Inquisitor Review

23 Sep 2012

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Cinemax
Developer:Cinemax
Release Date:2012-09-05
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
The balance issues also extend to the character system. The class balance in particular is very, very poor. Paladins are melee attackers, Thieves are ranged attackers and smooth-talkers, and Priests are magic-users. Paladins are by far the most powerful and easiest to play early in the game, but around halfway through the enemies begin to outpace them and combat becomes the brutal slog I mentioned above. Priests, meanwhile, are pitifully weak early on, relying on companions to do all the fighting for them, but after a certain threshold the spells they gain access to are immensely powerful and render combat a complete joke as they are able to unleash spells with effects such as "instantly kill all undead." Thieves find themselves constantly struggling unless they specialize heavily in magic as well, as ranged attacks do not deal enough damage to be worthwhile in the later stages of the game.

The character system also reveals problems in having unique skills between characters in a single-character game. As a Paladin, for instance, you gain access to Enemy Estimation, a skill that lets you view the detailed stats of an enemy (provided the skill is a high enough level). This information is critical... but it's almost useless to a Paladin, who relies primarily on physical damage and can't really take much advantage of the unique weaknesses of monsters in the same way a Priest can. Thieves are the only class who can actually disable traps and pick locks, which are a constant source of frustration for other characters, who have to just put up with taking fireballs to the face and getting poisoned.  Priests are the only ones who can mix potions, which also comes in very handy as the ones you buy from stores are pretty low-grade and cannot otherwise be improved, but they arguably benefit from them less than other classes.

Putting some points in magic is nearly mandatory for any character, as well, again due to poor balance. The Levitate spell is required to avoid a fiery or acidic death due to conveniently-placed pits of lava and acid in dungeons which are necessary to cross. The Shatter spell will unlock any door instantly, otherwise you will have to spend anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes bashing it down. The Sixth Sense spell will identify all items in your inventory, and as it is a Novice-level spell it renders the separate Identify skill completely and utterly useless (which requires 16+ points just to be able to identify more powerful magic items, vs. the 1 point the spell requires). The only way to revive companions (and they will die constantly due to their poor AI) is to invest several points into Divine Magic to get the Raise Dead spell.

I could go on, but the fact is that there are problems upon problems with Inquisitor that only become more and more obvious the longer you play the game. They wouldn't be a huge issue if the game had chosen to focus the majority of its time on investigating and questing. However, by forcing you into spending 75% of your time completing lengthy, repetitive dungeons against copy-pasted monsters, they become all-too-apparent and pretty soon the game ends up as a frustrating, monotonous mess. You'll always look forward to going back to town to get to the good stuff, but enduring the boredom of the game's dungeons simply is not worth it.

The End of the World is a Beautiful Thing

Inquisitor does get one thing right, and that is presentation. Though the game is hardly a technical showpiece, it does feature fully pre-rendered visuals and richly-detailed backdrops that could easily fit in with games from 15 years ago.  In a nice touch, the game also has unique menu themes for each of the character classes. Occasionally the visuals fall a little flat, as the beautiful town areas give way to fairly repetitive and generic-looking forests and valleys, not to mention the extremely repetitive tile-based dungeons. Character animations are also not very good, and there is no separate running animation which means that your character constantly looks like he's power-walking everywhere. Still, these are ultimately small blemishes, and for the most part Inquisitor is quite pretty to look at.

The same can be said of the music. The soundtrack is not quite as memorable, distinctive or focused as some classic RPGs, with a variety of musical themes and styles of instrumentation, ranging from church organs to ambient pieces and orchestral tracks that wouldn't sound out of place in Diablo or Baldur's Gate. Sound effects are not so good, as almost all of them appear to be stock sounds taken from a mishmash of sources. They get the job done, but there is a lack of impact in the weapons and spells, and some of the ambient sound loops can become rather obvious and irritating after a while.  Still, the music especially is great at setting a slightly dreary, hopeless mood throughout the game, which is fitting with its dark themes.

Unfortunately, despite being a PC-exclusive game, Inquisitor does not really have the technical stability or wide range of options you would expect from one. Frankly, these are a major blemish and I have no idea how the game was released in such a state. First off, there is no way to rebind keys. This means that, for example, while I would have loved to take advantage of the pause function, I never did because reaching for the Pause/Break key during combat was just too awkward. The hotkeys are all fine, but the usability of the game is negatively impacted by the lack of options here, and those with physical disabilities may have to use third-party software to get key configurations they like. Second, there is no way to change difficulty settings once you have started a game, which is frustrating especially because of the poor quality of the combat. Last, Inquisitor is a bit buggy and unstable. After a couple of hours, the game routinely begins crashing and suffering from graphics corruption issues - these are fixed by a restart, but it's still annoying. I also experienced corrupt save files a few times, which resulted in a couple of hours of lost progress.

Conclusion

It's easy for nostalgia to take hold of you, especially as RPGs seem to be coming back in full force thanks to successful Kickstarter campaigns left and right and pledges by developers like Obsidian, inXile, and more to go back to their roots. Inquisitor taps into that vein with a presentation and style of gameplay right out of the past, and I think many players are going to be attracted to it for that reason alone. But the unfortunate fact is that while there are a lot of things to like about Inquisitor, mostly related to the story, world design and investigation-style quests, it's undermined by the developer's own philosophy of quantity over quality. With over a hundred hours of gameplay, Inquisitor will take you a long time to get through, but what does it matter if the combat is terrible and the game balance leaves a lot to be desired?

At $15 on GOG.com, Inquisitor is a decent buy for fans looking for a classic-style RPG to tide them over until some of those Kickstarter campaigns start producing real products. However, I cannot in good faith recommend it to most players, and I think anyone interested in it should go in with the understanding that there are large parts of the game that are, simply put, bad. Hopefully, mods will be able to fix the balance problems, and in such a hypothetical case I might recommend Inquisitor more enthusiastically, but I can't rate the game based on potential. As it is, Inquisitor should have spent more time in the confessional.