Have you noticed that Games Workshop has really cranked up the amount of Warhammer game products out there recently? Sure, games based on the lauded tabletop license have come out regularly for years now, but in the last 18 months or so it seems like roughly 300 Warhammer games have shown up on Steam. Some of them have even made their way to consoles.
Are enough people buying these games to make this a sustainable venture? Did someone over at GW suddenly re-realize how great their settings are for games? Did they forget to charge for licenses and accidentally hand a bunch out? We’ll probably never know.
I’m a casual fan of Warhammer 40K, the sci-fi version of the setting that inspired a million knock offs and gave us the concept of the Space Marine(TM). I don’t own any miniatures. But every few years I check out the latest video game releases. I’ve got a few Dan Abnett 40K novels in my closet. And I think the extensive lore and general overbearing tone of the world is fascinating.
Up until now, the only truly great easy-to-root-for 40K games were Space Marine, and Dawn of War 1 and 2.
I’d love to add Martyr to that list…but it seems like I’m in shallow company? The amount of hatred and debate over this game online and in the game’s Steam forums is staggering…and I have zero idea why.
This isn’t one of those cases where I understand that I’m enjoying a rough game and making some excuses for it. I literally don’t get why some folks are so mad about this one.
It’s the sort of game that’s so addictive and entertaining that it has an in-game clock to tell you what time it is outside, and I’m thankful for it.
Developed by Neocore Games, Martyr is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The PC version is $49 and the console versions are 10 dollars more…with an optional season pass and deluxe pack that both provide extras exclusive to those versions…at least for now. It also spent a year in Steam early access, and buyers there got a bit of a discount.
I could understand if this weird/complex business model with different content on different machines were the core of the online anger, but it seems like some people really just don’t like this game….
Which is baffling, because it’s a fantastically-designed isometric action RPG in the vein of Diablo, Titan Quest, and Path of Exile. It’s much more like the latter two than the former. As much as I enjoy Diablo III, that game has as much in common with the arcade shmup genre as it does RPGs at this point in history.
In Martyr, you’ll choose one of three different characters, each with their own voice actor, and each with three armor-tied subclasses that you can switch between throughout the game by picking up different gear. You’ll then tear your way through a large Starmap of planets and other space locations, tackling both campaign missions and procedurally-generated side missions.
Mission difficulty is tied to the power level of your gear. If you enter a mission with under-powered equipment, you take further penalties to your health and damage output, but if you go in with high level gear these penalties are turned into bonuses instead. A lot of folks complain about this online but I have zero idea why. I’ve seen “The power level doesn’t always tie to the damage of my sword!” bandied about, and while that happens every now and then, for the most part I’ve found the gear power levels to accurately take into account all the stats of a particular item, not just their raw damage.
Maybe that’ll change and I’ll hate it later on. But right now it’s great. And you can adjust the difficulty on a mission-by-mission basis, which dynamically changes the gear level requirements, so the whole thing feels very player-friendly.
To me at least.
Combat is crunchy and satisfying, with tons of particles and blown up enemy bits flying around to give good feedback to the player. Environments are filled with destructible objects and cover, and you can destroy them faster with better gear. Different weapons have different attacks attached to them, and through a huge screen of skill trees you can improve your overall aptitude with certain types of weapons. You can specialize in ranged combat, melee combat, or spells, with thousands of different possible skill combinations.
In addition to checking all of my personal enjoyment boxes with fun combat and piles of loot, Martyr has excellent production values. The graphics are beautiful, and it runs just fine on the Xbox One X, where you can select from 1080p or 1440p rendering resolutions. I think there’s some severe post-processing going on because I’ve noticed more aliasing than 1440p should normally have. But outside that complaint I really enjoy the visual design.
The sound, writing, music, and voice acting all live up to the visual standard. Neocore also created The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, which had similarly great audio and writing. The tone here is much more somber and serious, right in line with 40K lore, but still well-executed. If you like pouring through lore, or games that use a large pile of writing to augment their world, then you’ll really enjoy this. And the voice actors give their all and commit to the dialogue, even when they’re saying lots of nonsense words.
In addition to the single player campaign, you can plow through the procedural missions in local co-op or online play. Some folks are disappointed that the main campaign missions aren’t playable in co-op, but the nature of the writing and the different voice work for each character would make that kind of tricky. It’d be like one player is having a cohesive narrative experience while another player is just… hanging out, and I’m guessing the developers decided that was too silly.
Fortunately, the procedural missions are quite fun, and have surprisingly exhaustive text set ups and more in-mission voice acting than I was expecting.
This is designed to be a game you could play forever if you like getting loot, playing action RPG combat, and experiencing the sci-fi lore of Warhammer 40K.
I like all of those things, and I’m having a tremendous bit of fun.
“Sci-fi Diablo” is a great idea on paper, and one that’s rarely actually been attempted for whatever reason. Martyr checks all the boxes and does so with aplomb, and clearly builds on all the lessons Neocore learned while making their also-fun Van Helsing games.
I’ll have a full review when I finish the game…which will hopefully take me less time than my console review of Titan Quest. (Every time I get somewhere in that game, they patch it and I’m like crap I have to consider these new features now).
Anyway yes this is the end of the post.