Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
The Technomancer. The continuation of Mars: War Logs is a sci-fi, action RPG with an open world (to a degree) set on the harsh, red planet of Mars. The game takes place during the War of Water with factions, such as Abundance and Aurora up against each other for one reason. Water. As this fight goes on, the mutants are constantly in conflict against the rest (most) of humankind. Not only this, the Vory and ASC are creeping up and extending their influence over Mars.
So I did play a bit of Mars: War Logs, just not for very long and if you’re familiar with the game I’m sure you know why. The Technomancer on the other hand, is a vast improvement over War Logs. While the majority of The Technomancer is polished, it still suffers from the same issues as in the previous game.
The story of the game for the first few hours, or at least until you leave Ophir, doesn’t bring as much excitement to the table. The beginning story quests couldn’t fully grasp my attention as they were simple quests that involved a lot of being ordered around and doing menial tasks, such as ‘find these documents’, or ‘talk to X’. The reason why it doesn’t get interesting until you leave Ophir is also because the majority of the first few hours (if you take up side quests on top of the story), you’re in Ophir. There’s one or two quests where you see a different environment, but that only lasts until those quests are over. Where The Technomancer picked up is when you get to venture out to different places and it’s also when the story becomes much more intriguing.
The game does have an open world, but it’s basically gated behind story missions and other side quests. You can’t freely explore the wastes of Mars, but you can take a rover (which you can’t control) to get from one place to another. The good thing about different areas is that there’s quite a bit to explore within them, and the environment is very well designed and it makes you feel like you’re on the alien planet of Mars. In my play through, I couldn’t wait to leave the grim nature of Ophir and venture out into other territories and when I was able to, the game suddenly became a whole lot better.
Stiff and robotic animations
Let’s be real here. The animations in Mars: War Logs are dreadful, and although I hoped it didn’t carry over, it doesn’t get any better in The Technomancer. It’s mostly the lip sync animations an to a lesser extent, overall body language during cutscenes and conversing with other NPCs. As soon as I saw the first character open their mouth, my heart sank because as someone with a background in 3D animation, it was and still is a little painful to see. Although it requires a lot work, it should be better than what it currently is and it’s off-putting, but the best thing to do is to try and ignore it and focus on the mission or what NPCs are saying. The animations in general are just not very good and they make the character feel very awkward and robotic. This is one of the things that detracted from the overall experience while playing The Technomancer.
Fun gameplay with deep combat customisation
The combat in The Technomancer is fairly fast paced and its one of its saving graces, and although the combat itself isn’t very deep, as the majority of it involves timing your dodge manoeuvres and attacks, it’s still very enjoyable. The combat is split into three styles, all of which can be used with technomancy spells and abilities, which I recommend investing a few points into the technomancy skill tree as it’ll enhance your attacks and it’ll help against highly annoying enemies. It’s also quite challenging in some areas, meaning you can’t spam your attack button and expect to win. Enemies hit for a good chunk of your health, so make use of that dodge button!
The three the styles, or to use the correct term, stances are Guardian, Warrior and Rogue. The Guardian stance uses a mace and shield, the Warrior is equipped with a staff and the Rogue stance is readied with a dagger and pistol. Each of them have their own unique skill tree to master, but you don’t necessarily have to stick to one stance. You can go for an ‘all rounder’ build or master one stance, it’s completely up to you. I tried going for a stealth build, but I soon realised that stealth is underwhelming and there really aren’t many opportunities for it. There’s also the slight immersion breaker of running up to an NPC, going into ‘stealth mode’ right next to them and pickpocketing them. This was enough to quickly change the direction of my build and become more of an aggressive spell rogue who uses technomancy spells often for burst damage and control, to supplement the agile and deadly nature of the rogue stance.
The technomancy aspect is a bit part of the game and perhaps the most exciting when you’re unleashing a barrage of electric arcs, a widespread electric explosion and other powers. In most games, spells usually cost mana or magicka, and it’s no different in this game. The only difference is that there is no mana ‘bar’ and it’s called Focus, as opposed to mana. You start off with two fluid charges in the shape of hexagons, and the maximum you can get is four fluid charges through the technomancer skill tree. Focus is regenerated over time and the rate at which it can be restored can be increased by adding more fluid regeneration on your gear or through the skill, talents and Power in your attribute tree.
But this is what I love about The Technomancer, it has different ways of playing and various builds that you can come up with, offering pretty great replay value. Let’s not forget that there’s five different endings and a full play through of up to 35 hours including the main story and side quests (you can easily be sidetracked), giving you plenty to do.
Companions, Karma and reputations
Much like Mars: War Logs, the game comes with a companion system but as opposed to being restricted to one companion, you can have two, with a stable of NPCs waiting for you to choose between. The companion system is a great feature of the game because not only does it add a relationship dynamic among themselves and with your character, it brings a a strategical element. You can decide if a companion should focus on healing the team, to take the attention of others off the team or even to serve as a pure damage dealer. It’s not just that, you can also equip your companions with gear, but only items their stance allows them to equip. Niesha for example, can’t use two-handed weapons or a mace and shield because she’s locked into the Rogue stance, restricting her to daggers and pistols.
It’s a good thing companions never die, otherwise I’d find myself on my own very quickly. When they’re reduced to 0 health points, they simply get knocked down and unable to fight until you’re out of combat, in which case they’ll start to regenerate health.
The game also includes a karma system and reputations with the faction and they (good and evil) fluctuate based on what you do. Draining, or in other words, killing off knocked out humans will certainly give you bad karma and of course, doing helpful actions and just being an angel will net you some good karma. Karma strongly affects your relationships with companions and NPCs, how they feel about you and what they say to you. So if there’s a romantic interest you wish to pursue, I would try to stay on their good. There’s also a great system in place where a decision you do might affect a future event, conversation or even a relationship and lying about something, only to be found out won’t make you look so hot!
One little peeve I have with the game is that, without giving any spoilers, there’s a quest that allows you to rise in rank which sounds incredibly cool, and it is. But the way in which you obtain that status is, much like the Arena, considerably underwhelming. You’d expect that considerably increasing your rank would require you to achieve some awesome feat(s), but in actuality, all you need to do is answer questions (real life knowledge of space required!) from elder technomancers and upgrade a basic technomancer staff. After doing these simple tasks, it doesn’t feel like you’ve earned you new status, especially when you can re-answer the questions if you get them wrong.
Crafting, gear and their impact
The Technomancer has a pretty deep crafting and upgrade system. Your level of crafting and how well you can upgrade items depends on how many talent points you’ve invested into the crafting talent tree. The talent tree is separate from the skill and attribute trees and they focus on your crafting, stealth, charisma, ability to pick locks and set traps, science (health injections and companion effectiveness) and exploration.
With crafting, you can upgrade your gear, create health injections and focus injections (which can be used to replenish your focus, used by technomancy spells) and to create traps. At the basic level, crafting isn’t much of a benefit because the upgrades aren’t substantial. But if you reach level 2 or 3 in crafting, you can make use of advanced upgrades that will improve your gear at a better rate and it’s something that I’d recommend taking up. Armour can be upgraded to increase energy regeneration and resistances to physical damage, disruption, electricity, knockdown effects and for weapons, the chance to knockdown enemies, disrupt them, electrocute them and your critical hit chance.
Equipping different gear changes the way you look, which is important in an RPG because you like seeing all these changes affecting your character and some of the gear looks pretty damn cool. Depending on your build (mainly attributes), you won’t just be using gear that offers the most physical damage reduction (PDR), unless you need as much PDR as possible in a fight.
Adding to the immersion, some quests require you to wear certain pieces of clothing. You’d need to grab hold of an officer uniform for both companions with you at the time, if you need to impersonate an officer. Usually you can buy these outfits or find them by looting.
So is it worth getting?
Look, The Technomancer is no Mass Effect, but it is a good game to sink your teeth into if you’re craving a sci-fi RPG and waiting patiently for Mass Effect: Andromeda. Yes there are glaring flaws such as the quality of the animations, the beginning story missions at Ophir and a few bland side quests, however you can’t ignore the positive aspects of the game. The music and environments being a lot better outside of Ophir, combat stances, companion system, crafting, talents, attributes, skill tree, the story (once you get to the good bit) and the five different endings make this game bearable through the bad parts. If you’re looking for a game the has outstanding character developments, you won’t be impressed by this game, if you did enjoy Mars: War Logs or are a fan of Spiders (not the arthropod), make sure you pick this up. For an independent developer, I’d say it’s a job well done considering the limited budget and a tremendous improvement over the previous game in the series, Mars: War Logs.
What do you think of the game and will you be getting Spiders’ latest game, The Technomancer? If no, why not?