The Inquisitor

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The Inquisitor review
Samuel Corey


A Curious Sort of Heresy

A Curious Sort of Heresy

The Inquisitor, based on a series of alternate history/fantasy novels by Jacek Piekara, takes place in a world where the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ went a little bit differently than you would expect. Rather than dying for all mankind's sins, Christ instead pulled himself down from the cross, sacked Jerusalem, and went on to conquer and rule The Roman Empire. As a result, several hundred years later the medieval world looks rather different, being still unified as a theocratic empire and preaching a form of Christianity that places decidedly less emphasis on forgiveness, repentance, and mercy, than the one we're familiar with.

A sufficiently devout Christian would no doubt view the world of The Inquisitor as slightly heretical. After all, it supposes that we entertain the existence of a Jesus Christ very different from what is found in the bible. However, there is very little in the world that suggests Christ was anything other than divine. Indeed, the fact that he was crucified, freed himself, and conquered Rome at the height of its power seems even more positive proof of divinity than the resurrection! Indeed, the whole premise is the sort of historical fiction that only a devout Christian would be likely to entertain, as everyone else regards Christ as merely a man, a prophet, or a lunatic depending on their own religious proclivities.

I was immediately interested in the game because of its premise and because it is a very fresh and innovative way of looking at history. It places the "what if" of its alternative history premise at the most crucial fulcrum in Western history: The transition from ancient paganism to Christianity. After such a fundamental change to history, culture, religion, and politics, one would expect the world of The Inquisitor to be unlike anything we're familiar with at all. Unfortunately, the game cannot really deliver on this promise and instead winds up feeling like a generic medieval-themed fantasy video game, albeit with a greater focus on religion than most.

Part of the problem is the inclusion of magic and monsters into a setting that should be entirely mundane. I do not see why Christ's decision not to sacrifice Himself on the cross should cause vampires to appear in Europe! More fundamentally, though the basic structure of society should be different than what we see here. This is very much a medieval feudal society with secular and religious leaders having different degrees of influence, which made a great deal of sense when the Roman Empire collapsed in real life but doesn't really add up when the Roman Empire still exists and may still be ruled by the earthly manifestation of God.

LA Noire... 1547

The player takes control of Inquisitor Mordimer Mannerheim who has been sent to the town of Koenigstein chasing after rumours of a vampire prowling its streets. The Inquisitors are essentially the FBI re-imagined as a medieval religious order, as most of their process is plain old-fashioned detective work. They ask people questions, track down clues, investigate crime scenes, and occasionally rough-up armed criminals. The biggest difference between them and a more traditional law enforcement agency is that Inquisitors can enter into a mystic trance and use their visions as admissible evidence. Indeed part of the reason why the inquisitors are so feared is that their visions make it effectively impossible to lie to them. Seeing as inquisitors tend to work alone quite often I would not be surprised if less scrupulous members of the order didn't abuse this investigation technique.

Mordimer though is an honourable sort, so to unravel the mysteries of Koenigstein you will need to actually collect evidence and chase down leads in order to get enough information to make your mystic visions work correctly. It resembles a medieval LA Noire, though lacking the focus on interrogation (a good thing as some facial animations in this game can be extremely wonky at times, The Cardinal for instance looks faintly reptilian). At the best of times, it feels like an immersive mystery where you are really trying to crack the case wide open, though, for the most part, it feels like you're just following an objective marker from point A to point B with minimal thought on the part of the player. I will at least give the game some credit for immersion through, as the way you see the objective marker is by praying and seeing your path light up for you.

Occasionally Mordimer will need to get into hand-to-hand combat with some thug, cultist, or vampire. This combat is infrequent enough that the game doesn't even expect you to remember the commands from one encounter to the next and always has the controls displayed onscreen when you need them. However, the combat is always unsatisfying, imprecise, and floaty at times. It is hard to tell when your blows are actually landing and when they are just passing harmlessly through the air. Given the under-developed nature of the combat and its infrequency, it may have been better to replace the combat with quick time events, because as it stands now all the most interesting action sequences are quick time events anyway.

The mediocre gameplay is saved to some extent by the writing. There is a genuinely compelling mystery here with an interesting - if underutilized - world, and some round multi-dimensional characters. In classic dark fantasy fashion, the players will have to worry about cutting themselves on all that edge, but those with a high tolerance for grimdark will find The Inquisitor's story quite compelling. Given the excellent story and mediocre gameplay I would normally just recommend reading the novels over the game but unfortunately, Piekara's books have not been translated out of Polish, so for English speakers, your options are limited to booting up Duolingo or settling for the game.

Darkly Beautiful

Credit where credit is due: The Inquisitor looks great given its middling budget and janky gameplay. Koenigstein is a town with a real identity and character, and each of its neighbourhoods are immediately distinct from one another. It is very much a grim and gritty setting, but unlike many dark fantasy settings, it does not rely on a muted colour pallet. Everything is dirty and worn but there are plenty of flashes of colour when appropriate.

More striking is the unique art style given to the realms of the Unworld, the mystic visions that Mordimer has throughout the course of his investigations. It is suitably surreal, while still fitting into the overall dark and grimy medieval aesthetic of the game. Likewise, Mordimer's visions upon clearing these sections are some rather impressive pieces of animation that add to the game's atmosphere. Still, when all is said and done I found that I wanted to like The Inquisitor more than I actually did. There is potential here for a brilliant game, but unfortunately, it just has not been realized here.

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fun score


Compelling premise for world building, Visually impressive given the low budget, Very strong writing and characters.


World feels undeveloped, Some facial animations verge on the bizarre, Combat is floaty and imprecise, Plot feels railroaded at times.