Eisenhorn: Xenos | Review – A grim detective story from the far future

The narrative potential of the sprawling Warhammer 40,000 mythos is as vast as the established body of lore that surrounds the classic tabletop strategy game that has spawned a multitude of companion novels and video games. One of hundreds of compelling stories present in the 40k setting is that of Gregor Eisenhorn, whose exploits are explored in the Eisenhorn trilogy by author Dan Abnett, also known for his Gaunts Ghosts series and Ravenor trilogy, among others.

As an Inquisitor of the totalitarian, galaxy-spanning Imperium of Man, Eisenhorn is part witch hunter, part detective and part executioner, charged with tracking down and eliminating all manner of heretics, mutants and otherworldly scum.

Xenos, the first novel of Abnett’s trilogy on the titular inquisitor, has been adapted into a third-person action/adventure now available on Steam and as an iOS and Android app. What results is an interactive romp through an exceptionally engaging and dark far-future sci-fi storyline, sadly held back by sub-par animations and clunky, hollow combat encounters.

Eisenhorn_and_friends

Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn (center) and his entourage tackle some of the deadliest monsters and assorted dirt bags the galaxy can throw at them.

Eisenhorn: Xenos is a game that presents two major facets – a strong and gripping plot that will likely interest any fan of the established Warhammer 40k lore. Fans of the book trilogy may particularly enjoy the opportunity to take the wheel of the protagonist in an interactive format. Pacing is handled reasonably well, with voiceover monologues from Eisenhorn placed at the right beats to fill in narrative gaps and lend context to what the player is doing.

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The story is occasionally broken up by action sequences in which our scrupulous hero engages with small groups of adversaries using the melee and ranged weapons at his disposal, including chainswords, bolt pistols and other Warhammer 40k staples. This is where things go a bit awry, the battles consist mostly of tapping the attack keys and sporadically dodging wild swings from the mooks aiming for Eisenhorn’s head on a pike. Simplistic in concept and muddy in execution, combat in Eisenhorn: Xenos is easily the weakest part of the game. Players invested primarily in the story may not be overly burdened by this.

Veteran actor Mark Strong, who gamers might recognize from his voice role as Ultramarine Captain Titus in Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, lends his gravely tones to the main character, imparting sufficient gravitas to Eisenhorn’s first outing as a game character. However, Strong can only do so much to balance out the relative blandness of the remaining voice talent. Less-than-stellar sound design and production don’t do the game any favors.

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It’s clear that Eisenhorn: Xenos is far better suited as a mobile game than as a fully-realized PC title. In the context of comparison to other iOS and Android games, it stands on its merits to a respectable degree. Unfortunately, when stacked against its peers in the ever-expanding Steam library, Eisenhorn: Xenos quickly falls by the wayside as a forgettable title; though the concept is sure to draw its share of fan, its appeal is decidedly limited.

Mobile gamers have something worth getting into here – PC gamers are likely better off just reading the books.

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