Developer “Spiders” hasn’t had the easiest time becoming a renowned developer of top tier games. Their earlier productions have had moments when they shine through, but ultimately failed to deliver to the gaming audience as a whole. Their very first game Mars: War Logs received a less than favorable response. They also released Bound in Flame which had some great ideas, but again was not popular among critics due to a number of flaws. This hasn’t stopped Spiders from giving up though. Spiders along with publishers Focus Interactive hopes third time could be the charm as they’re sending you to Mars once again to become a technomagical ass-kicking machine with The Technomancer.
The inhabitants of Mars are facing a crisis. Water, the planet’s most prized resource, is being fought over by rival corporations who rule the planet with an iron fist. Zachariah, a rookie Technomancer and a member of the corporation Abundance, has been tasked to bring enemies of the regime to justice. However he soon learns of the harsh reality of people’s lives, leading him to question his loyalty to the regime and begin a life on the run from his former masters to discover the truth about life on Mars.
You begin changing the appearance of Zachariah, choosing which weaponry he will specialize in and selecting your starting skills, talents and attributes. The game follows the formula of most action RPGs on the market today. You’ll traverse through many varied areas from industrious metal citadels, to the harsh deserts of Mars all with NPCs going about their business, gossiping among each other, willing to give you quests or ready to attack you. You’ll even meet special characters who will become your companions during the game and maybe if you play your cards right, the lovely lady companions will become your love interests.
While you’re not going through the main quests, you’ll find various side quests by exploring and talking to NPCs. Side quests are nicely varied from investigating lost acquaintances to defusing volatile encounters without violence. Completing certain quests will help you gain or lose favor with factions and certain characters. There’s also a quest where you’ll fight in an arena with varying levels of challenges and opponents depending on your status as an arena fighter. Winning these fights will earn you prizes and eventually the title of Champion.
In fights you can switch between 3 stances: Guardian, which is staff based combat. The Staff has the best reach and is ideal for multiple enemies. Warrior, which is Mace and Shield combat and ideal for taking down larger opponents. Lastly there’s Rogue which uses a combination of Dagger and Nailgun. This stance focuses on speed and agility.
There’s also your technomancy powers which can be cast during combat to give bad guys one hell of a shock. You’re quickly switching between stances and smacking up people and alien beasts stupid enough to take on a Technomancer. Each of your stances will give you the edge you need and combined with your Technomancer powers will surely bring the hurt on some foes. You’ll find yourself cheering in jubilation after a successful dodge and bashing them over the head with your weapons, blasting foes with an electricity strike, or generate a powerful shield surrounding you and zapping anyone who gets too close.
A major highlight of this game is the excellent crafting system. With materials you’ve gathered from looting crates and enemies, you can craft an entire manner of upgrades for your weapons and armor including increased damage and resistance of any disruption to your attacks. The appearance of your weapons and armor changes when you craft upgrades. You can upgrade your companion’s weapons and armor too and even recycle older weapons, armor and upgrades to their original components, saving them for a new upgrade. The better quality components, the better the upgrades and leveling up your crafting will unlock higher tiers of upgrades.
As you progress you can upgrade skills that you learned with additional bonuses adding more effects to your Technomancy and combat arts. You’ll also be upgrading your attributes and talents as well making you stronger, faster, more persuasive or more creative in crafting.
The skill, talent and attribute trees are big, giving you plenty of flexibility on what you want to specialize in. Do you focus on speed or strength? Which technomancy powers do you want? Which fighting style do you specialize in? You want to be persuasive or stealthy? Do you want to craft some crazy upgrades? Flexibility is the key and utilizing the skill trees how you want will shape you into the Technomancer you want to be.
There’s a lot to like about The Technomancer. The customization of your character is plentiful, there’s tons of content and the backstory of the game is actually interesting the more you learn about it. It gets a lot right, but unfortunately gets so much wrong also, preventing the game from being the incredible journey that the developers wanted to guide you through.
Zachariah himself is rather a boring protagonist. He hardly has any personality and characters around him are much more interesting than he is. He never even cracks a joke or gets upset giving him the likeability of a brick wall. He’s just a vessel for the player to interact with the world and do the quests, rather than someone who plays an integral part of the main story which again, involves more interesting people than him. His lack of emotion is actually part of the story as Technomancers are trained to control emotions, but it still makes him a dull character.
Combat in this game is too imbalanced and seems to lean unfavorably towards your enemies. They take huge amounts of health from you after each attack, even unarmed ones and you end up being struck down in a matter of seconds. Sometimes enemies can’t be interrupted during an attack even when they leave themselves wide open, but they can interrupt your attacks even when you’ve added the appropriate upgrades. This is especially annoying when you’re surrounded by an entire gang of them and you can’t do anything about their attacks, even when you utilize the staff and area effect technomancy. Combat becomes a case of attacking and dodging, leaving you to rely on cheap-shots rather than skill. This whole problem kills the premise that Technomancers are supposed to be these legendary warriors when they can be taken down with ease by enemies with no weapons.
Visually the game looks good, especially on the PC version with max settings. Environments and characters are dolled up nicely with good quality textures, special effects and the motion capture work is very well done.
Sound production is strong here with thunderous sounds of your technomancy powers being casts, loud smashes and bashes during combat coupled with a thumping industrial soundtrack.
The alien beasts who roam across and underneath the terrain of Mars look incredible and hideous at the same time. They’re animated fluidly, their detail level is striking and they steal the show when it comes to visual presentation. The visuals can lose their appeal however when coupled together with the conversations between Zachariah and NPCs which are unsettling to watch as they express themselves without emotion with awkward, stiff movements, bad lip syncing and a blank dead-eyed stare. Even motion captured scenes fail to convey any believable interaction between your character and others when it fails to properly lip sync with their speech.
The voice acting is very weak in this game also as actors attempt to engage in tense conversations only to deliver in a robotic manner or hammy fashion as actors hilariously rush through their lines.
PC users be wary when playing this with a gamepad as control of your character outside of combat is rather uncomfortable. Zachariah doesn’t respond to analogue control very well when you move him around. Turning him in any direction is stiff and imprecise so keyboard and mouse controls are the way to go with the PC version.
Explorable areas with NPCs aren’t populated enough, making you wonder where half the people have gone and gives areas a rather desolate feel. Even when you hear stories in the game of how overpopulated places on Mars are, there aren’t actually that many people wandering around. Some shops and restaurants have no vendors and their customers are waiting in line or sitting at the table with no one to serve them. When some NPCs aren’t going about their business they stand around doing nothing or just walk around in circles. Mars feels so empty and it’s such a shame because the world the game is set in is actually unique and more life into this world would have made exploring the place more enjoyable.
The Technomancer promises much and delivers too, yet it still fails to deliver more than what it offers. There are some moments where the game shines through, with its great leveling and crafting system and the combat can be a lot of fun at points. Yet still nothing the game offers is enough to hold you over for its length. There are too many problems with the combat, the protagonist isn’t really hero material and the voice acting with the awkward animations and almost empty explorable areas don’t really make an otherwise interesting world very exciting to interact with. If you’re looking to become the new class of hero in video gaming, then The Technomancer is probably not going to provide the experience you want.
This review was based on a digital copy of The Technomancer for the Steam provided by Focus Interactive.