Warhammer 40,000, the sci-fi spin-off of Warhammer, hit tabletops all the way back in 1987. It only took five years following that for the grim dark future of war to make the logical jump into video games with Space Crusade in 1992, closely followed by the original Space Hulk in 1993. In over two decades, and over two-dozen licensed video games since, there has still never been a Diablo-style action-RPG set in the 40k universe. But that is exactly what the team at Neocore Games plans to change with their newest title, Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr. And in order to do it right, they are calling on fans to be a part of the process.
At this time last year, roughly three years after the program started, Steam Early Access passed the 1000 titles mark. And that number has only kept growing from there. With thousands of Kickstarter games, the birth of other crowdfunding sites like FIG, and the continued use of private paid-alpha programs, more and more games are looking to capitalize on bringing in fans and community feedback as early as possible. In the case of Inquisitor – Martyr, that is taking the form of what Neocore calls The Founding. Speaking with Gamespresso, Neocore PR Manager Gergo Vas took the time to explain a bit more about the program and the game in general.
“We were and are hoping that with The Founding we specifically reach the core ARPG and Warhammer players, who followed our announcements, or participated in other early accesses in the past, so they know what they’re getting with a testing phase like this,” Vas explains.
The developer’s own private version of an early access program, The Founding went live last month on PC, providing interested gamers with an early-alpha build of the game. With an eye towards a fall 2017 release, the alpha is currently little more than the basic structure of combat, character progression, and looting that makes up the core of any ARPG. But it already has plenty of the hallmarks of the 40k universe fans love. Players step into the boots of an imperial inquisitor (think a cross between a detective and a one-man special forces unit), and deliver bloody justice to heretics and monsters. Be it the Gothic architecture of the Imperium, or the brutal feel of mowing down a horde of demons, Inquisitor – Martyr is on the right track.
In regards to why the team chose to do The Founding instead of the arguably more established route of Steam Early Access, Vas points to the gamers themselves. “These players can give us valuable feedback whether it’s about the setting or the gameplay mechanics. We believe a system like The Founding can help us to reach them easier. And after that, with an established core-community and a finished game that’s been tested and shaped by the most critical players, we can release the game on larger platforms.”
Despite the expected fair share of bugs, one in particular that keeps making inventory items disappear, The Founding is off to a good start. Just in the few weeks since it began, Neocore has introduced co-op multiplayer, a handful of new mission types and weapons, and has set its sights on the first major content update for the alpha, scheduled to hit in the next week or so.
“The amount of feedback is really humbling, we’ve never had anything like this before,” Vas says. “And it’s pretty cool how constructive ARPG and Warhammer folks are with their opinions. We try to check almost all the replies and comments on our forums, discord channels and social media pages. Initial feedback, for example, on the map’s layouts, enemy AI and weapon skills were very valuable.”
Following a recent survey, the first of many planned for Inquisitor – Martyr players, the developer responded in a post on the game’s website promising changes to weapon balancing and general difficulty. “We’ll take your insights into consideration, and in the future we’ll build our settings with slightly bigger crowds and smaller (but more varied) Elite groups,” the post stated on one particular point about enemy density.
“So yeah,” Vas explains, “combat, the loot system, and missions can and probably will change and get better (huge chunks are in development right now) as we’re approaching the final version of the game.” Neocore has a strong idea about how they would like to see the game develop in the coming months, already having released a full Roadmap. “Don’t expect huge overhauls, more like a lot of small and medium-sized tweaks that’ll make things more rewarding.”
The team at Neocore is far from strangers to the action-RPG genre. Started in 2005, the developer first worked on the RPG/RTS hybrid King Arthur series. But 2013’s The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing saw the studio transition into action-RPGs. With multiple expansions and two more full Van Helsing games since, Neocore has made a solid showing in the past four years, especially for an independent studio. When it comes to Inquisitor – Martyr however, Neocore makes no secret of the fact they are setting their sights high. “Inquisitor – Martyr’s shaping up to be our biggest game yet,” Vas states.
“With the Van Helsing games we’ve gained valuable experience on the ARPG field, so building on this was somewhat natural. But at the same time we wanted to try something else.” 40k fans themselves, the team actually came up with the idea first and pitched it to Warhammer-owner Games Workshop. “Creating a game set in a grim dark space gothic world, instead of another fantasy setting, sounded nice. And since we are all Warhammer 40k fans, its setting was perfect for it.” Plus, “grinding through endless hordes of corrupted creatures cannot be more 40k.”
But not content to deliver just any other ARPG, Neocore is looking to capitalize on the rich license at their disposal. With that in mind, the team is developing what they call a sandbox ARPG. Outlined on the game’s website Inquisitor – Martyr is “a game where you can develop your character for years in a huge, persistent open world sandbox and shape the outcome of major events” Players will have “the opportunity to create communities, build allegiances or wage a secret war in the shadows against other power groups, sometimes even attacking fortresses of other players and maintaining your own.”
“The world will react to the players’ actions and you can leave your mark on star systems,” Vas sums up. Starting this month, in what Neocore is calling the The Open World Update, players will get their first taste of Investigations, player-choice driven micro-campaigns of procedurally generated missions. The introduction of player clans, or Cabals, will come in late March, then in April and July the team will introduce Fortresses, Metal Gear Solid V style bases for players to build up and attack. And finally, in the last months before launch and beyond, “we’re going to introduce Seasons. These are free content patches, built around a particular theme and also milestone events that allow the whole community to participate, shaping the future of the sandbox world, and also moving the plot of the Caligari sector forward.”
In order for all of these systems to work, on top of having a solid gameplay foundation, an early access program like The Founding was the only way to go. “There are tons of technical stuff that have to work perfectly in a sandbox ARPG like this. Just releasing the game without properly testing and balancing it would be silly. There’d be just too many question marks.” Starting from the ground up with the current version of the alpha, “We’d like to create a game where the most important parts of an ARPG stand out: an exciting story and deep gear- and skill management,” Vas says. With the community’s help, nailing the foundation of those aspects now will only make the introduction of more sandbox-oriented features stronger later on.
And the team hopes the steady stream of new additions to the early access build over the coming months will be more than enough to keep players coming back for more. “Personally,” Vas explains, “I can’t wait to play with the Assassin in the game. It’s a fast, sneaky class where using the right skills at the right time will matter a lot. We’re excited to see more classes in the game and people forming parties with various classes and builds and how that’ll work out. I’d say folks should keep an eye out for that, and more story-oriented missions and Investigations.”
Overall, there have been a lot of Warhammer 40,000 games recently. And according to Vas, it’s not hard to see why. “The grim world of Warhammer 40k is truly a unique one with a long history and, most importantly, with massive lore. That certainly makes it appealing to invest time into it, and worth getting lost in it. And also makes it appealing to developers (many of them big Warhammer 40k hobbyists, including our developers as well) who can create their own little world – regardless of genre – in this vast universe. Also space battles.”
Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr is set to release this fall. After last year’s less-than-stellar showings of Space Hulk: Deathwing and Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade, fans are looking for something great to sweep them off their feet. With both Dawn of War III and Inquisitor – Martyr releasing this year, 2017 could do just that. For more information, including system requirements and an exhaustive FAQ covering each step of The Founding’s Roadmap, make sure to check out the game’s website.