Inquisitor tells you a lot about the game from its name alone. The game asks one major question through its setting, a hellish medieval world where demons and devils are quite real. That question is simple: if the 12th century inquisition was right about how thousands of witches and devil worshippers were summoning agents of Satan into the world, would their brutal methods have been justified? The answer, however, is far less clear.
The back story of Inquisitor is fascinating. The game is a throwback to older CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate or Diablo 2, but the long development time puts a whole new spin on the word retro. Development began thirteen years ago, around the release of the first Baldur’s Gate. So what seems charmingly old school now was once intended to be cutting edge, making for a game that can well and truly be called retro, and it does show. The graphics consists of great looking sprite art pieces that scale nicely to higher resolutions, definitely harking back to the beautiful 2D landscapes of Icewind Dale and others.
In Inquisitor, you play as a member of the Inquisition sent to stop the overwhelming onslaught of evil sweeping the land, taking the form of orcs, ogres, and other such traditional enemies. Supposedly, the apocalypse is nigh as morality is at an all time low, so you absolutely need to track down any heretics and, er, persuade them to confess their crimes. While you technically play as a member of a holy office, the game itself thrusts you into a world that is anything but righteous. It’s a thoroughly grimy, depraved world where you really can’t trust anyone, but it is also rather well fleshed-out. There are tons of words and descriptions (rather well translated from the developer’s native tongue) for everything from the biggest piece of plate armor to the lowliest health potion. The GOG version also includes a ton of “feelies”, PDFs of tomes and spell books from the world of the game for you to nerd out with. Not to be left out, the dialogue is incredibly thorough and verbose as well, which plays into the big, unique twist for the game.
Like any action RPG, you’ll be crawling through dungeons, but far more compelling is the actual act of investigating crimes against the church. By thoroughly questioning each member of your current base of operations, you can track down gossip, rumors, and evidence from paranoid townsfolk pointing the finger at everyone else. It’s up to you to carefully read through the reams of dialogue and suss out the truth, but it becomes tricky when everyone seems to be willing to lie. Torture, the inquisition’s method of choice, can elicit the truth, but can also stir false confessions. You can also confront liars with new evidence and proof, making for a very compelling system that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
It isn’t perfect, as sometimes the triggers to open new dialogue trees or confront new lines of questioning can be completely arcane. You can be aware that someone is guilty, but neither he nor anyone else can be questioned or accused unless you’ve followed some very specific and unintuitive steps. This leads to some frustrating sequences and bizarre moments; for example, you need to cart around a dead body for most of the first act until you do an unrelated quest and rescue the only person to whom you can show the body.
Far less compelling is the actual action RPG elements themselves. The game boasts a ridiculous length, but most of it can be chalked up to the mind-numbingly slow pace and the amount of busywork the game throws at you. First, the speed of your character is based on a stat, and it is atrocious. The simple act of going to town to sell your loot becomes a boring chore until you speed stat is maxed, and even then your running pace is slightly below that of Diablo 2. Similarly, the game uses a Stamina gauge for attacks, which seems like a somewhat pointless addition of downtime. This makes every dungeon romp a matter of fighting a handful of baddies and then waiting over a minute to recharge, again and again and again. This can be ameliorated through generous use of potions, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason for including this system beyond padding.
The actual dungeoneering itself is mixed, going from great fun to frustrating tedium and back again. The game uses an extensive loot system that is rather nice (except for the slow trips back to town to cash it out), and the difficulty definitely skews towards old school toughness for those who like a serious challenge. But occasional glitches and minor complaints always dog the adventure, like a critical quest key that didn’t drop and entire skills being nullified by first level spells. Honestly, if I were to list every single minor issue, this review could go on for thousands of words, but most of them are not completely game breaking, just annoying.
Inquisitor comes from an era of RPG greats, but this is less of a Baldur’s Gate and more of a Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader; it’s a good premise with poor execution that is plagued by issues. With the development team at Cinemax scattered into the wind, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see fixes or tweaks to address those dozens of minor issues. There’s definitely a niche, old-school RPG audience out there that is going to absolutely love this game, and there’s no doubt it will reach a certain cult status. But if you’re only a dabbler in RPGs from the turn of the millennium, there are a lot of classics you could choose to play over this one.
Final Verdict: Inquisitor does a fantastic job of building a setting, showing an incredibly amoral world, and backing it up with tons of lore. Unfortunately, the game itself has a few big issues and dozens of minor ones that make the 80 hour game into a slog at times. If you’re really into older RPGs, you might get a kick out of it despite the issues, but don’t expect a lost classic.
This review is based on a review copy of the GOG PC version of Inquisitor provided by Cinemax.
Special thanks to GOG.com for providing a review code for Inquisitor. You can buy Inquisitor from GOG.com DRM free and with extra goodies.