Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is as clunky as its name

It’s hard to imagine a game clunkier than Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr [official site]. Even the name is a lumpen boulder. (We’ll call it “Martyr” for our sanity’s sake.) This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad game – there’s probably something decent enough behind it all – just the clunkiest festival of clunk since Professor David Clunkington invented his Clunkatron 3000.

A few months into early access, and with a lot of its features now locked down but for tweaking, Martyr is still in alpha and a good way from finished, so assume everything I have to say about it is constructive criticism for developers NeocoreGames (even their company name is clunky!), makers of the well liked King Arthur and the fine-but-immediately-forgotten Van Helsing series of aRPGs. Their foray into the Games Workshop sees them take a more tactical approach to the action RPG, in a bizarrely sprawling (or perhaps, aimless) collection of confined missions in restricted levels.

What this essentially boils down to is entering a procedurally generated dungeon of interlocking room tiles, and killing everything. Or surviving by running away!

That’s my tactic, anyway. The game’s levels, very small compared to the wide open lands of your typical action roleplayer, are also tougher. Your Power Rating is a guide used to determine how tough a mission might be, comparing your number (based on the loudout you’re currently carrying, improved by drops or bought items, more significantly improved by increasing your Inquisitorial Rank) to the number of the level. If you’re at a disadvantage, your rewards will be greater, and vice versa.

There are plans, they say, for a series of game-led tutorials to come, to explain the basics of the game. For now it requires reading a few dozen pages of tutorial text screens, and boy-oh-boy does it put its clunky cards on the awkwardly shaped wobbly table. As you pick apart the Account Level, the Inquisitorial Rank, and the Power Rating, and realise each is a different means of measuring and improving the level of your character, each with their own skills, some affecting just one character, another all characters in your account, and then each affected by Fate, a skill gained by completing or competing in the ‘different’ mission types, each selected through the Starmap that has four different view levels… well, you start to get the picture. However, rather problematically, this complexity is almost entirely confined to the menus between actually playing.

The first time I played I rushed in, as you would, and got completely trounced. It took a moment to get the hang of things, to realise that I was going to have to be more careful when controlling my lumbering tank of a Juggernaut Crusader. Mobs need to be managed, not triggering too many at once, using scenery to block attacks, and your limited range of attacks (four per weapon setup, plus a couple of extra bits) need to be deployed at a sensible pace. Then there’s both your health and your Suppression Resistance bar to monitor (the latter being how much you can cope with incoming attacks, depleted by taking on too many, or too large enemies). Both are quickly refilled with a bit of tactical legging it, to a quieter area, then charging back in. And there’s destructible scenery, exploding objects, and the like, which you’re supposed to try to use as tactics against enemies.

The problem is, the fighting doesn’t match the complexity all that suggests. The tutorial texts encourage you to lead enemies toward explosive barrels or similar, but they rarely seem to want to budge from their location in my experience. The larger enemies I’ve encountered – such as a dubious AT-ST-alike – would only follow me a very limited distance, and the random layout of the level meant there was no cunningly scripted mannable turret for me to lure him toward. Running away is so effectively because mostly they can’t be led to follow.

Even less realistic is the tutorial’s belief in “Dodgeable Attacks”, where larger enemies are supposed to flag their big hits, and you’re supposed to be able to dodge them. But this is a game controlled by mouse, and to aim you need your cursor over targeted enemies, and using it to click a spot away from an enemy becomes massively impractical, and far more often, the game is too slow to respond anyway. (The Assassin characters, the only other type alongside Crusaders at this point, have much more nimble dodges, but Crusaders need to avoid attacks too!)

There’s a cover system, which is you’ll be shocked to learn, incredibly clunky. You have to hold down the Space bar to use it, rather than toggle, and you can then fire from cover. But your character is ridiculously exposed, and enemies destroy cover incredibly quickly. It’s often far safer not to use cover at all.

The camera is, well, the word for it is “clunky”. It’s agonisingly fixed at the stupidest angle, not letting you see particularly far ahead of you (where your guy could obviously see), with your character in the very middle-middle of the screen. That’s a deeply weird place to put the place, who is far more used to being about 1/3 from the bottom, and only makes the inability to tilt the camera all the more infuriating. To rotate you need to use the middle mouse button, and there’s no intelligence putting the camera anywhere sensible for you. You have to do all the work for that, basically, not least when it regularly fails to make pillars and walls translucent as it’s supposed to when they block your view.

But clunkiest of all is something that feels like a cross between running out of memory, and lag, but I think is neither. There’s lag in co-op, I understand, but playing on my own, in a game that’s only online in the sense that a bloody text chat box pops up for about three seconds every time another player playing on their own writes something, I’m not sure it’s that. Despite the framerate coping in a very busy battle (running 45-52 at full whack, so not brilliant, but a steady 60 on the next highest setting), the game looks as though it had dropped to the teens, with staggering and juddering making it deeply irritating to play. And this happens in every mission, about two-thirds in, as if the game can’t cope with remembering the weeny level. I’ve checked my my machine, and the 32GB of RAM isn’t even half-used, all is running beautifully. But every single mission starts to chug and stagger until it’s grim to play.

It’s worth noting that this is that most loathed of gaming categories – “always online” – for seemingly no sensible reason. Leave the game idle and it’ll log you out of your mission and drop to the opening menu. Good times!

This really isn’t helped by some of the weirdest pathfinding code I’ve ever encountered. As in most aRPGs, you move with the mouse, either clicking to a destination, or holding down and guiding. Bu with the latter, vital in the scraps, it tries to “help” in some deeply peculiar way. The character will run in the opposite direction to the one you’re clicking in, usually when trying to reach cover, presumably because it thinks it’s aiding you in running around the obstacle, when all you bloody want to do is duck behind it. Which of course means it runs you directly into the fray – utterly hateful when you’re super-low on health and just trying to hold up.

And as I plough through mission after clunky mission, one thing becomes achingly apparent: they’re all the same. It doesn’t matter if they change the textures, perhaps have you on some grey rocks instead of grey metal corridors, or whether they pretend the goals have changed from “kill everything” to “click on three objects while killing everything”, you’re just doing the same thing over and over and over, with no variation. That might, in fairness, quite accurately describe the aRPG as a genre, but there are usually at least an array of baubles to distract: plentiful loot drops, inventory tetris, characters to chat to, villages to visit, and most of all, a sense of exploring a large world. Martyr has precisely none of these features.

Much is yet to be fixed, of course. Much is yet to be added, including story campaigns. More still is to be tweaked. Dear Chaos Gods, I hope this includes letting you re-angle the camera to be able to see more than five steps ahead. But what’s here so far does not inspire me at all. It’s a leaden affair, a deeply clumsy game at its very core, and while it could absolutely revolutionise itself before final release, I can only write about the game that’s current on sale at full price.

(The Steam page for the game is at huge pains to stress the game is unfinished, and practically begs people not to critique it. But writing a disclaimer like this doesn’t work – the game is for sale, for a significant amount of money, and paying customers are a very different thing from paid employees.)

I’ve now encountered quite the bug that doesn’t allow me to click on anything on the screen, nor pull up menus, which impressively persists after shutting down and restarting the game. So I think that’s my time over for now. I’m genuinely still interested to see if this can coalesce into something more interesting, because it’s a genre I like. But right now, this is a beta program you’d want to be paid for taking part in, not charged for the honour.

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisition – Martyr is in early access for Windows for £34/$50/50€ via Steam

58 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    “That’s a deeply weird place to put the place, who is far more used to being about 1/3 from the bottom, and only makes the inability to tilt the camera all the more infuriating.” Place to put the place?

    “Bu with the latter, vital in the scraps, it tries to “help” in some deeply peculiar way. ”
    That Bu guy, I swear.

    I’ve been noticing more typos like this on RPS lately. Did something change?

    Anyway, this just looked like 40k Diablo to me. I’m not even surprised that it’s clunky, 40k in general is clunky.

    But hey, if I see it on sale when it’s more developed, it might be worth a shot.

    • Chromatose says:

      Nah, RPS has had frequent typos for years now. I remember one chap who was keen to talk smack on the site describing RPS as “never knowingly proofread” a few years back. Personally I feel that’s just a tad harsh, but I can understand the origin of the jibe.

    • arienette says:

      We should remember that the Guardian, one of the most prestigious newspaper in the world, is still affectionately known as the grauniad.

      So I’m willing to forgive rps.

      • mrpage says:

        …. it’s really not one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world.

        • arienette says:

          No one said we have to like it.

        • RuySan says:

          I’m pretty much left wing when it comes to politics, and even The Guardian annoys me with their obssession over race and gender issues.

        • LexW1 says:

          It really is. There are very few equally or better regarded. But as others have said, that doesn’t mean you’re required to like it. Their quality of reporting, particularly investigative reporting, is significantly ahead of most of the press, not just in the UK, but in the world.

          On the other hand, like most newspapers, most of their columnists are totally punchable. They’re just more likely to be “irritating” rather than “terrifying inhuman monsters” (even The Times employs a couple of “people” you can be pretty sure would catch fire if exposed to daylight, and hiss at garlic or a mirror – not least Matt Ridley, who is definitely some kind of night-creature come to harm humankind. Whereas the worst you can say about most of the Guardian lot is that they’re terrible bores. Not actively trying to destroy mankind so their dark lords may reclaim the planet).

    • syndrome says:

      Yeah, Graham is prolly on a vacation or sth… >.>

  2. Robert The Rebuilder says:

    Prof. Clunkington’s claim as inventor of the Clunkatron 3000 has been in dispute ever since Mrs. Clunkington’s memoirs revealed her primary role in the design and development. Scholars attribute the Clunkington’s separation to this dispute.

    • Daymare says:

      I think you just made that up, but can’t put my finger on why.

      Maybe I shouldn’t read on my Clunkatron 6000-k.

  3. Palindrome says:

    You can reangle the camera via the middle mouse button (like most 3rd person games…)
    You can also ‘herd’ enemies easily enough, its just that ranged enemies have quite a long range, you need to get out of LOS or move back quite a long way for this to work though.

    The game is undeniably clunky although it’s nowhere near as bad as this preview suggests.

    The “dubious AT-ST alike” is a Sentinel and has been part of 40K since the 80’s.

    • barelyhomosapien says:

      The sentinel thing tweaked a nerve with me too, however this game is the first ARPG where I’ve not only noticed the camera but it seems to actively want to ruin the experience, it gets stuck on terrain! I know this game is EA but it’s been in public paid testing for months.

      • colw00t says:

        Describing the Sentinel as a knockoff of the AT-ST would be fair, though, since it essentially is a knockoff of the AT-ST. Sentinels weren’t introduced until, I think, 1989 with the Warhammer Compendium. I suppose a few months earlier if you go digging through specific White Dwarf issues.

        • barelyhomosapien says:

          Yeah the thought did cross my mind. But the way the comment was couched gave me the sense that John was aiming at the Devs, when honestly that design is all on Games Workshop.

          Credit for derivative work where it’s due and all that.

    • thekelvingreen says:

      To be fair, John is aware of the middle button moving the camera and mentions it in the article, but I think his point is that even moving the camera doesn’t do much good.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      “You can reangle the camera via the middle mouse button”

      No you can’t. You can turn the camera, as I said in detail, but you cannot re-angle it up or down.

      • Palindrome says:

        Aye you can, only by about 20-30 degrees but it is sufficient to allow you to see into the next room.

      • Buuurr says:

        Yep, you can…

      • Flopper says:

        Again, you can TURN the camera. You can’t aim it up or down. Good god it’s like talking to a brick. I have almost 20 hours played. Rotate 360 degrees. 0 degrees up or down.

        • Buuurr says:

          When you zoom all the way it kind of pans out a little… that’s what we are talking about.

    • Flopper says:

      This game is awful. I have about 20 hours played. Power level 570 feels the same as power level 50. Camera sucks, animations suck, items suck, graphics suck, sound sucks, music sucks. No redeeming qualities. I’m trying to find them. I wasted $45. Need to get something out of it.

      • GunFox says:

        The camera is blocked by terrain, which makes it seem like you rotate up or down. You can rotate camera and then pivot the camera once it is over open space in the map. I played for a while before realizing this.

        Edit:

        This was supposed to be a response to your previous post. Not sure what happened there.

  4. barelyhomosapien says:

    I love ARPGs

    I love Warhammer 40k.

    I wanted to love this game, but I can’t. Beyond the above mentioned clunk, the skill system and the actual skills are boring, the combat has no impact at all, it runs terribly, it looks really muddy.

    Maybe once it clears EA it’ll be all good, and if that’s the case I’ll make sure to give Neocore lots of money and praise.

    But it’s so bad right now guys, Diablo 3 is great for mindless lootsploding, Path of Exile is great for slightly more thoughtful lootsploding, Grim Dawn is pretty good lootsploding, and Titan Quest has been fancied up for free. There’s no reason to get this game :(

    • colw00t says:

      The fact that it’s “always online” pretty much finishes it for me. It was bad enough when Diablo 3 came out that way, but at least I can count on Battle.net to be around and generally reliable. I don’t think I can trust NeoCore Games to match Battle.net’s track record for the forseeable future.

  5. pmarreck says:

    A withering review, but with fair points.

    I don’t think it’s as clunky as this review indicates (or at least, any more than Warhammer itself is). All the various flavors of weapons have different feel and decent “weapon feel” in addition to giving you a variety of abilities, and it has some of the best ARPG elements from Diablo and its ilk, so at least to me (as a Diablo/Grim Dawn ARPG fan), the game “feels fun”.

    I didn’t like the Van Helsing games, so Neocore has already succeeded here IMHO. lol

    Cover does work logically (example: you can’t shoot at someone through a pillar which is between you and the enemy at a bad angle, although you can shoot over a tank which is in the same position), although as stated, cover can be obliterated pretty quickly if your enemy is powerful.

    Environments look and sound very Warhammer-y, for what it’s worth.

    Gender- The crusader class is currently always male, the sniper/rogue class is currently always female, and Psykers are not yet available. Presumably, you’ll be able to pick either across all classes at launch (although, until now, haven’t females been oddly absent from the Warhammer universe? I’m a neophyte, so perhaps I missed something about where all the women are at).

    There’s a shared stash (like Diablo), chests and drops (like Diablo), a crafting/salvaging items for resources mechanic (just like Diablo), and a perk tree to spend points on (just like… yeah). BUT IT’S WARHAMMER!

    I think the mechanics are shaping up to be pretty solid, and then they’ll likely focus on the campaign and other elements. IMHO they have a reasonably good shot at success with this title.

    That name, though. It is definitely clunky. What’s the best abbreviation, “W40KIM”? Or just “Warhammer Inquisitor” and lop off the “Martyr” for now?

    • Imperialist says:

      There’s an entire faction of females called the sisters of battle, as well as numerous female eldar, dark eldar, inquisitors, and guardsmen. They are in no way under represented, it’s just the focus is mostly on space marines, who cannot be female.

      • Dave Mongoose says:

        space marines, who cannot be female

        Because the gene seed needs to be implanted in the testicle or something?

        • hungrycookpot says:

          In the lore they have some reason why the gene-seed which was taken from the Emperor and is used to create the spess muhrines cannot be properly used on females, but I read an article with an interview with one of the GW creators who gave reasoning why that lore was created, I think it basically came down to the fact that since the candidates physiology is changed so radically, and spess muhrines are always depicted inside of their power armor, that you wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference between male and female marines, and it didnt make sense/feel right for them to create new models which wouldn’t look any different (especially in a, lets face it, male dominated hobby. Lonely nerds who want expensive female soldier minis want at least a littllle bit of fan-service). So instead they created the Adepta Sororitas, Sisters of Silence and other sub-factions so they could do justice to female servants of the God-Emperor.

          • Buuurr says:

            Prolly, let’s stop there though. We don’t want this turning into a bathroom sign discussion at Target.

          • LexW1 says:

            Early 40K lore vaguely implied that there could be female space marines, there was even a quasi-official (never actually official) chapter of them (and yes they used the male models, because marines is marines), but yes, later on they crystallized it into there being none, for what initially seemed confused reasons, but then it became clear it was just so they could sell bondage-nuns-with-guns-and-madonna-corsets as a sort of female marine equivalent. I certainly lost a monocle to my teacup when that happened.

            I suspect they are now wishing they hadn’t done that, but we shall see. They’ve made a new bunch of “Primaris” Marines who are much slimmer and less marine-y and have slicker-looking weapons, I note, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some unusual chapter or whatever in the future.

        • Imperialist says:

          Men can have their own “boys only” treehouse. You say it like its a bad thing. I for one, find it refreshing that the men and women of the 40k universe are treated without the rose tinted glasses of the present. The Sisters of Battle (and Silence) are particularly awesome in their own right.

          (and yes, there are logical, pseudo-scientific reasons for it. Read the entry on the Gene-Seed in the Codex)

  6. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    So the inquisitor is your avatar; and the martyr is you, the player? Expiate your sins against the God Emperor by playing this rather than something that is actually good at being Diablo or actually good at being Warhammer?

  7. Rindan says:

    Why does Gamer’s Workshop hate their IP so much? Every fucking game they put out is a glorified cell phone port. Just make ONE good Mass Effect style RPG where I am an Inquisitor wandering around the galaxy with my motley crew of freaks while we purge the shit out of heretics. Also, they need to give the IP rights to a company that can can actually make a fucking game.

    • Flopper says:

      I was asking my friends this the other day. It’s like they go out of their way to tarnish their brand in PC gaming. Was all downhill after Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning flopped.

      I was pumped when Dark Millenium Online was announced. Only to have it canceled. Will anyone make a decent Warhammer game? Probably not.

    • RuySan says:

      It seems that they just aren’t very judicious with their licences. We had some good games, but yes, many are mobile shovelware.

      Just look at Fighting Fantasy Legends right after the very good Warlock of the Firetop Mountain

  8. NetharSpinos says:

    Dawn of War 1, Total Warhammer, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada. There you go, three examples of GW games that are not a “glorified cell phone port”.

    Though, I do agree with your RPG suggestion; I have had much the same thought myself. Or they could make a Deathwatch game in the style of XCOM. I have to wonder if GW’s approach to lending out their IP is their reluctance to spend money; presumably it costs more money to fund a good game from a bigger name developer than it does for a mediocre game from a smaller one. Or perhaps they don’t want to share the success of a good game with another company?

    • Imperialist says:

      Well…they did make a Deathwatch game in the style of XCOM, actually. Ironically its also a port of a mobile game. Its not that bad though.

  9. CheeseFarts says:

    Where is the x.Morph wot

  10. mitthrawnuruodo says:

    What a wasted opportunity. They should have added some random difficulty spikes, removed manual saves, and called it a “hardcore oldschool roguelike”. Its the easiest way to make money and rave reviews off a “clunkiest festival of clunk”.

  11. CheeseFarts says:

    Just say it! ITs BORING!

  12. Silent_Thunder says:

    I was turned off the moment it was revealed to be a hack and slash type game.

    Being an Inquisitor just seemed perfect fodder for any sort of traditional RPG, maybe a Mass Effect-lite, or a topdown game with turnbased battles as that seems to be back in vouge again, such as the decent enough Wasteland 2 game. Either way some sort of party based yell at people with questionable motivations before stabbing them type game.

    Maybe I’ve been reading the previews wrong, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the type of game with a tight narrative structure in the vein of those sorta games.

    Also the fact that Space Marine still exists is an issue, becuase that game made being an overpowered berzerk follower of the Emperor feel so darn good, that even if it isnt in any way shape or form the same kind of game, I feel comparisons can’t help but to be drawn.

  13. Imperialist says:

    Alphas are clunky. They are meant to be a huge hoard of clunkering clunk. Then come the Black Ships, and those Alphas are tempered and moulded into Betas, where they are further ground down, sanded and polished into a gleaming Release Candidate.

    I feel this “review” is scathing for no apparent reason. John has a reputation for hating everything, certainly he perhaps even hates the sky because it is blue, but this reads more like a hitpiece than a real article.

    Breaking News: The game is an alpha, and therefore not finished.

    • aepervius says:

      That alpha excuse does not hold if people are paying money. If people are paying money then a check of the current state if warranted for 45 euro. Now note I did not say review as RPS never do review. Now they can also update their check on proper release, but right now the check is spot on, alpha/beta/or not. This is what you are getting for 45 euro.

      • RuySan says:

        There were many game who grew to be cult favourites during its early acess phase, like Darkest Dungeon, The Escapists or Divinity: OS2. The standards are high, and if developers don’t want to be judged then don’t put the games on early acess and payt for some beta testers, like it used to be many time ago.

      • Menthalion says:

        Nonsense. Early access is buying into an alpha / beta to support further development of a game, and you can’t expect to hold it to the same levels of a finished one.

        If it’s acceptabe to buy into a kickstarter where no actual game exists, buying into a partly finished one should be as well.

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      Yeah… no. The game sounds atrocious. Alway online SP, buggy and boring. This write up is justifiably scathing. If Neocore don’t want to be judged as it is they shouldn’t have put it up for sale.

  14. LuNatic says:

    Do all the environments look so dull?

    Also, I still haven’t forgiven Neocore for abandoning King Arthur II before fixing all the game breaking bugs in it.

  15. Herring says:

    I think the criticism that you have to use the mouse to dodge attacks is a bit unfair;

    ” But this is a game controlled by mouse, and to aim you need your cursor over targeted enemies, and using it to click a spot away from an enemy becomes massively impractical”

    That’s the why all the ARPGs do it; D3, PoE and Grim Dawn (that I know about). Some require a key press too (to vault / teleport / dodge-roll / whatever).

    There’s really no way to fix that without using tank-controls or some other form of movement.

    But;

    “The character will run in the opposite direction to the one you’re clicking in, usually when trying to reach cover, presumably because it thinks it’s aiding you in running around the obstacle, ”

    Taking control away from the player in ARPG is pretty unforgivable :(

  16. BaronKreight says:

    Now you tell me how does this game have positive reviews on steam and cost almost as much as AAA game? Developers of this game reviewed it on steam themselves. Not forbidden but devious practice.

    • barelyhomosapien says:

      I can only imagine there are a lot of people that love WH40k so much that they get enjoyment out of it, despite it’s vast flaws at this time.

      I’d certainly rather think that over any potential skulduggery on the developers behalf.

      Or there are people committed to seeing it through, can see the potential, and want it to get there through constant feedback.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    Poor Marta.

  18. DailyFrankPeter says:

    You reminded me that there isn’t a Bolter jamming mechanic. Definitely not clunky enough!

    Seriously though, I bought it and it’s nowhere near as bad as Eternal Crusade. The big difference is that I still enjoy playing it while bugreporting. However, I agree it needs a push in the right direction before release.

    (Oh, and the WASD controls are actually in, John.)

    • Buuurr says:

      I think it is going in a good direction. I am enjoying it so far. The sound distortion bug is annoying though. I did only get it after 6 hours of play. It went away after a game restart.

  19. Gordon Shock says:

    …procedurally generated dungeon.

    One less game on my wishlist. Can’t wait for this rogue fad to be over. With little discretionary time I have I want to play a game that is crafted not computed.

    • LexW1 says:

      My “little rogue fad” you mean “how Diablo-style games always have and likely always will be designed”? For the last TWENTY YEARS.

      I mean, even if we just look at the direct predecessors of this game, they start in 1996, with Diablo. That’s OVER TWENTY YEARS AGO.

      So, do you anticipate this 20+ year old “fad” ending soon?

      • malkav11 says:

        Not always. Titan Quest, for one, had fully handcrafted environments, and there are others in the genre. Personally I don’t think procedural level generation adds anything to my experience in any game, but it feels a lot less obtrusive and dull in classic roguelikes where the emphasis is 100% on things like mechanics and world simulation and the level is just a text-based canvas on which those things are sketched.

  20. Lord Byte says:

    Your mouse not reacting in games and it persists? My girlfriend’s been having it too and I’ve been able to link it to AVG. Disable it for a few minutes, start the game, issue disappears.