The Technomancer Review
The spiritual successor to the little known 2013 RPG Mars: War Logs sees players embark on a journey of political tension and moral turmoil as factions fight for control of a colonized Mars in The Technomancer. With obvious throwbacks to fantastic RPG’s of yesteryear like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, The Technomancer has every potential to occupy that special space between indie and AAA, and with the successful release of Bound By Flame under their belt, Spiders had everything they needed for another strong RPG release.
The Technomancer wastes little time in introducing players to the more defining and well executed elements of the game. Players take on the role of Zachariah Mancer, a recent inductee into the ranks of the Technomancers – a faction whose members have access to electrical, magic-style attacks and abilities. Something that members of the Abundance Army don’t trust all too easily. Backed by corporate greed and hidden agendas the Abundance Army rules areas of Mars, with the Technomancers often involved themselves in the political affairs and confrontations – albeit not always intentionally.
The fighting between factions, gritty environments and slum-like areas of Mars come together to deliver a truly immersive and rewarding story – one that really comes into its own via a massive variety of forking paths and alternative choices through the games choice and consequence system. There are many moments throughout the game that leaves the player in complete control of the outcome of quests and future interaction with important characters scattered across the surface of Mars. It’s all too easy for developers to fall into a pattern of quantity over quality when it comes to questing in today’s RPG environments but it’s clear from the outset that the developers wanted to create a platform that would allow for immersive storytelling with enough wiggle room to give the player the ability to influence the world as they progress.
The well-constructed story and side missions compliment one another, and throw in the added voice overs and the story feels fresh and engaging for the majority of the game. Rarely did I find any of the quests or dialogue dull enough to skip, quite the opposite in many areas as I found myself invested and interested in the lives of the people I was helping. Zachariah also encounters a number of companions on his journey, many that share or oppose the thoughts and decisions made during quests, which adds another interesting dynamic to the moral choices faced.
Despite strong foundations in the aesthetic setting of Mars, moral choices worthy of a Star Wars: The Old Republic game, and rewarding interaction with characters throughout there are elements of The Technomancer that really hinder enjoyment and make progress often feel like a chore.
The combat system, although innovative on paper, fails to deliver as the ability to switch between 3 unique weapon and ability sets is overridden by poor combat AI and lack of balancing. Zachariah can decide to utilize the Warrior, Guardian or Rogue stances, that use various weapons such as a staff, mace and shield or knife and gun. Each of these sets come with their own equipment that can be upgraded and improved via loot or crafting – both of which seem lackluster and unimaginative throughout. I began sampling each of the different stances and switching between them to better deal with specific types of enemies before realizing that the AoE attacks and stun potential of the Warrior stance was clearly superior, leaving the previously exciting and expansive thought of character progression nothing more than investing points into a single tree.
The combat almost feels Dark Souls-esque, I said almost. It’s incredibly punishing and damaging to sustain even a few blows in combat. This fueled me into each encounter, giving me the impression that the huge lengths of time and attempts it took to clear even the smallest groups of enemies was due to difficult to learn mechanics and in-depth dodging opportunities. However, it wasn’t long before I realize the error of my ways. More comfortable and confident with the combat system I quickly found the combat was little more than dodge – dodge – dodge – attack, with neither the dodging or attacking delivering any element of Duke Nukem-ness (the feeling you get of being a complete ass-kicking bad-ass when you dominate seemingly endless waves of enemies through sheer combat skill and prowess). Enemies sometimes appeared to totally ignore the fact you were dodging and attack you mid animation, while others would ignore your staff to the face in favor of stabbing you in return – something related to a disruption stat that impacted a % chance of disrupting your enemy during an attack. It does become more enjoyable towards the end of the game when your stats have a much higher and reliable percentage chance of coming into play but by that point, I was avoiding the combat at every opportunity.
I was disappointed further by the lack of variety with weapons and equipment that I found during my quest. I used the basic staff from the beginning until right near the end and I rarely switched armor as the enemies dealt so much damage, it was more rewarding to base my choice of gear on appearance over terribly minor and nearly pointless stat boosts. The crafting seemed little more than an unwanted distraction throughout the game although I will say that even the most minor improvements to items impacted the appearance – something that was both surprising and pretty cool.
The more frustrating elements of combat could be ignored if it wasn’t for the ridiculous amounts of combat and enemies in specific parts of the game. I lost count of the quests I had that merely asked me to speak with a couple of people but quickly turned into 30 minutes of running and constantly bumping into groups of six or seven enemies. Whilst the elements of combat and exploration are still fresh, near the beginning of the game, these kinds of quests don’t prove too much of a problem but towards the end of the game I felt the developers just wanted to add further distance between objectives and more enemies in certain spots to increase playtime.
The Technomancer has plenty to offer for fans looking to return to the world of Mars: War Logs but for anyone looking for a AAA experience, The Technomancer isn’t worth a $60 price tag.