Going into this review I had preconceptions, and expectations. Knowing of GamesWorkshop's Warhammer table-top RPGs, and the legacy thereof I had initial concerns as to how lore inclusive the game would be. I also assumed it would be an action-RPG akin to the Diablo series. Both guesses weren't too far off the mark when it came to the reality of what the game presented. In regards to the lore it felt, as I feared, like a game that would be more appreciated by diehard Warhammer fans in that the lore wasn't origin oriented so much, and at the same time like a game that Diablo fans could appreciate without prior knowledge of the expansive series/universe. I greatly enjoyed my time with the game despite being lost in some of the lore references at times. It is a beautifully rendered masterpiece filled with some of the most impressive cutscenes you'll ever see, and overall visual design elements that impress in their own right as well as a voice actor cast that truly compliments the characters that are being portrayed. The gameplay itself isn't hard to pick up on, and with the touchpad tutorials shown in the initial singleplayer playthrough players will grow easily accustom to mechanics that feature a unique cover system, weapon swapping, weapon based skills, and combat that is more fluid than you could imagine.
Getting into the game you will almost immediately be greeted by the game's only truly underlying issue, and that is a mandatory EULA with a mandatory NeoCore games email account sign-up. The game warns you of the usual privacy clause, and online interaction terms of service. You have to agree to the EULA, create the email account, and verify said email account before you can continue playing the game, and accessing your created characters. ALWAYS READ THE EULA!!!
After the EULA is agreed to, and the email account created and verified you will be able to create your first character, and choose your mode of play. Characters, which are types of Inquisitors (Psyker, Crusader & Assassins) have backgrounds which reflect their weapon, armor, looting potential, and specialization along with biographical details fleshing them out as well as three choices of expertise which amount to weapon based variations of that Inquisitor type. Psykers in the lore are as they sound. They use energy based attacks along with specialized melee weapons, and smaller guns to dispatch their targets. The expertise options of the Psykers include (as all Inquisitors do) different named appearances as well as weapon based perks associated with those particular variations. These perks include attack benefits tied to their staff, and swords weapons, mostly. Crusaders, which are also a background for Inquisitors are the tanks of the unit with expertise that include melee & shield, shotgun & lasergun, and autogun & laser gun weapon setups. The beefiest of the bunch which is "Heavy Artillery" features additional firepower with a shoulder mounted missile launcher. Lastly, Assassins which are the only female characters, come complete with a decent arsenal of options including guns, dual wielding swords, and explosives. Assassins, as their title suggests, come with expertise that specialize in stealth, mobility, and versatility. They also have more of a chance to earn more exotic gear.
All characters, once created and named, have the option to play through "Story Mode", or "Challenge Mode" from the start. The difference in modes being that the story option is more for inexperienced action-RPG gamers while the challenge option is for those seasoned gamers who have an idea of what they are getting into. In 'Challenge Mode' there is also the bonus of getting rarer items, and gear. As a collective all Inquisitors come with several weapon based skills that are unlocked and available once the weapons have been set. They are assigned to the face buttons, and shoulder buttons respectively. All of which is explained away in an "OPTIONS" accessible menu as you initially pick up the weapons, and face combat scenarios in the singleplayer campaign. Each option adds a different kind of attack that deals different kinds of damage as well as offers different combat effectiveness such as AOE (Area of Effect), and Critical damage among other things. Weapons inherently have bonus buffs, and stats that effect their effectiveness. The armor the Inquisitors equip also have varying attributes. All equipment, weapons or otherwise come in colored variations of rarity making some more desirable than others. Aside from the weapon based skills Inquisitors also have a perk activation that relies on a arched meter being filled, and "R2 + L2" being pressed at the same time when the meter is full. Think of it as a super specialized move.
Inquisitors are each governed by a health bar, which like Diablo, can be refilled with a health injection that can be refilled through medical supply chests, or if stocked, when the health item meter fills back in. Some Inquisitors also have single use weapons such as mines, grenades or shields that can be equipped, and used while out on a mission. As with the health shot such side weapons/items and ammo in general can be refilled if you find a supply chest. When it comes to getting new gear or weapons they come from a few different sources. One source is higher ranked enemies, another is chests, and the final a shop listing on your own ship via a vendor. The loot is mostly random even at the shop which cycles the stock on a timed basis.
While looting new gear, and weapons is an important focus in the game the randomized star map mission options are where this game really shines. At your reach is a complex universe full of planetary systems with missions that are both lucrative, and story driven. In the singleplayer campaign you'll be doing a lot of investigations on the given planets regarding a mysterious Chaos infected ship known as the "Martyr". Ultimately searching for clues, and blasting through enemies of interest as you seek out key characters of interest in an attempt to get rid of the threat of the Chaos Gods, and their minions. Outside of the linear story driven singleplayer experience the game also hosts and ongoing local co-op as well as online co-op multiplayer. The PR has stated in their press release that this side option to the normal singleplayer playthrough will include varying mission types with unique looting opportunities as well as embedded and freely updated content inclusive seasons where what players do in the way of decisions will impact the community as a whole. The decisions you make along the way will ultimately change the given narrative, and mission availability among other things. Along with the co-op comes guild-like options in the form of a "Cabal". You can create or join a Cabal for a chance at unique gear, items, and weapons. Stuff you'll obtain through dedicated team effort.
Missions within the given star map, which can be accessed via your ship hub and the dial menu include pre-listed modifiers that both positively, and negatively effect gameplay as well as enemy types, and difficulty. Some planets will reward you in different ways according to which difficulty you select. Missions also have rank identifiers which show your compatibility with the mission through red, and green rank number requirements. Green being good to go, and red being above your rank.
As you complete mission objectives you will rank up through experience. Along with the base experience points comes assignable skill points which can be spent on a perk tree that includes buffs to defense, offense, and specialization of expertise. Aside from that you'll also earn attribute points which will build upon base RPG attributes when assigned. While these are things that will no doubt enhance your Inquisitor the additional three tier perk system which is more like Diablo's ranked skills, or sub-skills will add additional benefits. Things like more critical damage, damage boosted according to range, etc., ... Each of these perk slots are unlocked at certain rank levels. The perks themselves are only obtainable once you complete Heroic Feats which are listed in the appropriate dial menu, sub-menu. You can only assign up to three modification perks at a time.
The Verdict ...
When it comes to content, with all things considered, this game is rich with it. Not only that, but it is expertly executed with the only noticeable flaws being that of slight framerate stuttering due to the busy breathtakingly beautiful environmental set pieces. That, and the previously mentioned EULA/mandatory email account. This game, despite it's downsides, is truly awe inspiring and in my opinion worth every dollar that is asked for on launch. I was truly impressed, and honestly so. The game will come out on the 23rd of this month. Expect, when you buy the game, to be dropped neck deep into Warhammer lore, but don't expect it to be so off putting that you won't enjoy the replay heavy gameplay. Don't miss out on this one!!! Trust me.