By the Gloriously Crumbling Abs of the Emperor! I’ve played bad 40K games before but Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is a whole new low in my personal experience. The story reaches new heights of inane stupidity and contempt for established canon, and the design and gameplay plumb new depths of mediocrity and technical issues. It’s also wrapped in some of the most dull visuals, using settings and characters that should be anything but. It’s as though Papa Nurgle himself reached into the game and “blessed” it, with his corrupting influence reaching like fetid tendrils into every aspect of the title. There are so many reasons why this game is awful, and I’m going to share them with you in painstaking detail.

Before we get into it though, I just need to take this moment to marvel at how my handle has finally come full circle in the most hilarious way. “Inquisitor Harlequin.” Brilliant.

Warhammer 40K: Inquisitor – Martyr, or just “Inquisitor – Martyr” from here on out because holy cats that name, is a top-down ARPG shooter. I once heard someone describe it as “Diablo, but 40K,” and I slapped them for saying it. Every mission consists entirely of bog-standard hack’n’slash(‘n’blam) gameplay, wading through armies of daemons, traitors and heretics to get to the next cogitator. They’re basically computers and are an actual thing in 40K, though the word is hilariously overused in the dialogue. There is a story, but it’s really just to carry the aforementioned cogitatorama, and is measurably terrible. To understand just how bad the storyline of Inquisitor – Martyr is, it’s first important to understand some fundamental information about Warhammer 40K’s Inquisition (that the game’s writer(s) apparently did not):

“Innocentiae Nihil Probat: Innocence proves nothing.”
– The motto of the Imperial Inquisition

That pretty well sums up the Inquisition in the 40K universe. The universe of 40K is a grim, terrible place and the Inquisition do not shirk their responsibility in making it as awful as humanly possible to inhabit. They are the secret police of the Imperium, “investigating” reports of heretical activity, usually by immediately setting it on fire and beating to death anything that survives the flames. With swords. Inquisitors that don’t immediately respond to the faintest whiff of alien or daemonic activity with planet-wide bombardment are considered dangerous, bleeding-heart renegades (even though most cases of Exterminatus are rewarded by stripping the Inquisitor of their rank.) Basically, if you’re a human and living in 40K times, you have as much to worry about from these “protectors,” as you do from the things they’re protecting against.

Thought for the day: Ruthlessness is the kindness of the wise.

The portrayal of the Inquisition in this game is so far from that objective truth that it makes the Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer look downright grounded in comparison. The events that unfold as you play, and the way your character acts, could be mistaken for Imperial propaganda if the game didn’t mention many things that Imperial propaganda shouldn’t mention. In fact, every organisation and faction in this game acts counter to how they’re shown in other, actually held-as-true canon representations. For example, your player character merely is better than everyone else, overcoming threats that took down Space Marines, and resolving situations that see even the most hardened of Inquisitors reaching for the “planet nuke” button. It doesn’t even work on a level of considering players unfamiliar with the 40K universe. Martyr is still such a poorly written story that its most “dramatic” moments had me laughing out loud at their absurdity.

Defiance of its source material aside, your choice of class makes no difference to the story (even though there are some pressing reasons as to why it should), with what is there being dull as dishwater. Missions revolve around the “exciting” gameplay objective of, “Go to [NEXT PERSON], kill some dudes.” It’s essentially the “Superman Rule:” Every problem in this world exists because your character hasn’t found and killed it yet. This is sprinkled with healthy doses of the ol’ “abandoned logs” trope, with a lot of detail being conveyed in the most casually written Imperial logs I’ve ever seen. There is no tension, there is no intrigue or stakes of any kind. In the grim darkness of Inquisitor – Martyr, there is only someone’s terrible fanfic brought to life.

Thought for the day: All Daemons are falsehood. They are lies given the shape of creatures by the fell power of Chaos.

Martyr’s gameplay is a poor man’s Diablo clone, lacking creativity in its design, and fundamentally misunderstanding how to challenge the player. The game’s idea of increasing difficulty is to just send bigger hit-point sponges at you, without really changing the dynamics of the fight. They don’t have much in the way of special abilities or attacks, so combat always plays out the same way. You can take cover though it’s never necessary, since enemies seem incapable of firing at you from off-screen, and you’re apparently made entirely of plasteel. Specific attacks are more effective than others against certain enemy types, but everything dies quickly under your Lasrifle with unlimited ammo.

Rather than allowing free-aiming with the right thumbstick, it’s used to cycle through the targets that your character automatically locks onto, with no way of changing to a “free aim” mode. Your line of sight often extends to the ends of the screen, meaning it’s pretty rare to even see what it is you’re shooting at. This would be a massive problem for the game’s difficulty if the combat weren’t laughably simple, and insultingly easy. Enemies will turn and watch you go, but rarely start attacking you unless you’re already attacking them, or are so close to them that you may as well be hugging. Standing still and holding down the fire button is absolutely a viable and successful strategy, one only thwarted when the game occasionally forgets to lock onto the next enemy.

Thought for the day: Excuses are the refuge of the weak.

Walking and shooting really is all there is to Martyr, with no actual “investigation” gameplay taking place. You might think that’s a counter-intuitive desire for a 40K game but Inquisitors are some of the few people in the 40K universe that do things besides only fighting. (though, admittedly, they do still do a lot of that, too.) Something that’s missing entirely from the game that is typical of Inquisitors and would have made things more interesting is if you commanded a team instead of just playing as a single character. Inquisitors are known to assemble entourages, and having a group of characters with varied abilities, against an enemy boasting the same, could have made for more engaging combat. It also would have interjected a bit of character development and interaction for players, breaking up the monotony of an underdone hack’n’slash. There’s nothing of the sort to be found in the game outside of co-op, which bears all the same problems I’ve mentioned in this review but with the addition of a second player.

From a technical standpoint, Inquisitor – Martyr is fraught with problems. The framerate is consistently low, with further, intermittent dips on top of that, which, when combined with the screen tearing, is a nauseating experience. Sound effects regularly cut out, with ships exploding silently in cutscenes and enemies charging toward you while wearing boots apparently made from the softest cotton. The post-mission screen will occasionally skip you right through the rewards, mission select, and into the next mission. Controls are periodically unresponsive, or the auto-targeting prevents you from interacting with objectives because your character wants to smash their face into some nearby barrels. These are easily the most egregious problems, but they’re certainly not the only ones, and worse still is the fact that this is all after a months-long delay for the console version.

Thought for the day: Sins hidden in the heart turn all into decay.

One of the biggest draws of the 40K tabletop game are the minis, obviously, which can be painted however you want, whether strictly codex adherent or somewhere in the colour-blind realms of “fancy!” This is even true of the forces of Chaos, the main antagonists of Inquisitor – Martyr, which is weird because the textures and colour palette of this game could largely be described as “brown” and “dark.” NeoCore seems to have the right idea as far as aesthetics are concerned; they at least know what should be present, if not exactly how it should be presented.

Interior scenes are so dark you have to turn the brightness up to blinding levels, and outdoor scenes have the washed-out appearance of a Dawn of War mod. Enemies can only really be differentiated by their size rather than what the look like, and any sense of accurate scale has been tossed out the window. I have to hand it to them, the dedication and cohesion across the team in giving the finger to the source material is almost admirable in a way.

I’m just going to rant about the total lack of canonical regard for a couple of paragraphs right here. Feel free to skip to the conclusion if you don’t care about 40K stuff.

In the name of the Immortal God Emperor of Mankind and all that he holds as sacred, I thought Deathwing was bad but this is something else.

Everything – everything – about this game’s story and premise is complete and utter nonsense. Names and phrases are thrown around without any consideration for what they actually mean in-universe, like a thirteen year old that skimmed a Wikipedia page. Inquisitors work in cabals rather than conclaves – Space Marines, too! – but also conclaves, as well. No, no, don’t bother bringing up the Ordos because the game sure doesn’t. The player character, regardless of class, is the biggest Mary Sue, whose response to warnings of potential threats and danger is, “No, it could be even more dangerous than that, and that’s why I must go alone.” You single-handedly wade through the kind of forces that could overwhelm a Terminator squad, shrugging off lasers to the face like they’re nothing.

This isn’t even touching their backgrounds and origins, and how little the writers cared for the source material. Crusaders not only don’t become Inquisitors, but they also don’t use guns, and they’re certainly not Terminators, for Emperor’s sake. They’re powerful, but not “I’m going to Imperial Fist that Nurgle Dreadnought to death” powerful. The idea of one running around carrying missile launchers on his back and wielding a lasrifle is not just ridiculous, but blatantly wrong for the setting. The same goes for the other two classes, as well. The most a Death Cult Assassin could hope to achieve is eventually being inducted into the Officio Assassinorum, and otherwise not being shot in the face under suspicion of being part of a Khornate Death Cult. And the Inquisition would not only not accept a Primaris Psyker into its ranks, if it found out one was going around and calling himself an Inquisitor Lord it would mean Exterminatus for any planet he’s recently been to, as well.

Also, why am I just picking up chaos artefacts left right and centre as though it’s nothing? It’s not like Inquisitors aren’t known to do that kind of thing but god damn son, that is taking Inquisitorial Radicalism to a whole other level! This is a game where having one set of equipment you gradually upgraded over time might have made sense since the ever-present fear of chaos corruption would be strong in an Inquisitor. But nope, let’s just pluck that eye implant from this Chaos cultist’s skull and jam it into our own before the gore has even washed off! If the rest of the Inquisition learned about even a tenth of your activities in this game, every planet you’ve been on for the last decade would be Exterminatus’d, just in case.

And the Storm Watchers! Holy crap, a more blatantly stupid chapter there has never been! Why is there a secretive chapter that works solely for not the Inquisition in general, but one specific conclave in one specific sector? Why not use the Grey Knights or the Deathwatch? Or, better yet, an already existing chapter of marines in the Red Hunters, known for working suspiciously close with the Inquisition for dubious reasons? At the very least, a Space Marine would not be cheering the arrival of an Inquisitor, let alone a single Inquisitor as reinforcement to a space marine, the way Caius Thorn does at the beginning of the game. This is all basic, basic information that one could glean just by looking up a wiki or two, had the writer given even the slightest slither of a grox turd to do so.

Thought for the day: Compromise is akin to treachery.

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr fails both as a 40K game, and as an ARPG in its own right. The name has a second subtitle, which suggests that there could be more from this series, and nothing makes me sadder than that fact. It’s easy to forgive and enjoy a licensed game that’s still fun to play, but this is not one of those cases. At best it’s dull and uninspired, at worst it is possibly one of the most egregious examples of a 40K game that doesn’t care about 40K. Not only does the main character do things that shouldn’t be possible (yet in the most mundane ways imaginable), but their very existence is a joke within the 40K lore. Inquisitor – Martyr is technically broken, poorly designed, and awfully written, and even if the bugs were ironed out and the experience made smoother, it still wouldn’t be worth wasting your time on.

Patrick Waring

Patrick Waring

Executive Editor at GameCloud
A lifelong Perthian, Paddy is a grumpy old man in a sort-of-young body, shaking his virtual cane at the Fortnites and Robloxes of the day. Aside from playing video games, he likes to paint little mans and put pen to paper, which some have described as writing. He doesn't go outside at all anymore.