One of the big advantages of gaining early access to a video game is to witness how it builds over time. Seeing the fat slowly trimmed away and the flaws of the final product ironed out is always a joy to behold, and gives real insight into the development cycle behind these projects. As such, with little over a month to go until its full release, any opportunity to follow-up on our prior preview and see a near finished version of this game was welcomed wholeheartedly. Unfortunately though, in stark contrast to that glowing first look, this one left more than a few niggling concerns once the demo drew to a close.
Let’s be clear here – The scale and visual atmosphere remains a key strength within this game. With better graphical quality and more detailed textures, it personifies the grim darkness of the Imperium in a way no other game has quite managed. Far from the pitch battles of Dawn of War, seeing the Imperium’s inner workings remains a key selling point within the game and there’s a real sense of fading grandeur to each environment. The grimy, bleak industrial designs of the underhive go hand in hand with the science fiction renaissance imagery of the nobility. The combat remains satisfying if a little basic, and the presence of the auspex is a fun addition to keep you searching the area for titbits of lore.
These strengths will all sound familiar to you if you browsed through the more detailed preview, but then there’s some remarkable areas which simply seem unfinished. Many animations continually stutter even during what are supposed to be minor, smooth motions during the cut scenes, distracting you from key moments. This is hardly helped by the composition and framing of certain shots being extremely narrowed in, meaning it’s hard to get a real sense of the environment in many places, or some of the grander details outlined in the novel the game is adapting. Both of these could be forgiven of course, but then there’s the sound assets. Many scenes remain oddly silent or lack the sound to carry the weight of certain actions, so everything from a gun being cocked to diving into cover through a hail of bullets seems bizarre and outright unnatural. What’s more, the voice acting behind many of the secondary characters is utterly atrocious, with even several key members of the Inquisitor’s retinue coming across as toneless or bereft of investment in events. You can argue that this is something still under development and there’s a chance things will improve, but such a massive shift seems very unlikely this late in development.
Will this be a fun game Warhammer fans will enjoy? Most likely. The qualities which were so engaging during our look back in October are still there, and the dark dreary atmosphere perfectly reflects the dystopian nightmare future of M41. The script also remains on point, and many key moments from the book have been brilliantly adapted scene by scene, and Mark Strong truly is the quintessential Eisenhorn. That said, many - previously presumed to be - placeholders remain present in this build and with just a few weeks to go, there’s a real lack of polish in many places, dragging down the experience as a result. Keep an eye on this one in the weeks to come, but make sure to read a few initial reviews before you grab it.
EISENHORN: XENOS / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: PIXEL HERO GAMES / PLATFORM: PC, MOBILE / RELEASE DATE: 19TH MAY 2016