Oh, Star Trek – you and your wacky, misplaced optimism.
Sure, we might end up seeking out new life and new civilisations but only so we can strip-mine their planets or declare a popularity-boosting war on them. The creators of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, on the other hand, know exactly what the future is going to be like.
In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, humanity has congealed into a hate-laden theocracy known as the Imperium, whose zealots are intent on annihilating anything they view as heretical or unclean. Do you have hairy toes? Heresy. Stepped on a crack in the pavement? Heresy. Got a dreamcatcher above your bed? Heresy. Used a holy book to prop up a wobbly table? Heresy, and your entire planet gets nuked from orbit.
Are we the baddies?
Yes, the Imperium are pretty unpleasant bunch, humanity’s worst qualities magnified a million times and in action-RPG Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr you’re working for them. Though instead of dealing with the day-to-day stuff like burning witches and torturing people with ingrown toenails, your role is a little more specialised.
As an Imperial Inquisitor, you’ve been charged with tracking down the Martyr, a colossal spacecraft which has become infested with The Forces of Chaos (TM). Think Event Horizon meets Lord of the Rings, complete with space-orcs and mutant ogres, and you’re not far off.
Fear of the Grimdark
Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is initially impressive, but the more time you spend with it the more its grim-and-gritty veneer wears away to reveal the sheer mundanity beneath. After choosing whether you want to be a space warrior, space wizard or space rogue, you’re shoved into the darkness, alone against the denizens of this derelict ship.
Even when you’re not gunning down foes, you’ll be on edge. The ship resembles some vast cathedral in space, chunks of the craft having been warped into a twisted, oozing reflection of their former glory. And when your foes finally do emerge from the metal work, you’re just itching to unload your overly-elaborate weaponry into their chaotic skulls.
Five minutes later, you’re cursing the game’s designers for not including a strafe button, wondering how you can maintain your dignity as a Badass Space Inquisitor when your only means of dodging fire is to run away. Taking place in-real time, Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr’s combat system is annoyingly clunky, and seems best suited to a game where ranged attacks are the exception rather than the norm. With the exception of one weapon type (and one sub-class who has a dodge skill) you can’t even walk backwards while firing, nor can you side-step attacks.
Not that your character is in danger of death that frequently, however; they’re able to absorb a ridiculous amount of damage. I let four enemies attack me, one wielding a flamethrower, and I was able to survive for five minutes, just doing nothing, before my character expired. Once you start upgrading your weapons and abilities, your chances of expiring plummet further.
Playing at a higher difficulty level does make the game tougher, but your enemies are still so dense that they just willingly swarm into your line of fire. There are obstacles that can be used for cover but actually getting your character to duck behind them is a real trial. Adding a turn-based element to the game would have at least improved combat, but battling your foes becomes a grind. Once you get a powerful melee weapon, such as a high level chainsword, you can just walk up to enemies and hold down the attack button until they expire, absorbing their attacks.
Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr claims to be an “open-world sandbox action-RPG” but that’s not really the case. You can access a Mass Effect-style galactic map and complete side-missions, but both the side and main missions are disappointingly repetitive. As impressive as Martyr’s opening level is, the same “chaos-tainted metallic installation” format and layout is used multiple times. There are a few outdoor levels, but they’re no bigger and are sometimes as boxy as the indoor levels. There’s little to no character interaction to liven things up, and the game becomes a rather tedious slaughter-fest. To add insult to injury, the game requires you be always connected to the internet. Developer Neocore apparently plans on delivering new content but, in its current state, nothing seemed to justify a system that kicks you out of the game if your connection drops.
To its credit, Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr does support local co-op, though I can’t see the experience being improved by playing with a friend. And while I’ve been a tad facetious about Warhammer 40,000’s mythos, it’s a wonderfully-designed universe that has given us some superb games such as the Dawn of War series. Martyr does, piece by piece, deliver a tale worthy of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, but it’s wrapped around a rather uninspiring dungeon crawler. If you’re dedicated to Warhammer 40,000’s world you may get some joy out of this but Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is anything but to-die-for.
Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. We reviewed the PS4 version.