The words were seared into my consciousness the day I picked up my first Adeptus Astartes miniature. It’s rugged detail and pewter heft filled me with a sense of wonder, igniting my imagination with the glorious battles these mechanized and technologically tuned post-human Space Marines would experience. It wasn’t long after that my army was mercilessly crushed and the lesson was learned:
“In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, there is only war.”
This is our review for Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr.
Originally announced for PC in 2015, Martyr is an action-based, role-playing game (ARPG) based in the universe of the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop war game. While it had a bit of a rocky reception from its September 2017 early access release, after several months of waiting and retooling, NeocoreGames has finally released the 1.0 patch for Martyr. This patch brought a brand new a single-player narrative to the game and improved optimization. Within this review, we will be evaluating Martyr based on what it is in its present incarnation. Let’s dive in.
If you aren’t familiar with Warhammer 40,000, there are a few things that you need to know. It is late into the 41st millennium and mankind has spent far from Earth. For millennia, the Imperium of Man has rallied under the banner of a deified hero of old known as The Emperor, who lies wounded and rotting in status. From his Golden Throne, he rules through psychic emanations over the Imperium in an Eternal Crusade against the dark powers of Chaos daemon gods seeking to manifest into the world as well as the ever-growing threat of the alien, mutant, heretic, or corruption from within.
Pretty sure “grimdark” captures the setting well.
You play as an Inquisitor – a special executor of The Emperor’s will. Often riding the lines of moral ambiguity in an already morally bankrupt universe, it is the Inquisitorium that roots out any taint of corruption from the rebel, xenos, deserter, or heretic to exact the holy justice of The Emperor. Their operations are often secretive, known to few and with total authority. An Inquisitor often finds themselves between absolution and abominable apostasy. In Martyr, you are sent to answer a cryptic Imperial distress beacon in the Caligari Sector, you discover an ancient Fortress Monastery, the Martyr, and you must unlock its secrets.
There are three types of Inquisitors that you will get to choose from, each with three subclasses. Each subclass feels like they are pulled directly from the codexes of the tabletop game. For example, the Psyker draws power from the Warp, risking insanity (or worse) to banish daemon and subdue foes alike. However, if you depend on Warp abilities too much, you might start to hallucination. You might also accidentally summon a daemon into the realm of reality. This could happen in the tabletop game with a poor roll.
Your head could explode, too. So, there are worse things.
Psyker subclasses range from full dependence on Warp-based weapons (Empyreanist), the ability to go Gandalf-style with a Force Sword and Force Rod (Aetherwalker), or a mix of the mystical with the modern by using both a Force Rod and Bolt Pistol. The Assassin class vary from the stealthy, twin blade prowess of the Infiltrator to the long-range stylings of the Sniper. In between is the Eradicator: point-blank butchers in battle who rely on shotguns for destruction and Rectifier fields for protection.
Then, there is my personal favorite: the Crusader. Crusaders dawn Emperor-blessed Power Armor and weapons to purge the unclean. Assault Crusaders are equipped with jump packs which allow them to close the gap between enemy combatants and dispatch them with furious melee attacks. Tactical Crusaders are versatile soldiers who make use of medium ranged weapons and Tarantula turrets. Finally, it is the Heavy Gunner who rains down salvos of missiles from their Devastator Power Armor, cutting holes in the ranks of Chaos with heavy weaponry.
Each class begins with a specific set of gear unlocked for their usage and skill trees dedicated to that particular subclass and their play style. For example, an Infiltrator Assassin has no need for ranged combat skills while a Heavy Gunner Crusader is not likely to get into Close Combat scuffles. However, just because these skills are not immediately accessible does not mean that you cannot unlock those abilities to use them. Martyr will allow you to unlock a skill when a set of pre-established conditions are met. Using the above example, if I would want access to the Close Combat skill tree for my Heavy Gunner, I could unlock it by dealing 500,000 damage with a Melee skill.
Aside from skill trees, each Inquisitor can unlock Perk modifiers based on specific sets of circumstances. For example, the Assault Crusader has a Perk called Rabble Slayer which increases melee damage when surrounded by three or more enemies. Each class does have around ten class-specific Perks, but there are also over twenty non-class specific Perks, too. Each class also has three attributes which assist in combat effectiveness.
These options open up customizable potential, but it is also important to note that skill points to allocate within the Skill trees come very few and very far between. Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is a bit of a grind. While each mission affords a measure of Glory (experience), it will usually take two or more missions to earn you enough Glory for meaningful stat upgrades.
This is one place where Martyr really struggles. ARPGs work on a tried and true formula of high octane action, rapid experience gains, and consistent loot drops. While Martyr is not short in the action or content, Glory is slowly earned and loot drops seldom feel meaningful as you can only access new loot drops between missions.
I wrestle with this latter point because, for better or worse, it makes sense from a Warhammer 40,000 rules standpoint. Units that you placed in the field are only equipped with the war gear that you send them into battle with – no substitutions, no grabbing loot off of the fallen. On the positive side of this, it is this level of attention to detail which makes Martyr a fairly satisfying Warhammer 40,000 title.
I say fairly satisfying because the story campaign feels bogged down by unnecessary journeys into the realm of side quests and occasional Priority Missions in order to be level-appropriate for it. While this system does require you to take in the scope of the universe you are fighting across, I am hard pressed to put Inquisitorial priority on small rebellions on Imperial Guard-occupied worlds when there are terrible secrets aboard the Martyr that must not be ignored! If purity to the Warhammer 40,000 construct is Martyr’s aim, this seems like a gross misallocation of the Emperor’s resources and below the pay-grade of the Inquisition.
One thing that I will say about the Priority Missions is that they add a layer of role-playing to Martyr that I have seen in few games within the genre. On one such mission, I had to draw out an Underhive gang leader to gather information about my target. I had text-based choices on how I wanted to go about that. I could go in guns blazing, I could send bogus information to a rival gang to thin their numbers and distract them, or I could set up a derelict ship in hopes that they would raid it for scrap. The choices I made changes how the next missions played out. This was pitch perfect Inquisitorial work.
While many of the major technical issues have been resolved, Martyr still suffers from some issues surrounding the online multiplayer feature. In the moments of testing this feature, I experienced terrible rubberbanding during battles. Perhaps it was simply a poor connection to game servers at that moment.
If you like ARPG-style games that exist within a sandbox-style, persistent world, but can delay a bit of instant loot or immediate leveling gratification, Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor – Martyr is a content-rich game which will have you eradicating droves of the Chaos-tainted, quelling rebellions, and investigating arcane secrets from Fortress Monasteries to Imperial cities to frozen tundras. Its brutal combat and destructible environments deliver an authentic Warhammer 40,000 experience without having to paint any miniatures.
Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor – Martyr is currently available on Steam for Windows PC at a 10% discount through June 21st. It will also launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on PC with a code provided by PR.
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