On 28th June, a game was quietly launched. What game you say? The Technomancer. Well, quiet for me anyway. I didn’t even know it existed, despite it being shown off at both E3 2015 and 2016. I only got wind of it when a friend told me she was getting it at the local Gamestop. So, off I went to Dr. Google and soon realised it was the pseudo-sequel to the Mars: War Logs. Mars: War logs? That clunky, flimsy piece of game with enough heart that somehow won me over? SOLD.
Reviews for the game have been rather mixed, as with all of Spiders’ games. It has been mostly panned by major gaming sites. And yet, amid all the gloom and doom, the game has also found some love. It’s certainly not Witcher 3 or AAA material but on the B-grade scale, it’s actually a rather entertaining, solid Sci-Fi PRG. No spoilers, I promise. Warning: Potentially disagreeable opinions incoming.
Developed by Spiders- a French development studio known primarily for their catalogue of B-grade RPG games- The Technomancer is set on the planet of Mars and follows the story of rookie technomancer, Zachariah Mancer. Technomancers are, simply put, Jedi with electric powers. Like Palpatine, you can shoot lightning from your fingertips and cackle maniacally, if you so desire. The first act starts out slow. You’re basically a glorified errand boy, somehow finding the time to poke your nose into the affairs of distressed NPCs and solve all their problems. However, shit soon hits the fan and that’s where the game opens up. While I don’t mind it myself- I actually enjoy a slow start as opposed to being thrown into the thick of action- I know some might not appreciate the slow build-up. If you’re struggling to play through the first act, turbo rush your way through till you’re out of the starting city. It gets better from there, pinky promise. I’m not going to say more as anymore would be encroaching spoiler territory. I promised no spoilers, didn’t I?
Let’s get the bad stuff out the way first, shall we? The standard Spider problems still linger on. If you’ve played Spider’s games, you know how bad their animations and combat can be. Animations are stiff and unnatural, especially noticeable in NPCs. Lip synching is bad and DON’T get me started on the voice acting. While the voice cast has been vastly (I really do mean vastly) improved over previous Spider games, the protagonist sounds utterly bored and uninterested half the time. It almost feels that he was forced into it, as though he had a personal debt to pay. Or maybe he’s just that bad. Maybe it’s both. Granted, there are a few stellar performances. For example, one of the baddies has a killer voice. The rest of the cast is eh, passable. Combat is still janky, floaty, imprecise with the gratuitous use of slow motion. I ended up slashing air and getting “You are die” most of the time. It’s basically the bastard son of Witcher’s combat. While fighting, especially in tight spaces, the cheeky camera often decides to clip through walls, obstructing my view. It’s gets tedious and frustrating, especially with the amount of combat this game has.
“The game just sounds atrocious! Why do you insist on playing it?! Are you a sadist?!” I hear someone yell. Sigh, I’m not sadist. That’s because in spite of its obvious and glaring flaws, the game’s got heart. Like its pseudo-prequel War logs, the game is clunky and unpolished but it was obviously crafted with a lot of care and heart. I’m a sucker for the underdog, okay? The game, like the majority of Spider games, wears its Bioware influence proudly on its sleeve and the even story feels like they nicked certain aspects from Bioware’s early days of storytelling. There’s the companion system, loyalty quests and even the occasional comment from your companions, something that wasn’t present in previous their titles (correct me if I’m wrong). It’s not a perfect clone though. Like any Bioware game, the game has a fair amount of lore and it manages to create the atmosphere it envisions. It’s got excellent world building, I’ll give them that. Note: If you intend to play or have played it, I suggest playing War logs if you are a lore hoarder like me. It gives you a better understanding of the world and its events. Mars is a harsh place. The sun’s rays are deadly, mutated animals threaten inhabitants, forcing everyone to live in sheltered cities. The cities have distinct character to them and the game takes you to a variety of different locales. The starting city is a great example of this. It’s a monolithic, industrial city.
The upper city is a concrete, grey and cold enclave for the upper class. The streets are immaculate, with propaganda posters plastered on the sombre walls. The main square is lined with authoritative figures silently brooding over you.
The slums are a sorry sight. Red sanded dirt roads, makeshift and dilapidated houses made from corrugated metal sheets. Dingy bars, seedy alleys and ladies of the night plying their trade. It’s evident that the art team worked hard on creating the uniqueness of the world.
The Technomancer is Spider’s biggest and most expensive game to date. While far, very far, from perfect, it has certainly come a long way from its previous games. Compared to War logs, the map is significantly larger, the levelling up system is expansive (the level-ups have their own upgrades) and the side quests are fairly interesting. It’s not just the environment. Little quirks like the rather amusing naming convention where citizens are named after their profession, tickles me to no end. You are a technomancer, hence the surname Mancer. Along the way you meet people with surnames such as Hunter, Seeker, Reacher and Labour. Guess what they do? Bingo. It’s these little quirks that bring the world of Mars to life. I just hope Spider gets better at what it does. Their games are not abysmally terrible. They just lack the polish and technical intricacies required to make a truly great game.
Spiders is like that scrappy, loveable underdog who fights no matter how bad the odds are. It’s blind in one eye, limp in one leg and missing a tooth or two. You can’t help but admire its tenacious spirit. And I respect that.
TL;DR: The Technomancer is solid B-grade game. A poor man’s Mass Effect set on Mars, if you will. If you’re like me, willing to overlook its many flaws and just enjoy a story, pick it up. Lord knows they deserve some support. If you’re expected a Witcher-esque game with triple A production values, don’t pick it up. You’ll hate it.