In a world chock full of excellent role playing games, releasing a new one comes at a cost. It’s tough to hold off comparing rookie titles to all time greats of the genre especially if you’re a fan. They usually veer toward either action or story whilst grasping at different elements to prevent them from being looked at as stale or recycled. One thing is common, however, they all have progression systems as well as having you play as some sort of fresh meat and work towards being a legend of sorts.
Mars: War Logs was one such RPG that was overlooked and understated. I never knew of its existence until I’d heard of its unsung successor of which I’m reviewing. Developer Spiders have created The Technomancer, a would-be torch carrier of Mars: War Logs that takes obvious inspiration of some of the best out there, namely BioWare greats. However, where BioWare exceeded in their quest for greatness within the RPG genre, The Technomancer falls flat on its face.
You are Zachariah Mancer, a new entry to the class of Technomancer who is thrown amidst the ongoing conflict between the secret police of the Abundance corporation and the military within the futuristic setting on our cosmic red neighbour, Mars. Zachariah is one bland individual with an almost absent personality. He said nothing throughout the 20 hour campaign that made me care about him or his peers. Dialogue comes hard and fast akin to Bioware-esque games but none of it engrossed me. One minute I was being asked to find a lost child, then the next I was looking for an appropriate bouncer for a vulnerable merchant. These quests and odd jobs did the trick at earning me much needed experience but the meat and potatoes of even the most intricate jobs didn’t hold my interest for long, and from someone who is a big fan of these types of games, it speaks volumes. The voice acting surely doesn’t help. Ranging from the half-hearted to downright over the top, characters actions and gestures, or lack thereof, don’t match up to their tone and not to forget the iffy lip syncing animations.
There is a magnitude of content held within the hundreds of jobs you’ll undertake in The Technomancer but none really pan out to anything truly substantial. Jobs that are completed don’t have any meaningful impact on the overall plot if any at all. The main plot line however does hold occasional branching conversations which hold a butterfly effect to the outcome but the aforementioned lack of substance stops you caring. It’s a shame. A missed opportunity and evidence of a developer that are trying a bit too hard to make a great RPG.
The main mechanics are exploration, which had me running around marketplaces, caverns and enemy bases looking for items to salvage and people to chat too, and combat which is a whole another level of problems. The exploration phases were quite fun as I was able to stop and look around the occasionally impressive martian landscapes. I shopped at merchant stalls, undertook new jobs, spoke to random NPCs and played around with the simple crafting system that allowed me to create and upgrade my equipment from the scraps of components I found around the environment. Combat situations activate seamlessly as Zachariah whips out his extendable staff in preparation. You soon find that it’s a mechanical mess especially if you’re outnumbered and outgunned by the swarms of bad guys that come your way. And if that’s not bad enough, you’re battling your own battle with the clunkiness of it all. Zachariah has three modes of combat which he can change to at will, Warrior for all out attack, Guardian for a more defensive approach or Rogue for a more strategic element thanks to the dagger and pistol skillset. These options would have been a great system if combat as a whole wasn’t so poorly executed. What I mean is, I found myself mashing the dodge button until I found a chance to strike with hopes that I triggered the important yet overused feature of staggering my opponent and as you can imagine, it was very unsightly. You can, however, use your Technomancy powers during combat thankfully. Shooting a bolt of lightning out of your hand, making your weapon into your own personal cattle prod or protecting yourself with a magical shield does give you a sense of empowerment over your foes but fights always end up as chaotic skirmishes leaving little room to manoeuvre and a few clean hits can end you quickly. Combat feels like a stripped down version of the Batman Arkham system, although you are hit without warning, dead in a second and don’t look as badass.
The Technomancer’s saving grace is its visuals. The martian locales look impressive. The merchant littered, financial district of Noctis and grand scale of the political district of Ophir are definitely highlights which contrast well with cavernous underworlds littered with otherworldly mutated creatures that are very territorial. It’s a shame we can’t freely explore the surface of Mars due to the ever present radiant sun and lack of precious Ozone layer to protect us, oh and no vehicles.
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Release Date: 28th June 2016