Inquisitor - A Review
Inquisitor is a difficult game to review. It’s very long. I received an advance copy from the good people at GoG.com and after playing for over 50 hours I still haven’t finished. In fact, I’m only about 2/3 of the way through the game. However, I have played enough that I believe I can give a solid overview of what players can expect for their $15 investment.
The game is fairly ‘old school’ in the manner of the classic Divine Divinity where you play a single character from one of 3 different classes. You can choose to add a couple of NPC companions to form a party, but they are a mixed blessing. While they can soak up some of the initial damage when you’re attacked, they either die fairly quickly, or use up all your healing potions leaving none for you. There is little you can do to control them; basically, you’re limited to stay, attack, or don’t drink my potions. Fortunately, money soon becomes a non-issue so keeping them around, while costly, doesn’t drain the purse too much.
You begin the game by choosing one of three character classes; Paladin, Priest, or Thief; your traditional Warrior, Mage, Rogue. While all three can learn the skills of the others, they are limited in how far they can progress. The Paladin, for example, can only learn the first two tiers of the four tier spell system and only the Priest can learn all the spells in the game. After choosing some initial attributes and skills, you are basically dropped outside a village wall and you’re on your own. There’s not much guidance. If you’re looking for quest markers and little symbols over people’s heads, you’re playing the wrong game.
I hope you like reading. The game is divided into three chapters and at the beginning of each you have very little idea about what you should be doing. Therefore, it is ESSENTIAL that you talk with EVERYONE at least once and with most, several times as new dialogue options open up with most NPC’s every time you gain some new information. And can these people talk!! Be prepared for walls of text in the early going; you can’t avoid it if you hope to progress. If all you want to do is fight monsters ( and there’s definitely more than sufficient of that in the game; it just takes awhile to get to that point ) this is not the game for you. Why is this so?
The key is in the title. You are something of a detective in a quasi-medieval society ruled primarily by ‘the Church’. If you’re at all familiar with history, you’ll have heard of the Spanish Inquisition. Well, you are a part of something similar with similar powers of torture and burning at the stake. More about that later.
Strange things are occurring and people are being murdered. It’s your job to discover what is really happening, why are people being killed and who is committing these crimes. You have to gather clues, evidence and eventually hold a trial. Thus the need to talk with everyone. Once you have gathered all the available information you can begin exploring for more clues, while also completing several quests you will have obtained. Some of these quests are necessary before an NPC will divulge essential information; fairly standard RPG procedure. Some people will readily tell you everything you want to know, while others will want a bribe first. If you build your character a certain way, you can often intimidate people rather than bribing them. Different character types will have different options which does give the game some replay value.
I played as a Priest (surprise, surprise). There are only five attributes in the game: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence and Speed. Everyone needs Con and Speed, while the others are obviously class based. Each has a cap level determined by class as well. You get four attribute points each level and that was never an issue; by the time my character was over level 30, I had more points than I really needed. You also get four Skill points each level and here’s where the challenge lies. There are not only a great many possible skills where you can spend them, but as you increase the levels, it takes more skill points to increase one level in a skill. For example, as a Priest there are seven spell books which I can learn. Each book contains the possibility of learning two or three spells at each of four tiers. You have to find or purchase spell scrolls to ‘write’ in the books. Now, to increase my skill level from 0 to 5 takes 5 skill point to increase from 5 to 10 takes ten skill points. It then takes 15 points for the next 5 levels and twenty for the final 5 levels. To max out one spell book costs 50 skill points and you only get four each level. You have seven possible spell books and there are other skills which you need as well and they all operate the same way. The problem is obvious; you MUST specialize.
I should point out that while there are ways to obtain bonus skill points, even those are not sufficient to allow you to be a generalist. To compound this further, some enemies you fight have the ability to permanently reduce your current skill level. Most weapons, armour and spells have pre-requisites which combine class level with an attribute level and a certain skill level. The skill levels are normally 1, 6, 11, 16, but the class levels can be quite high. A Priest doesn’t gain access to tier three spells until level 35. You won’t reach that level until near the end of act 2.
One of the most controversial aspects of the game is the use of torture, which, to be honest, does fit with the milieu of the game. However, it is not as prevalent as one may have been led to believe. I did not torture my first ‘victim’ until I was level 22. The person was clearly guilty and I needed more information about co-conspirators with torture being the only method for obtaining the necessary information. It was actually quite tame. The eventual burning at the stake of convicted murderers is far more gruesome as you listen to their screams of anguish. Torture is sparingly used, though it is possible to go overboard. You take an alignment hit if you torture innocents which could make your job more difficult.
The game is composed of many small maps. Some parts only become available as you progress in the game and your investigations. You can revisit any map once it becomes available. Each act has one major city which will be the hub for your investigations during that act. While in act 1 the city fits into just one map, in act 2 it is spread across 2 maps. As you explore, the map is filled in with more and more detail, but unfortunately there is no way for you to add any notes or markers. Buildings can usually be entered, though some may be locked. There is a very useful low level spell, ‘Shatter’ which allows you to open nearly all locked doors and chests.
On most of the outdoor area maps is at least one dungeon entrance and each of these can have up to five levels. These dungeons have great atmosphere though a light spell will often prove helpful. There are hidden or disguised switches, traps and poison/lava pools to avoid ( the levitate spell helps here ) and there are secret tunnels/rooms as well. ( The perception skill works for them ). Oh, they are filled with monsters too. However, there is very little variety with the monsters in each dungeon. You might, for example, find 3 different types of lizard creatures in the one dungeon, while another will just have undead skellies. There is some limited respawning on both maps and within dungeons, so an area is never totally clear, but it is minimal and usually not too annoying unless you’re trying to make it back to town with few hitpoints and no potions.
In my opinion, fights become tedious after awhile, especially as you reach the fifth level of a dungeon facing hordes of the same critters. One of my biggest criticisms of the game would be too much filler combat in an already overly long game. There is also a ‘sameness’ about each act. The NPC’s are just a little too stereotyped and similar in each city. While act 2 is more complex than act 1, much feels like little more than a variation or repeat of the same themes. It holds your interest for 2 acts, but you dread the thought of more of the same in act 3.
The combat can either be quite easy, or quite challenging. Most was easy, but the game does have several difficulty levels from which to choose. I took the easy option to save time. While it is possible to pause the game during combat, it doesn’t help much. As long as the enemies are at some distance, you can usually take them down easily. However, when you are swarmed, or if combat with a ‘boss’ level monster is initiated from very close range you can be dead in seconds. Spells not only have a cool down, but can fail, especially at low skill levels. I found using ‘Seals’ much better than spells at the lower levels. These are easily obtained and fairly cheap to buy, though they drop in chests quite regularly. As in most games, I soon found myself using only a few spells which are easy to swap in and out to your quick bar.
While I didn’t make much use of weapons, I did try out a couple. Bows are good early on and arrows drop regularly, but they eventually become underpowered. There is a large choice of melee weapons available and some really good ones come as quest rewards too. Armour, rings, boots, gloves, helms and amulets abound and many give excellent skill or stat boosts. Beware they can become broken and in need of repair. The inventory allows you to set up three weapon sets which can easily be swapped by the click of a button, even during combat using the pause option. Most of the really powerful weapons required a much higher skill level than I had in melee, but at least I was able to sell them.
You can buy and sell most things from the various traders and shopkeepers. While some sell specialised merchandise, they will all buy everything and can repair anything. Note, some have different prices for the same item. I paid anything from 22gp to 29gp for a healing potion. One item you want to obtain in quantity, either from drops or shops is the magic box. While they are expensive to buy and only have one use each, when you do choose to use one, you get several valuable options which range from shopping, to transport, to help fighting a really tough room full of monsters. They can even be used to give additional skill or attribute points. When you are on level 4 of a dungeon, out of potions with your armour and weapons broken, having access to a store where you can buy, sell and repair without leaving the dungeon is a marvellous innovation.
One area of the game which I didn’t really pursue was Alchemy. I simply didn’t have the skill points available to raise my skill level sufficiently to make it worthwhile. However, what little I did attempt in mixing potions did seem to work well and assorted potions for this abound in the game.
Graphically, the game is quite good, but not anywhere near the level of recent games such a Skyrim. Your camera is fixed and there is no zoom feature or anything similar. While it won’t win any art awards, it was certainly adequate.
The game manual, isn’t very helpful unfortunately, neither are many of the descriptions you get in the game. For example, nowhere in the manual are you told how to add spells you buy to your spell books. ( You double click them ) Generally, the mechanics of the game either have to be figured out yourself, or read about in the official GoG forums which are very helpful when first starting. I know there is music and sound effects in the game, but I usually turn those off as I find them annoying. Conversations are not spoken, but are all text. Fortunately, the quality of the translation was a pleasant surprise. While, to me, it was obvious that the text had been translated by a non-native English speaker, there were very few places where the syntax or constructions were terrible. For the most part, it was well done and never became an issue.
The quests in the game are many and varied though most are connected in some way to your central job of figuring out what is going wrong. To accomplish this you have to root out heretics, find thieves and murderers as well as long lost artefacts or books. Whether you turn in the thief, or recruit him, let the murderer go, or burn him/her at the stake is up to you. You’ll search out treachery and help shopkeepers recover missing wine, or a father his missing son. There’s something there for every taste.
In summary then, what we have here is an old-fashioned RPG where you really have to bring both your mind and your physical skills to the table. Nothing is made easy for you and while parts become tedious overall I found the game to be fun and enjoyable. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you enjoy this type of game then it is well worth the price.
Developer: Wooden Dragon
Play-time: Over 60 hours
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2009-12-01
· Publisher: Cinemax
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2012-09-05
· Publisher: Cinemax
- Excellent complex story
- 'Old School' type of game
- VERY long game
- Involves use of brain
- Lots of spells and weapons
- Massive amounts of text to read
- Too much 'filler' combat
- Parts feel repetative
- Mechanics are poorly documented
- You have to torture people