Thanks to Neocore for providing us with a review key for the game!

In the Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium...

Warhammer 40,000 has been around for quite a while now, and there have been numerous games based on the IP. Some good, some bad, some we don't talk about lest someone open a rift into the Warp and destroy our fragile minds from the terror.

Thankfully, Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor Martyr is one of those games that's not sanity-bending and falls into the slim category of 'good' Warhammer 40K games.

Developer: Neocore, and console publisher BigBen Interactive have ensured that the game fits well into 40K lore, and plays well enough.

What kind of game is Inquisitor Martyr?

It's a story driven Action Roleplaying Game. Played in an isometric view and with a fully rotatable camera which lets you focus on the action at all times. The game takes place over an expansive story arc that will ensure that your character at least sees level 30 by the end of it, and grows in both power and gear at the same time.

Levels are produced from curated sets of tiles and can be procedurally generated as well. One of the strong points of the game is that whilst the tile sets are instantly recognisable after you've seen them a few times, the way they are laid out and linked together changes, so you never really go through the same layout twice.

This includes enemy mobs and villain/boss style opponent places, as well as loot chests and supply chests and more.

Join the Inquisition

You play an agent of the Inquisition, the enforcement arm of the Imperium of Man, charged with safeguarding people against the heretic, mutant, and alien. Inquisitors have extreme authority and can go pretty much unchallenged into places where lesser orders might not be able to enter. You can choose from only three classes at the moment, which are Assassin (Ranged/close), Psyker (Magic), and Crusader (Tank/Damage Dealer). These can be further broken down into special sub-classes such as a Ranged Assassin, a Close Combat Assassin, or a fairly reasonable mix of both for example.

These classes determine your starting gear, and your starting skills which come from an impressive pool of skills on an expansive tree.

Once you've chosen your starting character you're thrust into the main story, which twists and turns through the Caligari Sector and introduces you to a very slick representation of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe.

How does it play?

You can see the influence of Neocore's other titles in the game, the Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing (1,2 and 3) are prevalent in Martyr, but this is a slicker and definitely better iteration of the engine they employed for the other games. It's not a twitch based Diablo-style hack/slash game either, there's a fair bit of tactical play to be found if you play a so-called glass cannon build for the Assassin or the Psyker. You're going to have to use your skills and powers to your advantage, keep an eye on the various resources that the characters can use and manage things like weapon heat for Plasma/Las/Melta, and other heat generating weapons.

For slug throwing firearms, those that hurl lots of lead at the enemy, you'll have to manage your ammo bar and reload. The good news is that you're not going to be tracking ammo in this, so all you do need to be mindful of is the heat build-up or the ammo remaining in your various weapons before you do reload.

There's also (for the first time in a Diablo style game) a cover system, which provides a welcome respite from projectiles and some powers, is slightly twitchy, and lets you regenerate your health when you're running low.

Warning: cover has various levels of strength, and can be penetrated by small arms fire (eventually) and blow to smithereens by heavy weapons/explosives/powers that have an explosive effect or heavy AoE.

You can equip two weapon sets, and depending on what you have equipped, depends on the powers available to your character. It takes some getting used to, since a lot of folks are used to the way that Diablo 3 does it. Martyr makes your abilities directly related to your gear.

So for example, take my Assassin. She has (at the moment) a long-range sniper weapon, the Vindicare's favourite weapon actually - the Exitus rifle. This gives her four solid abilities that can be used at a decent range, and provides a good one-shot kill capability against most early targets. Her second weapon is a Melta gun, which is short range but has a lot of powerful attacks that deal heat damage.

I could have equipped her with a pair of Las pistols which would give her four other abilities, or mixed it up with say a Bolt pistol and a Grav pistol which would give her two abilities from each gun, for a total of four.

Add to this her Inoculator (the way she recovers health), and her armour suit (a syn-skin bodysuit, perfect for sneaky stealth) and you can see how your character's gear informs their power set. There's a lot more equipment to find and equip, with all of it offering different rarities and bonuses to the character.

White is a common style, blue is a little better, green is better still, purple is Artificer level and really good. Above that you have the dark brown/gold Relic level equipment that provides the best all-round bonuses and has a lot of power.

There are several difficulties to the game, each one raises the reward in some way and makes the mission harder/or easier depending on your Power Rating. This is akin to the Light Level in Destiny, based on the Power Level of the equipment that you have currently active on your character. The higher the rating the more dangerous missions you can undertake, and the more bonus you'll have when embarking on those missions.

You can still try a higher ranked mission, but the odds of survival are slim indeed.

Story and Investigations/Priority Assignments

There's a lot of moving parts to the game, which I'll cover some in a few moments, first of all you need to be aware of a few things. Martyr's story is designed as a tutorial for the first 5-or so missions and you'll gain new gear, level up, and be able to spend skill (and attribute points) as you progress down this path since the rewards are more generous than the random mission rewards to be found on the Helm Cogitator (map).

This story is single player only, cannot be played cooperatively, and should get you to about level 30 if you take your time and ensure that you've explored every level to the full to eliminate all the enemies.

Levelling allows you to put a single skill point (or two depending on the milestone) into one of the many branches of a huge skill tree. Now, this entire tree is not unlocked from the start, you'll have to open the rest by performing challenges (Heroic Deeds) in the game itself.

Examples include: Doing x-amount of critical damage over time, killing x-enemies, suffering a certain amount of damage and so on.

Beyond the story missions you can get side missions, optional quests that can be undertaken for the shadowy Caligari Conclave, as well as other NPCs. These are worth doing as they're a valuable source of loot and exp for the character.

The Helm Cogitator is your source for all the missions in the game, and you can while away a great many hours just playing these randomly generated mission types before you jump back into the main story.

Or, you can use Uther's Tarot (unlocked a way into the game) to create your own rewarding mission based on certain unlocked cards.

You can also undertake a Priority Assignment, these Investigations are procedurally generated, based on a short story, and have choice elements that influence how the missions are generated and how the mini-campaign unfolds. They are a stand-out feature of the game, truly brilliant, and a lot of fun to play.

You might be able to pay some money to bribe a crime syndicate to give up the location of a heretic cult, or place a distress beacon to lure in some pirates for example. What you do has a direct effect on the mini-campaign and can negatively or positively impact your success levels.

Be mindful.

NPCs on the ship

You have a hub, this is the bridge of a Rogue Trader vessel and it serves as a central command for your Inquisitor. Here you can buy/sell various goods at the captain's shop, change out your equipment and prepare for your next mission (since you can't change gear in mission) and encounter (when they're unlocked) various NPCs that offer different services.

You'll be able to customise your Inoculator, allowing for new abilities when you heal yourself and stims that give you a boost as well as regeneration phials.

When you unlock the Tech-Priest you'll be able to engage with the expansive crafting and modification system in the game, as long as you've invested time and effort into unlocking the right parts through the NPCs skill tree. Crafted weapons and gear are often much better than some random drops and offer a meaningful way to get better loot.

Seriously, the crafting system in the game is robust and interesting; it'd take a mini-review just to go through all the options - including the customisation of your character's armour and weapons to give them a unique look.

Astropath: this is your gateway to the Priority Assignments and you can only perform a certain number of these, then you'll have to wait until you can do another one.

Caius Thorn (PvP): Yeah, there's PvP in the game. I didn't bother with this, because I really don't play these games to pit my character against others.

There are other cogitator machines on the bridge that have other functions, such as online co-op and offline co-op. We'll talk about the network and social options pretty soon.

More thoughts on how it all hangs together

Barring a couple of crashes and a few minor mission marker trigger issues, the game plays very well, slower-paced than the frenetic mobs of enemies thrown at you in Diablo 3, it is highly suited to players who like to take a little more time in their approach to enemies. There are numerous power combinations, and tactical tricks that you can employ - especially as the Assassin, which can turn a dangerous confrontation into a manageable one.

The game is smooth, the frame-rate is solid, especially on the Xbox One X and it remains rock-steady even when there's a lot going on in the game.

The different characters play in different ways as well, which is important to the life of an ARPG ... the Crusader is delightfully tanky when combined with the shield and power sword. The Assassin is a slick stealth murderess who can slip past enemy lines to deliver surgical strikes. Or work as a superb ranged attacker, picking enemies apart before they can get too close.

The Suppression Mechanic is neat; you'll see you have a health bar in the centre, and green/yellow/red circular bar outside of it. That's suppression, if you're in the green, you're good. If it dips to yellow as you come under fire, things get worse, you'll find that you'll take extra damage and become subject to status effects.

Red, you're in mortal danger and you'll likely take a whopping amount of damage as well as other effects - retreat, get into cover, get out of dodge and hide until it all returns back to normal.

Cover is a bit janky, but works really well once you get the hang of it. It can mean the difference between a dead Assassin and a victorious one.

The in-game loot might seem a bit lack-lustre, but that's just as you're playing. You'll also get a reward screen at the end of a mission and here you can see what other loot just dropped your way - chances are that it's something which will raise your Power Rating and allow you to do more damage, take on higher ranked missions.

Levelling is a good pace, and the rewards for levelling are shown on a very clear progression screen. You can see what you're going to get at each Rank, and there are some sweet unlocks to look forward to.

The game looks good, sounds good, and has a beautiful dark musical score that perfectly matches the feel of 40K. The voice work is not too bad, there are some misses for me, but the Psyker is one of my favourites - his mix of sardonic and practical dialogue delivery is quite delightful at times and he's made me smile more than once with that delivery.

The Puritan and Radical Morality system, again, not seen this in an ARPG and it's really interesting to see how the choices affect the other missions in the game. Plus, you unlock one of two unique skill trees based on your chosen path. More powers, more bonuses!

Execution moves, which trigger on some of the bigger boss enemies. Finish HIM! They're neat, perhaps need a little tweaking, but a fun addition to add to the grim nature of 40K.

40K's Unique Atmosphere preserved

One thing that really sets this game apart from the rest is the attention to detail, the 40K Universe is presented here graphically, audibly, and textually in a very solid way. The level of detail in the various Data Slate reports and logs is incredibly good, cleaving to 40K's unique quasi-religious style and shows that the developers have a clear understanding of what makes 40K.

Their knowledge of the material, their aesthetic design in the game's graphics, and the feel of the game are in a word: Spot On.

Alone or with Friends/Randoms

Martyr can be enjoyed solo; in fact, I recommend you play through the story to get some decent gear and equipment so you can play with a friend or some random folks. You'll never feel like you're a fifth wheel when it comes to playing with others though, because the game's design is good at catering to different levels of play.

You can play with up to 3 other people on any non-campaign based mission and create a Cabal, which is basically a clan, with a lot of supported features and even its own tech tree.

You can also play with randoms if you like, via the online menu.

You can also play co-op with another player who joins on the same screen to assist the Inquisitor. This co-op player picks from a pre-generated guest character which have been drawn from across the game's 3 classes and 3 sub-classes.

It's nice to see some form of couch co-op in the game, so it gets a 'big' thumbs-up from me!

I've played a few games of this with a fellow Inquisitor and we've had a great time, so I highly recommend playing the co-op side of Martyr a few times. You'll reap the rewards as well, so that all helps you level, especially late to end game where the XP becomes grindy and the game relies a lot more on Uther's Tarot and Investigations.

Finally

I have had a great time with Inquisitor Martyr. It's obvious there's a lot of love gone into the game and the devs know their 40K really well. As a fan of Warhammer 40K, this game pleases me far more than the previous 40K game I had to review, which was Deathwing. Here the developers have lavished a lot of time onto the feel of the game, how it plays, and how it handles the 40K aesthetic.

It's one of the best 40K games I've played. There have been a few crashes, but if you're a fan of Diablo-style games and the Warhammer 40K Universe: it's definitely worth a punt!

It's also nice to see a game where the focus is not on Space Marines.

The Emperor protects!

Note: If you're curious and you want to know more, you can check out Neocore's website - including their plans for the future of the game (here) on the roadmap as well as their posts.

Neocore's Website