The Diablo-Style Action-RPG That’s Helping Me Fall In Love With Warhammer 40K

The Diablo-Style Action-RPG That’s Helping Me Fall In Love With Warhammer 40K

This week, action-RPG Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr came out of Early Access on Steam, the latest in a long line of incomprehensibly titled games inspired by the Warhammer miniatures series. It’s a decent spin on the kill/loot/explore formula popularised by Diablo, but what it’s especially good at is making the complex and daunting lore-filled world of Warhammer 40k feel approachable.

Inquisitor – Martyr begins with you, playing as the titular character, arriving at giant melting pot of baroque cathedrals that have been fashioned into a single, ornate spaceship. In the Warhammer 40k universe these things are called Space Hulks.

While I have no idea why that’s the case, they are a sight to behold, like something out of a Dark Souls game that’s been spliced with sci-fi industrial DNA of Ridley Scott’s Alien.

This isn’t a conceit unique to Inquisitor – Martyr among the other Warhammer 40k games, but Inquisitor – Martyr does a wonderful job of capturing the scope of the anachronistic Space Hulks. After all, you’ve boarded the ship not to rescue crew members or hunt down an alien, but to investigate demonic anomalies on behalf of a galaxy-spanning bureaucracy run by violent religious zealots.

Despite being intrigued by Warhammer 40k from afar for years, seeing a Space Hulk up close for the first time made the appeal inescapable to me. Blowing up undead with a plasma pistol moments later drove it home with the kind of elegance I wouldn’t have expected from a licensed fantasy game.

It’s made by NeocoreGames, best known for the Van Helsing series of action-RPGs which were surprisingly decent, who, along with everyone else and their mum it seems, decided to spend the last few years working on a Warhammer game.

Where Van Helsing focused on more on a traditional story-based campaign, Inquisitor – Martyr pitches itself as a shared-world game where players’ progress across dozens of bite-sized missions will build toward the larger development of the Caligari sector it takes place in. While the game has a single-player campaign, which I’ve spent most of my time playing so far, it’s the Warhammer 40k worldbuilding that’s really the selling point.

Currently, the Steam reviews of the game are incredibly mixed, with many people who love it and others who hate it (servers issues at launch earlier this week and some continued problems with multiplayer haven’t helped). But as something of a newcomer to the Warhammer 40k universe I’ve fallen in love with the little, isometric slice of the galaxy the game offers up to be explored.

Missions, which often take place in mini-labyrinths of winding and intersecting corridors, are filled with objects to scan and incredibly droll banter between the main character and other agents of the Empire of Man he represents. Together they paint a picture of an incredibly old but futuristic world (40k stands for the number of millenia that have passed approximately since year 0 on the Gregorian calendar) where pulpy violence and rigid government protocols are constantly intermingling.

Combat consists of right and left clicking and managing a small array of cooldown abilities while also navigating destructible cover.

It’s not the smoothest, but the slower, crunchier pace is a nice alternative to Diablo‘s often frictionless combat. And while there’s loot to collect and skill trees to progress through, they don’t feel developed enough to be the force that propels you through Inquisitor – Martyr.

At the end of the day it’s the blood-caked space marines and gothic space horror that does that.

I’ve played some Dungeons and Dragons, read my Tolkien, and traded plenty of Magic: The Gathering cards. In the three decades I’ve sat, crawled, or walked on this earth I’ve played even more games inspired by their aesthetics and universes, and yet until recently I’d never touched anything related to Warhammer.

Vermintide 2 was my first game set in the Warhammer universe, and it turned out to be an unexpected delight. More recently I tried the Warhammer 40k version of that cooperative brawler, Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition, and found playing it to feel like repeatedly stubbing my toe while walking up a long flight of stairs in pitch black.

Several hours in though, Inquisitor – Martyr has been a much more positive experience and convinced me the only thing to do is dive deeper into 40k‘s grimdark scifi hellscape.


  • This is the first positive review of this game I’ve seen.. Everyone complains about the camera, combat and progression. Still think I’ll be avoiding this one.

    • Key point from the article;

      Early Access on Steam

      You shouldn’t judge a game based on what is effectively a beta (hell maybe even an alpha) version. Not saying you should rush out and buy it now, but I’d reserve judgement until it’s an official 1.0 release. They should have ironed out most if not all the major bugs and resolved issues like server problems and camera controls by then.

        • Ah shit, I misread the article. I thought it said “It came out on early access”. Ok, then fair enough, if it’s still having those problems complain away. They should have been fixed during the early-access period.

          • You should have seen it back in Alpha. It’s come a long way, but that doesn’t mean it’s arrived somewhere great.

  • Read the Horus Heresy novels! They each focus on a different episode or group in the history of the 40K universe and together give you the story of how that universe came to where it is today. They are pretty light reading and are great windows into a setting which is otherwise extremely lore-heavy for the newcomer.

    • Heresy!

      New W40K fans should head straight to the Eisenhorn Omnibus. Particularly if their interest in the setting comes from Inquisitor – Martyr.

      And after that, read everything else from Dan Abnett. Then anything by Graham McNeill and/or ADB.

      The full Horus Heresy series is for the full Warhammer degenerates like you and I.

      • Honestly? Gaunts Ghosts should come before Eisenhorn or Horus Heresy. It’s normal men in mostly normal war, with a little extra thrown in now and then. It’s the ideal starting point for 40k newbs.

    • And this is why steam blows.
      I have the dawn of war series.
      Space marine.
      Space hulk

      But do you think steam so much as puts this game in any of my store lists as I might be interested in?

    • Umm.. that last post wasn’t intended to be a reply. The one about steam. Was meant to be a new topic…. oops.

    • That’s exactly what they are. But the space hulks are usually a dozen ships patched together with asteroid in between, floating through space and the warp, with Tyranids, Orkz, Chaos or worst crawling through.

      • Correct. Space Hulks arent just one derelict ships. Its an amalgamation of a variety of ships usually lost in the warp and then fused together to some planetoid to meteor sized mess in the warp and then spat out into real space… and since it came from the warp its usually home to some nasties like chaos or nids xD

    • i watched skill up’s video review you might your love contradicting.

      it mostly just boils down to pacing. D3 is fast pace, this game deliberately slows it’s pacing down (not just in terms of player progression but also in terms of combat)

      • I’ve been playing it a few hours since yesterday… I very much enjoy that it’s not paced the same as games like Diablo 3.

        I’d especially been looking for an ARPG that wasn’t all about “Build for one or two skills and spam that button forever in a sea of enemies that turns into an unrecognisable void!”, and I’d say this is pretty much exactly what I was after.

  • Considering the reviews on Steam this article has a faint whiff of something i juuust cant put my finger on…..

    Probably the review that put me off even trying this is below, disappointing as I had been following this for quite some time.

    This game is advertised as “an open-world sandbox game with a persistent universe” when really, none of that seems to be true at all. It reads like an algorithm line meant to hook into search engines. Like those Elsa Spider-Man Youtube videos. Or it’s really a case of developers just using buzzwords they know people like these days, but not really understanding them. You can select stages to play, with a fancy transition effect, but there is no world to explore. Just instanced maps of interconnected chambers and hallways.

    It would be like Super Mario Bros. If the game consisted of Mario and Luigi sitting in their plumber’s van selecting 1-3, 1-4, etc. on their GPS. Then driving to the stage.

    All skills are tied to gear. So your attack skills are determined by your weapon. And those skills will never change. One laspistol is the same as every other laspistol. Your subclass is determined by your armor, which will grant you ONE unique ability depending on the type. and there is one armor model per subclass. So you’ll look the same from 1-50. Only with slight variation to color and texture.

    The game is always online. So even though it’s mainly a single player game with multiplayer modes, you need to be online to play and so do the developers. This is supposedly to prevent cheating, but the developers left a configuration file in the installation directory, that allows you to easily alter anything. Including the EXP required to level! That’s probably how there are level 50’s in the first day or two.

    • If you’re going to pick one particular review, perhaps you should provide some more disclosure of the review in question.

      For starters it was written a month ago… The full release was only a few days ago and from what I’ve seen/read wasn’t a small update.

      On top of that, that particular ‘reviewer’ isn’t unbiased in the least… If you read the whole ‘review’ they clearly have an axe to grind with the developers because they were banned on the forums.

      • I did note the butthurt with the developer but chose to omit it.

        The main thing that struck me with the review was the way how the core gameplay and upgrade system was detailed, as I said i have been following this game for quite some time and will likely check out newer gameplay but unless things have drastically changed since release i will give this a wide berth.

        The “reveiw” screams of paid content, just calling it out.

        • Or maybe just maybe the writer actually liked the way the game eased you into the 40k lore?

          This seems less a review to me than more of an opinion/fluff piece about how the game was a nice arpg in the 40k world. Then again im probably less inclined to be harsh on most fluff pieces these days and avoid the more obvious political ones…

  • Dawn of War: Dark Crusade is still the high point of 40k games. I’m currently at the tail end of my bazillionth campaign play through – the first time i’ve done it with the dull-as-dishwater SpaceMaureens though, so that’s something!

  • So I put in a few hours tonight and. It’s… it’s not bad. It’s not great either. But so far it’s pretty decent. Better than how the reviews give it.
    I’ve got dual weapon layout a close combat and a ranged weapon, it seems an alright mix and there are literally hundreds of skill trees to unlock. Let’s hope they open some more melee abilities as the 2 default sword swings get at least visually tiring.
    Unlimited ammo on guns, but having to cool down or reload is a nice touch.
    The only problem I have is some of the tutorials are a bit lacking. Ok need to defend area go here and press f to do such and such. Nope doesn’t work. Cool I’ve got torrents for defense…. How do I use them?
    I have to admit I was expecting much less but I am happily surprised.

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