Set in the 14th century, as terrible plague besets the land, this 3D action-adventure casts players in the role of Matthew, a sly but unfortunate thief who begins his exploits in a Paris jail, after being captured in a botched burglary attempt. A fellow inmate has been beaten to the point of expiration by their Inquisitor captors, yet shares with Matthew a secret of the great treasure of Templar Knights before he dies.
After publishing more than a dozen games, the French development team Wanadoo Edition have released their third-person sneaking action adventure entitled Inquisition. Inspired by novels such as "The name of the Rose" (Umberto Eco) and "The Horseman on the Roof" (Jean Giono), Inquisition puts players into a 14th century atmosphere where your only hope of existing is pulling off thievish deeds.
Like I've said in the preceding paragraph, the game's story will take you to 14th century France. It is the year 1348, and life in Paris is tough. Many people are looking for different ways to survive the poverty and famine. During the vicious reign of the Holy Inquisition, people were brutally punished for crimes they (most likely) never committed. Your character, Matthew, is hardly a law-abiding citizen. He has to make his way through the treacherous streets of Paris by sneaking and looting. Being an amateur thief, Matthew was captured by the city guards and was put in prison to await severe punishment. To avoid being sliced into little bits, your character decides to make a brake for it. As he escapes his cell, he accidentally finds his way to a torture-chamber where a holy inquisitor was in the process of questioning an unfortunate victim. Overhearing the interrogation you find out some pretty interesting details and a new quest will come before you. The poor sob who was tortured has turned to you for help and before you know it you'll be on your way to hunt the so-called Treasure of the Templar Knights - after you escape from the prison that is.
At first, you'll just be going through dungeons and sewers trying to find your way out of the prison, naturally by avoiding sentinels and executioners. In order to endure through the terrifying age he lives in, your character has to use different thieving skills along with a variety of special burglary tools. Of course, Matthew's chief talent, which he could not do without, is tip-toeing his way out of perilous situations. Since the game is story-driven and somewhat linear, don't expect to encounter any particularly challenging puzzles. In most situations, the right solution almost presents itself and there will be no need for any meticulous analyzing or thinking.
Matthew's thieving talents are usually the only thing that keeps him alive. He can pinch stuff by using his handy bandit tools such as the skeleton key and a small thieves' blade. The skeleton key is ideal for lock-picking and will give you the opportunity to access locked areas. To earn money, Matthew can sneak up and use the thieves' blade to deprive an unwary victim of his valuables. Sadly, the usage of this skill is rather limited, since you'll usually get to use it when the game requires you to. So, this means that you cannot rob anyone you run into on the street - you just have a certain number of NPCs that were included in the game simply for the purpose of being robbed.
Most of the areas in Paris are crawling with sentries. Luckily, there are a few things you can do in order to distract them: throwing small rocks in a certain direction, whistling, and so on. Another useful and fun thing you get to do is knock out the enemy with a nifty club; just creep up behind a guard and clobber him in a subtle and dignified manner. Just so you know, there are two or three things players can do when they encounter guards: they can knock them out, they can sneak past them, or just engage in hand-to-hand combat.
The character will also get to use a few weapons on the way such as the crossbow, sword, axe, and a pair of sharp daggers. The combat is pretty straightforward - players will only get to use two keys: CTRL (strike) and SPACE (kick). However, a few problems will occur when your character is surrounded by multiple enemies. The control system is simply not precise and helpful enough to deal with all of them and because of that you'll be loosing your life quite often. Not to mention that there is no mouse support in the game. It looks as though the development team decided to optimize the game controls to work for the PC as well as the PS2. The problem is that the current control scheme on the PC is not intuitive enough and may take some getting use to. A major control bummer there.
After your character dies he will be respawned at the beginning of a level, which requires you to sneak your way through the entire map all over again. And bearing in mind the awkward controls, attempting to pass through a certain area over and over (and over) again will become repetitive and very tiresome.
Generally, the AI is acceptable, but I dare say it could've been a hell of a lot better. It's true that as the player advances through the game, the opponents will become numbered, more aggressive, and smarter, but in some areas the AI displays some major flaws, which tend to bring down even further the overall quality of the game - Matthew can alert the guards by any noise he accidentally produces and once this happens the nearest bunch of guards will immediately run towards him. On the other hand, in certain areas guards simply refuse to react to an alarm: for instance, while one guard is alerted the other one remains asleep doing absolutely nothing to stop you. Also, sentinels can sometimes get jammed for no reason.
The visuals are another mediocre aspect of the game. The so-called Phoenix3D middleware engine doesn't appear to have any creditable features and it tended to show some pretty weird bugs. Most of the levels are in dire need of more detailed and sharper textures (a very poor example of cross-platform development). The lighting effects, however, can create an illusion of a tense and scary middle-age ambiance, but that still doesn't compensate for the game's general lack of color and background detail. Although the character animation looks realistic, some of the models crave for more polys. The most irritating thing is the fixed camera movement, which in most cases fails to keep track of the action on screen. This makes it hard for you to survey the area for any potential enemies and it increases your chance of being caught. The game does allow you to switch to first-person view, but that can rarely be helpful, since you cannot move your character, while in that particular mode.
The in-game sounds seemed OK at first; that is until I've had to listen some of the dialogues. Don't get me wrong though. The acting is alright, it's just that for some reason the characters' speech can sometimes be extremely hard to discern (even if you did set the dialog volume to max.). The music themes are agreeable, but they become dull after a few hours of gameplay.
Inquisition could've been a solid third-person sneaker if the developers took enough time to work on the visuals, the enemy AI, controls, as well as the camera movement. On top of that, there's no mouse support which is sure to drive away a huge number of gamers right off the bat. Most of the puzzles and challenges are easy to sort out, which unfortunately maintains the linearity of gameplay. You get to use some of Matthew's thieving skills and that can be fun for a while.
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