by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
A lot of my favourite games are Warhammer based and over the years I’ve started to consider that might not be a coincidence. It’s shocking for me to think that there was ever a time I wasn’t familiar with Warhammer, but back in 2005, a younger, less-scarred version of myself picked up a copy of Dawn of War in a Gamestation (remember those?) and thought: this looks like a lark. Oh sweet summer child, I didn’t even know what grim-dark was. But there are so many Warhammer games now, and so many that I definitely don’t favour - hell, I’d rank them lower than most of the games I’ve ever played. So it leads me to question; what is this vital element that makes some Warhammer games succeed, while others fall flat on their face? I’m pretty sure it’s fidelity: that faithfulness to the source material, to the aesthetic, to the general feel of a universe. I don’t believe Dawn of War 3 had it, and I believe that was the reason for its failure as a Warhammer game.
One thing I was struck by, visiting Neocore Games and getting to play Inquisitor: Martyr for the first time since the alpha, is how much they’ve listened to their community. Have you ever looked at the Steam store and wondered “who’s playing this seemingly endless stream of Warhammer games?” That’s the Games Workshop community, and you can say a lot of things about Warhammer fans, but I think they generally seem to know what they want in a video game - fidelity again being a huge part of that. Inquisitor: Martyr has benefited immeasurably from its time in early access, because Neocore listened to that community, and that’s why, despite what flaws there are, I think Martyr represents a successful Warhammer game.
In Martyr you take on the role of an Inquisitor in the 40k universe, hunting a mysterious space hulk called The Martyr. You initially choose one of three classes; Crusader (big and beefy), Assassin (fast and deadly) and Psyker (glass cannon). But these three classes also have three sub-classes, allowing for specialization towards melee, ranged, or tankiness (to use the technical term). On top of this, there’s also a huge skill tree, which allows for development in pretty much whatever area you choose. Add to this the huge range of weapons and armour and the linked abilities/attacks from each, and you have an in-depth combat customization system. This is a feature that will really appeal to table-top players I feel, or RPG players who enjoy the long-term skill development of characters.
The basic premise is a bit like Helldivers (if Helldivers also had a melee focus). Killing hordes and big monsters is the name of the game, and you can do this on your lonesome or with a party of friends/strangers. You can either pursue the main story, hunting the ever elusive Martyr and the mysterious Lord Klosterheim, or you can travel the sector and try your luck with one of the many varieties of side mission. Inquisitor: Martyr has a very similar system to Vermintide 2, showing your character’s cumulative power, to give you an idea of your chances of success with any given mission. There are also priority assignments - narrative side-missions unrelated to the main story.
At its heart Martyr is a destruction fest, and you do feel that great sense of individual power, as you blast enemies, destructible scenery and pretty much anything that moves to kingdom come. This fits very much with the lore idea of an Inquisitor - individuals of immense power, most often acting alone. But with online co-op and PvP, the game also does a very good job of contextualizing you as part of the Caligari Conclave, as one Inquisitor acting amongst many. This brings me onto the really exciting feature of live events; scenarios which will be undertaken by players, and their everlasting effect on the Caligari sector, decided by their collective choices. Think, how each successive war used to work in Helldivers, or how the balance of light and dark functioned in Star Wars: The Old Republic (but with more consequences). Inquisitors are the characters who make the hard choices in 40k; to exterminate entire planets, or summarily execute individuals, so I think these live events will go a long way to representing that aspect of the lore.
Martyr has changed so much since I played the alpha; a range of new features from maps types, to crafting, to the vital army painter (every Warhammer game should have one) which greatly increase the customization and variety of the game. There are still some bugs, but I’ve never experienced any game-ending ones since playing this version. I also always think it’s important to acknowledge that bugs don’t often represent a permanent problem in an online game that will continue developing over time. Inquisitor: Martyr is a fun horde killer with a fair amount of variety to boot; also with the promise of more races to come and live events, it’s a good investment for any 40k fan who wants some bang for their buck.
Authentic 40k universe, good content investment, weapon and skill variety.
Some bugs, can experience some jank and frame rate drop.