Review: Harking back to a time when RPGs didn’t pull their punches, INQUISITOR has you chasing down heretics while embracing some ’90s RPG nostalgia. Should its ideas have been left in the past or is it a worthwhile trip back in time?
It may have originally been released in the Czech Republic in 2009, but Inquisitor feels like it could have been made in the late ’90s as part of the isometric RPG craze. It’s clear where its loyalties lie, forgoing many of the changes the RPG genre has gone through in the last decade and settling into a stance long forgotten.
Inquisitor takes place in a rather different fantasy world to what we’re used to. Yes, there are similarities to realms like D&D, but it actually has more in common with our own medieval history than most. There’s no pantheon of Gods blowing about, just one God, the Christian God, with Angels and everything (though no mention of a son yet). As the title suggests, this world is in the middle of its own little Spanish Inquisition. One you have been captured by, because no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition.Your part comes into play when you are released from captivity by a mysterious third party, who sends you off to a remote town to investigate a murder all the while posing as the local inquisitor’s intern. Of course first you have to design a character.
Character classes are minimal with just three to choose from: Paladin, Priest and Thief. Or to put it another way: Fighter, Mage and, well, Thief. I went with Paladin, which turns out to be a mistake, as the first two party members you can recruit are both fighters meaning at the minute all I do is hit things a lot then run back to town for heals. It makes for quite slow progress. All three classes get bonuses as you advance. The Priest can take on the role of the Inquisitor himself, the Thief has the opportunity to regain his nobility and the Paladin can work his way up the ranks of his Holy Order.
However, there is absolutely no customisation options for the look of the main character – at all. Every character is a Caucasian male. The Paladin is blonde, the thief has brown hair and the priest is bald. When the only thing you can choose between is your character’s portrait – and all they really do is change the angle of your face or maybe grow a beard – it feels just a little limited.
You must gather your party before venturing forth
This lack of customisation also stretches to the rest of your party. You can’t do a single thing to them: their stats level automatically, their inventory is untouchable and you can’t even take control of them. You can issue orders, but I’ve not really had a need for that except when they get a bit over-excited and start chasing a fleeing orc who has had enough and leave me surrounded by his six massive mates.
Like all role playing games you quickly become everyone’s favourite dog’s body, but for once the majority of quests you’re sent on do tie into main investigations. They may not do at first but it quickly becomes clear that this town’s problems stem from one source, you just need to find it by helping a few people along the way.
Considering that investigating is the focus of the story, the journal becomes even more important than usual. Unfortunately, this is one area that Inquisitor really did need to look how modern RPGs pull it off, because this one is nearly as a bad as the original Baldur’s Gate. It does take a step in the right direction by splitting things up into three sections: Quests, Notes and Evidence. But there are no headings under any of them – a quest name would be handy so you could quickly scan through all the paragraphs looking for the relevant passage. Notes becomes unusable pretty fast too, as nearly every little piece of extra information falls under this one: hints about quests, enemies in the local area, even stuff going on in the entire region that is a bit out of your scope (though I imagine you stick your oar in later on).
Inquistor’s not exactly easy to start off with either. No waypoints, no hints as to where people are. You are stumbling around the town in the same way your character should be having just arrived. Wander in the wrong direction and get hit by bad guys that are way too high level for your piffling investigator. It’s as these old style games are meant to be, however, when I hit level 15 I still had the same nine areas to choose from and was struggling to find new enemies that I can take on. All the easy areas were dealt with, and the next set were just way too hard. Somewhere deep in there I’d probably missed something, but it started to get a little tiresome working out where I have and haven’t been.
Rolling the dice
Though the game does explain some other things quite well, remember, Inquisitor is following the old RPG style, so you will need to read the manual to learn some particulars. During the first few hours of play I kept finding myself having to exit the game and have another look at the PDF to find out how I did something. But this is a game for the hardcore and manuals were required reading back then.
The only mechanic in the whole game that seriously annoyed me was Stamina, one of the three main gauges alongside the more recognised Health and Mana. Stamina is used up for physical attacks, but unlike more modern fares like Dragon Age, it isn’t just special moves that use it but every single one you to try and make. This is fine during a fight, especially when you get mobbed by a group, as it managing your stamina adds another tactical element to combat.
It’s after the fights that stamina pisses me off. Once the dust has settled you obviously want to give it a chance to recharge. Unfortunately, that means standing around doing bugger all while it fills back up. Conversations stop time so that’s no good. Going into any menu pauses the game so you can’t even sort out your inventory while you wait. It is simply a case of standing around for a yellow globe to regenerate. There is an option to slow walk, which I figured meant that while I was moving at a lower speed my stamina would refill a little too, but that wasn’t the case either. It seems all slow walk does is show the walk animation at the right speed.
Ah yes, the animations. They are easily the worst thing in the entire game. Those for combat are minimal, especially firing a bow as it looks more like your character is throwing an arrow rather than firing it. However, it’s the walking one that provides the most laughs. It’s just far too fast, so your party look like they are power walking everywhere. By the presence of the pointless “slow walk” I’d take a guess the entire game was built at this speed before the dev team realised it was too slow and just sped everything up, knocking the animations out.
It’s a shame the animations let the game down as elsewhere Inquisitor does a great job with its presentation to fit with the era of RPGs it wants to emulate. The music especially suits the tone of the game, with its reliance on organs and choral elements – I had one comment that it sounded like I was at a funeral, not playing a game, which is an odd thing to type as a compliment.
It’s all thrown together as a love letter to the days of RPGs when Baldur’s Gate and Fallout were young. Inquisitor exudes the qualities of these classic RPGs, even if it is a little rough around the edges, and reminds you exactly why you lost many hours to them. Its biggest problem comes from the fact that its English release comes only two weeks before the re-release of the game that clearly inspired it. Still, if you’re longing for these RPG days of old, and looking for an entirely new experience, then Inquistor is definitely worth your time.
Inquisitor from Cinemax, is available for PC from GOG.com.