Warhammer 40k: Inquisitor – Martyr acts a bit like an action RPG fun house mirror. The game is an obvious reflection of the standard Diablo formula, but does everything just a little bit differently. The end result is a decent game in its own right, but one that will irritate an unsuspecting portion of the audience that it courts.
The game begins with the player controlled Inquisitor, a galactic enforcer of loyalty and religion, embarking a mission aboard the Martyr, a derelict Space Marine ship that went rogue and disappeared for centuries. A quick investigation of the ship reveals that it formerly housed a long dead Space Marine leader of undetermined allegiance and is now the focus of a secret investigation by another Inquisitor who also has undetermined allegiance. In the opening hours of the game, the player attempts to hunt down this other Inquisitor and figure out what the Martyr really is.
As far as stories go, this one is functional. Its true virtue is to serve as a vehicle for the world of Warhammer 40k. The player collects crew from across W40k’s Imperium of Man factions, fights its traditional Chaos foe, explores the dark realms of its cities and abandoned space stations, and generally revels in one of the better representations of this universe. Fans of the W40k world will find much to like here and even newcomers will find Inquisitor – Martyr a relatively accessible entry point into the W40k world. On the other hand, people who dislike the grim dark future of the 40th millennia will find nothing new or interesting. Inquisitor – Martyr seeks to channel Warhammer 40k, not improve upon it.
The same cannot be said for the action RPG formula which the game seeks to model. Thought clearly inspired by Diablo and its host of clones, Inquisitor – Martyr makes enough evolutionary tweaks to almost turn itself into a revolution. The standard leveling, looting, and fighting mechanics are all there, but the emphasis is less on the former two….and arguably less on the third as well. Leveling and looting are noticeably slower than the standard model with the player rarely experiencing substantial jumps in kill power. Fighting is also notably slowed with the introduction of a cover mechanic which allows the player and enemies to hide in order to reap defensive bonuses. The end result is that progress feels slow on and off the battlefield.
Perhaps the biggest gameplay innovation is the pacing. Missions are discreet fights across small maps with specific, and occasionally varying, objectives. Leveling, equipment swapping, and all other forms of maintenance are relegated to the pause between missions. This creates a nice balance between character improvement and combat with each operating in its own spheres without the other spoiling its flow. There is no standing in the middle of a blood drenched battlefield comparing shiny new swords or trying to tweak a character build. On the flip side, the pauses between fights serve as an exhale from the game’s combat and gives the story an opportunity to breath. While hardly used to its fullest in Inquisitor – Martyr, this model could give future ARPG’s a chance to focus on story.
Overall, the game has a solid collection of mechanics which made the first seven hours a lot of fun. Dark clouds do loom on the horizon. Without a compelling story and thanks to limited numbers of enemies and settings, the charms of the Warhammer 40k universe are fading against the repetitive grind of constant battles. The slow progression ensures that the battle system won’t take up the slack. It’s becoming harder and harder to see how Inquisitor – Martyr will earn its full price tag. Even if you’re a big W40k fan, I’d wait for a sale.