|Dev: Cinemax Games|
|Pub: Cinemax Games|
|Release: September 5, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||ESRB RATING|
by Shelby Reiches
The first thought that will strike you when you boot up Inquisitor: "Holy crap, this looks like it's ten years old!" Well, first off, you're wrong. It looks like it's almost fifteen years old, because Baldur's Gate came out in 1999, and this is, visually, a refugee from the long-abandoned frontier of the Infinity Engine. No, it's not actually on said engine, but it looks like it.
That's okay, though. The visuals are part of this game's appeal. Besides, you were partly right. While the game looks older, it was actually in development for ten years. But you were wrong again, because there were also three years of translation work put into it to bring it out here; it's a Czech game, by origin, and was released there in 2009. Thus, it began development the year that Baldur's Gate came out. And so we've come full circle.
My initial foray into Inquisitor was much like my early time spent in Baldur's Gate. I made a character, assigning his precious attribute points with little regard for how effective this would make him and with the difficulty tuned to normal. The difference between the two is that Baldur's Gate follows the fairly balanced AD&D rules (well, a variant thereof) while Inquisitor, um, doesn't. However, while in Baldur's Gate it was my own damn fault for not reading the manual and learning about what stats affected what in combat; Inquisitor's manual more or less glosses over it. It's more flavor text than anything else, and my first two characters were exercises in trial and error. The first taught me how to min-max my combat stats. The second taught me that I should play on Easy regardless.
Trial and error, in fact, describes much of my experience within the game. Talk to people (the game, blessedly, automatically saves any time you talk to someone or something, as well as whenever you undergo a location transition), reload a few times until I haven't pissed them off, get some pertinent information on my main quests and the myriad sub-quests that feed into that, and go about inquiring vile monsters with the pointy end of my sword and dying a whole bunch. Finding adventuring companions certainly helped and, while combat never really got interesting (click on a foe and wait until it dies, occasionally activate abilities or quaff potions), it became less of a roadblock to progress. This is good, since the game's writing is superb.
Inquisitor draws upon its real-world namesake, but sets it in a world in which magic and miracles are real things, the end times are upon us, and demons and monsters crawling out of the woodwork en masse. It's a dark and foreboding place, with malice around every corner and a fine line between the holy and unholy, the two often bleeding into one another. This comes across in almost every conversation you will have, which constantly puts you on edge as you look for the ulterior motives and impure intentions hiding behind every statement even the most pious of individuals makes to you. Suspicion runs rampant and, given that you have the power to accuse and torture suspected heretics in hopes of extracting confessions, it can be a dangerous brand to carry.
It isn't just the conversation that keeps one on edge, though. Inquisitor isn't very generous with handing out direction. Nine times out of ten, you'll receive conflicting information from NPCs on where to go to fulfill quests. Some of the information—in fact, sometimes all of it—will be entirely useless, leaving the player to find their own way by simply exploring. This makes the experience of going into a new, unexplored locale an unsettling one, as you'll have no idea what's waiting for you on the other side of that load screen, much less whether or not you're ready for it. It's unforgiving, often unfair, and for some reason makes it all the more rewarding when you stumble upon your quest objective in a ramshackle hut out in the middle of nowhere, or when a seemingly random quest from a stranger provides you with an unexpected and vital clue regarding your main quest.
Sometimes, though, this obtuse nature ventures into the territory of being wholly unnecessary and frustrating. While it's engaging to explore new areas and find your quest objectives (and sometimes entirely new quests) therein, it happens all too often that you'll have the pieces to solve a puzzle, but no idea what to do with them. Perhaps you've found a physical clue that implicates someone in heretical activity, so you take it to the sheriff. No dice. To the inquisitors themselves? Nope. How 'bout the ostracized head of the Paladin order? Again, nothing. You can bring it to the individual it implicates, but once he denies your accusations, or offers an alternative explanation for his activities, there really isn't much you can do. It feels as though there's a trigger you've missed somewhere along the way, and the game is all too happy to let you wander around in vain until you either stumble upon it or give up.