty wall, as well as makes the actual character stats and skills a secondary concern.
I acknowledge that grinding is a big part of an ARPG, yet Martyr makes it a dull chore. In order to grind for specific high tier items, you need to spend a currency called Fate points on Tarot missions. Trust me when I say that this Fate points burns out pretty fast. Then you need to grind out normal missions in the same looking environments over and over again just to get sufficient Fate to do a single Tarot mission. Rinse and repeat. I do like Martyr’s investigation missions, ones which let the choices you make in each section affect your overall success rate. It’s also refreshing that the game lets you make some choices at major plot intersections, even though the outcomes doesn’t deviate much from each other. Martyr is at its finest when you’re continuously mowing down hundreds of enemies with badass looking weaponry, without having to worry about the mission ending 5 or 10 minutes later. But it does.
Visuals, Performance & Sound
If there is one thing Martyr gets right, it’s the art design and the visuals. The grim, dark future of the 41st millenium couldn’t be conveyed better. Dimly lit derelict ships and outposts are soaked in guts, gore and packed to the brim with details. The attention to detail also carries over to the weapons and armors. Martyr is an absolute winner in this department. The rather simplistic animations leave a lot to be desired though.
Having run the game with a gpu lower than the minimum required, it wouldn’t be fair to scrutinize Martyr for its performance. The game hardly dipped below 30 fps at low settings and 900p. However, there are some bugs like missing audio cues, logs playing the wrong audio, enemies getting stuck on terrain etc.
Sound design is solid across the board. The voice acting is cheesy, yet feels so badass and Warhammer-like. Music is your standard 40k stuff, ranging from desperate overtunes to inspiring battle music. You’ll hardly notice these when the cries of the unclean are filling your ears though.
It’s hard to recommend Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr at it’s current state and pricepoint. I can’t help but feel that Martyr would have been way more comfortable being something akin to Relic’s Space Marine. There is still a chance that Neocore can change the game around with the planned content updates. But right now, if you are not a die-hard 40K fan who doesn’t mind shelling out full price, there are better ARPG alternatives that offer much more, at a lesser cost.