Set in the dark and grim Warhammer 40,000 universe, Warhammer 40,000: Inquisition – Martyr (or just Martyr for short) casts players in the role of an Imperial Inquistor – a member of a secret order working for the Emperor – who discovers a ship believed lost millennia ago: The Martyr. Investigation of the ship reveals not only a demonic infestation, but that the ship is closely tied to the Inquisition. These findings, coupled with the ship once again disappearing, kick-starts a sector-wide quest for both answers, and the ship.
As far as atmosphere goes, this game is Warhammer 40,000 from the top of its helmet to the souls of its stomp-y armoured boots. It’s grim, dark, gory and oh-so Gothic in everything from the exceptional level of detail on the character models (and yes, you can even customise your character’s paint-scheme), to the overly sombre delivery of lines and the exceptional sound design. If that’s not your thing, Martyr won’t change your mind. If, on the other hand, you like Warhammer 40K, or more action-oriented action-role-playing-games (aRPGs), then read on.
For anyone familiar with the genre, especially if one starts with a focus on melee, Martyr will seem quite familiar to fans of the aRPG genre. The control scheme and gameplay will be quite familiar – clicking the mouse causes the player’s character to move, interact with items, and attack, depending on what’s clicked on. Like other aRPGs, there are also special attacks and abilities which can be deployed with variety of mouse and keyboard commands. So far, so normal. Where Martyr drastically departs from its fellows is in ranged combat. The moment the player equips one of the many (and I do mean many) guns available, Martyr suddenly turns into a twin-stick shooter. The WASD keys on the keyboard can be used to move the player character around to dodge incoming fire and move behind cover, whilst the mouse can be used to aim and fire. This lifts Martyr out of the sometimes stodgy ‘click-repeatedly-to-win’ rut aRPGs can fall into, and makes it a lot more action oriented.
And the game is focussed squarely on action. Firefights are fast, furious and spectacular, as laser blasts, exploding bullets and bursts of plasma rip through the air. Partly this is because of the insane visual quality – where most aRPGs settle for fairly basic graphics, Martyr goes to town, with lighting, environments and foes modelled with a level of attention to detail normally only found in the top-tier of first-person-shooters – and partly because of the destructible environments. Just about anything the player or the AI can take cover behind can (and often will) be destroyed by incoming fire. Throw in a ton of foes – including ranged, melee and ‘horde’ (small, easily killed foes that hunt in large packs) – and power-armour with shoulder mounted rocket-launchers, and you have a recipe for visually spectacular destruction.
As part of this, Martyr takes a refreshingly ‘un-game’ like stance towards the concept of ‘balance’. Instead of worrying about balancing the different types of weapons or modifying them, the developers have taken their cue from Warhammer 40K lore. If the lore says bolter guns fire exploding bullets, that’s exactly what they do, even if that means it can make mincemeat out of most foes within a few seconds. Rather than ‘balance’ the game, the devs have instead delivered players a toybox of weapons which behave the way that fans of the series would expect (not like those strange Star Wars games which give players a lightsaber and then ‘balance’ the game by making a storm trooper take several swings to go down). The point is, it’s fun – why do more?
In fact, that’s pretty much the long and short of the game. So much so, that just about everything else feels either irrelevant, or just there to add atmosphere. Yes, there is a story, loot, crafting, levelling up and an endless stream of procedurally-generated side-missions to keep you occupied, but most missions boil down to: 1) teleport to planet/ship/base; 2) shoot everything in sight; 3) repeat step two until you’ve reached your objective/exterminated every living object; 4) teleport back to your base. Despite this (and even perhaps because of it), Martyr is fun – it knows what it is, and trying to do: deliver over the top action wrapped up in a Warhammer 40K aesthetic.
While there have been some quite harsh early reviews of Martyr, the recent update has massively changed the experience, speeding up gameplay (though the first few missions still feel too slow) and fixing up a myriad of bugs (though there is the odd visual glitch like fixed-guns temporarily becoming invisible). Is it perfect? No, but if you like over-the-top and visually spectacular action, Martyr delivers this in spades and should be on your wishlist. ■