Dec 2, 2012

Now Playing - Inquisitor

 It's 3:30am. Until about 4:30pm today, Inquisitor had been one of those games sitting on my hard drive, waiting for me to get a spare bit of time to play. I've been playing it since that time, giving it a second chance after my disappointing initial glimpse several months ago, and I want to keep playing instead of going to sleep. There's at least some promise here...

Giant dead tree? Check. Enormous troll beasts? Check. Innocent animal in the middle of nowhere that I need to rescue for a quest? Check. Yep, it's an RPG alright.

Inquisitor excited the hell out of me when I first heard about it. An isometric RPG in the vein of Baldur's Gate, with a focus on interrogating suspects and solving mysteries was exactly what I wanted in a game - that glorious mix between RPG combat and adventure mystery solving that I am so very fond of. I got it at the same time that I got two other inquisition themed isometric RPGs - Kult: Heretic Kingdoms, which I've played through, and Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader, which I've spent quite a few hours with. Despite all being inquisition themed isometric RPGs, they all play quite differently, and have very different takes on the inquisition theme - which I must admit is a most pleasant change from the traditional high fantasy setting RPGs regularly get burdened with.

The first thing I noticed about Inquisitor is that it's hard. It's Baldur's Gate hard, Fallout hard, heck, it might even be Jagged Alliance 2 hard. Not because of the depth of the gameplay systems - Inquisitor cannot really hold up against the strategic combat of any of these games with its rather simplistic battle system - but because it throws you straight in the deep end, much like those games did. The combat is, at first especially, frustrating and not all too well balanced. There's definitely a wrong way of playing Inquisitor, and I had to restart 3 times before I got anywhere with the game, and even then had to restart again once I'd learned more about how to play the game. The creators of Inquisitor expect their players to be willing to stick to a game without a nice soft starting area or a gentle hand-holding tutorial section.

It simply wouldn't be a decent Inquisition themed game if there wasn't a stake upon which you can burn heretics.

There are some definite issues I take with the combat system. The reliance on potions sees me spending a huge portion of my loot on various types of cures. Any allies you recruit have access to your potions too - a delightful system in which they're smart enough to use your resources to heal themselves - but it means that if they get themselves into a tight spot they'll churn through your potions and you'll be out before you know it. The AI is lacking in a few spots - enemies can be well within sight yet still be ignored by your comrades (even when you're attacking), and yet if a ranged enemy is attacking you and you retreat, they can still hit you from huge distances away.

Melee units, on the other hand, can't hit a moving target at all, and I managed to get my character into a situation where he shut the door on a foe and then chased him around the room for 15 minutes trying to hit him. When I opened the door in impatience, the foe stood still and my character killed him straight away. Poison is a bitch, and giant spiders that can poison you magically from a distance are, to date, my least favourite enemy in the game. Although my companion is pretty good about following me when I retreat, he gets himself poisoned all too often for my tastes, and churns through potions like a junkie on a joyous binge.

The writing in the game is also wordy. Really wordy. I love wordy games, but even I am taken aback by the walls of text Inquisitor throws your way. Perhaps not so much by the length, but that the content seems quite dull at times - and the same point is often repeated by several characters. I like that you can ask many different characters many different things, but it does grow a little tiresome - something I never thought I'd say about an RPG. Still, I'd rather have it this way than having too little opportunity to speak with people, as so many other games feature.

Mysterious activity around the graveyard - this looks like the work of heretics!
If it sounds like I am being quite harsh on the game, it's only because I can see the potential here. Yes, the combat is unbalanced, and yes the writing is a huge wad of often dry text to chew through, but Inquisitor does have some great ideas. I love the fact that the world is responsive, giving you plenty of chances to make a decision with how you'll react to things and rewarding you accordingly. I love the whole inquisition mechanic - where you can play an open-minded, fair investigator, seeking out the facts of each case with bribes, questioning and exploration, or you can play a cruel fanatic who attempts to torture confessions out of the accused with the minimum of investigation.

I love the way the game likes to trick you - a quest that would normally reward you might end up with you making less money than you spent completing the quest, or the people you thought you were helping turning on you and attacking you. I love that the simple combat system has enough mean tricks thrown in to keep it spicy - very little compares to the panic caused when a shaman cast a spell and disoriented my character - making my mouse cursor suddenly erratic and extremely hard to use, rendering my usual hit and run tactics useless. Sure, this is strange, perhaps impolite game design, but it forces me to adapt as a player - something that I find an enjoyable challenge.

It's hard to know how much of the surface of Inquisitor I have scratched, and it's clear that my overall experience with the game could still go either way, but I have to say I'm glad I've given it another shot. The game has many flaws, as I've pointed out, but I can see some great ideas hiding in the midst of it all, and I wish more RPGs had elements like this. Depending on how the combat progresses, this could either be a gem or a real disappointment; either way, Inquisitor is blatantly old school, refreshingly interesting and not for the easily frustrated.

You have been warned.

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