It is hard to deny. I have such a soft spot for Warhammer 40k. While I am not one for “so bad it’s good,” there’s something about the scenery-chewing bleakness of the universe that draws me to it. I am a screamer of “HERESY!” For me, space-opera pen-and-paper RPGs and video-games usually slide into an inquisitorial heresy-hunt. Eisenhorn: XENOS tries to be what I love, but ends up just a brick of mud with a cheap Warhammer Halloween costume on top.
Eisenhorn: XENOS is a mobile phone title that recently saw a PC release, mysteriously rising in price. Developed and published by Pixel Hero Games, you play as Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn. After finishing a feud with a known-heretic, Eisenhorn gets the feeling there may be more to his arch-enemy’s motivations. This, predictably, sparks a cross-galaxy hunt to crush more heretics.
On the surface, it sounds like a rather crude story. This is actually based on a book of the same name by award-winning author Dan Abnett. Playing through the game though, you wouldn’t know it. Sometimes information is presented in an incredibly awkward manner. In addition, at times events somewhat just happens at you, with an element of coincidence occurring with it. Despite what probably should be powerful events, in the end feels generally lackluster.
What makes me consider it might not be the book at fault is the narration. Eisenhorn has a habit of waterboarding you with so much information that it hopes you have a deep familiarity with the setting. This is all delivered with the emotion of Microsoft Sam. As well as this, the audio quality is laughable as it flits between normal, echoing, left-only and right-only speakers for no reason. I’d attempt to pay attention to scenes, but would end up distracted by other parts of the game.
I spent the time I should have been paying attention to the story instead studying the odd animation. I know it was a tablet game, but I increasingly got confused as to where my extra money went. It definitely didn’t go into the cardboard robot plays called scenes. Maybe into the graphics. Although layering these graphics onto action-figurine acting feels like putting make-up onto Nigel Farage to give the illusion of life. It only distracts from the oddity in front of your face.
“Maybe the mysterious price rise went into the combat?” I thought. However, it plays like a poor-man’s Arkham Knight. Every so often you stumble into an arena setting with one of two enemy types (i.e. gun-man and sword-man). Left click to melee, right click to shoot, space to exploit invulnerability frames. You even get telegraphed who is about to attack. The only defining mechanic is a meter you charge up to allow for some free-hits. Despite this, with the janky animation and basic AI, there is no reason to veer from spamming left-click and space to win.
The other gameplay isn’t much better. Stealth parts, with its absolute bare-bones perception mechanics, is as satisfying as accidentally punting your child’s hamster out the window. Otherwise you are dragged down linear corridors while you hear your teammates activate their text-to-speech software. This is interrupted by occasionally having to bash either “space” or the left-click button on command. Outside of combat, I felt like I was simply driving the plot vehicle to the next point rather than any form of engagement.
Not wanting to let go of that price rise, I thought maybe they did a good job with porting it from iOS to PC. Although, with the frequent crashes, audio bugs and various other oddities above, I am not so sure.
“But what is good about the game?!” you may demand of me. The graphics, for what amounts to a port of an iOS game, are rather impressive. Although, measuring it as a PC game with PC pricing (as Eisenhorn prides itself on costing more on PC), it ends up looking like an indie game attempting a realistic aesthetic. This ends up creeping up more and more as the game prides itself on talking of gory scenes in the narrative, without ever showing gore beyond blood splatter and the rare disappearing limb. Eisenhorn: XENOS ends up looking like a budget attempt at big-budget graphics.
The final score of Eisenhorn: XENOS is a 3.5/10. As much as I complain about it, the reason for the short length of the review is simply just how boring the game is. It fails to engage on a narrative front, fails to grab me as a Warhammer 40k fan and it fails to entertain through its gameplay.
All it has me asking is why they decided to push the price up for a PC port of what should have stayed on iOS. I’m sure it might be fantastic for an iOS game, but it blunders out into a market that is as vicious as Donald Trump on a speed-ecstacy cocktail and it expects people to measure it the same as iOS. Measuring as it is, a PC game, Eisenhorn: XENOS is the type of bad that exists as a necrosis on the property. It is a heresy to be purged lest the gangrene spreads to the rest of the licence.
Save yourself from this disgusting display of chaos. Leave Eisenhorn: XENOS where it lies.
A PC Review Code for Eisenhorn: XENOS was provided by Pixel Hero Games for the purpose of this review