Warhammer fans have been spoilt lately with some great video games set in the universe getting released – Total War: Warhammer was a blast for strategy fans whilst friends could get together to take out some vermin scum in co-op first person adventure title Warhammer: Vermintide. Unfortunately, not all Warhammer games are of the same quality as the aforementioned titles, something that’s demonstrated in Pixel Hero Games’ Eisenhorn: XENOS.
Eisenhorn: XENOS is based upon the popular Warhammer 40k series of the same name, featuring the detective Gregor Eisenhorn as he treads upon the story featured in the first novel. I’ve never actually read it myself, but after taking the time to investigate a little online I’ve seen that it’s got a very big fanbase.
The story is actually the strongest point of the game. I got invested into the game world and I wanted to see how everything would unfold; it kept me interested in the game during times when the gameplay would actually bore me. The fact that Eisenhorn takes on the role of a detective is an interesting change too, especially since my main experience within the Warhammer 40k series is with hulking ultra-marines.
Before talking about the gameplay and graphics I should mention that Eisenhorn: XENOS was built for mobile devices and ported over to the PC – in honesty it tells with the game feeling clunky, the visuals subpar, and the gameplay itself incredibly linear.
Combat felt unrewarding with everything broke down to one of three actions – a melee attack, a ranged attack (which is auto-aimed) and a blast attack that knocks an enemy back. Unfortunately though it didn’t really matter what you used as once you got an enemy into an attack combo you could essentially spam attacks until they were defeated, with little to no response from your foe. It’s like a poor man’s Batman: Arkham title, without the satisfaction of stringing together combos and actually feeling like fighting required any form of thought process.
The Arkham inspiration isn’t just shown in the combat either, with Eisenhorn utilising a detective mode-esque ability that allows him to see through walls to spot enemies. There’s also a series of hacking mini-games as well as QTEs to take care of. It’s never as effective as in the Arkham series, but it at least adds a little bit of variety to the gameplay.
It is a little unfair to criticise the game for not living up to something that obviously had a bigger budget, but then it’s also hard to recommend the title to gamers when there are much better action games out. If Eisenhorn: XENOS offered something a little different or even did things competently it might be different, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
Aesthetically, Eisenhorn: XENOS isn’t too bad to look at, especially since it’s designed for mobile devices. Whilst the textures and character models are sub-par, the world the developers have created is quite impressive. The environments are pretty slick whilst everything towers over you, offering an impressive sense of scale that actually made you feel like you were venturing through massive structures.
Unfortunately the level design didn’t live up to the environment’s cool style, with each level feeling so linear and uninspired that they could’ve easily been on rails. It was easy to see the route I had to follow on each level and with just a series of foes waiting for you between objectives it was hard not to feel a little bored. Whilst I understand that Eisenhorn: XENOS’s wants to focus on telling a story, I wanted the periods of gameplay between story points to at least not feel like a chore to work through.
Character models seem to lack proper animation too, be it either missing frames in combat or the way everything seems to clip when climbing objects. Whilst running through levels everything seems ok, but elsewhere I couldn’t help but to notice that character movement felt a little unnatural. Again, this may not be so bad on mobile devices, but when playing on a big screen it ended up looking a little odd.
The voice work of the game is a mixed bag – whilst actor Mark Strong does a great job with his representation of Gregor Eisenhorn, the same can’t be said for the other characters in the game. Whilst it isn’t particularly awful, there’s a lack of emotion with some of the NPCs, something especially noticeable when some of the more dramatic scenes end up feeling a little flat and underwhelming. It doesn’t really take away from the overall experience though, but it might be disappointing for those who wanted a better representation of the XENOS books.
Fans of the XENOS books may find more to love here, but I found Eisenhorn: XENOS a lacking action experience that didn’t really offer anything to hook me in. I’ve played so many games that offer a more enjoyable, varied experience that it simply makes it difficult to recommend it to action game fans.
I can imagine that Eisenhorn: XENOS may be a lot more enjoyable on mobile devices, but on PC you’re better off looking elsewhere – a rich, enjoyable story doesn’t make up for the disappointing gameplay experience that’s offered in-between.
Developer: Pixel Hero Games
Publisher: Pixel Hero Games
Release Date: 10/08/2016
Format(s): PC (Reviewed), iOS, Android