Mars is a scary place. I have never seen a movie, played a game, or read a book where life on Mars can actually be good. Focus Entertainment and Spider Games continue the trend of horrible life on Mars with their latest installment, The Technomancer. The Technomancer is easily the best game that Spider Games have released so far. Coming off the heels of Bound by Flame, the team at Spider Games have clearly learned a lot from their past endeavors and have provided a fun if somewhat flawed experience.
The Technomancer tells the story of Zachariah, a young Technomancer in training looking to join the rest of his kind as a special unit of the military to help protect the city of Ophir from the many dangers posed to it from rebels and rival military corporation Aurora. As the story progresses we find out the secret origin of the Technomancer’s and deal with the many factions that battle for power not only in Ophir but the entire planet.
The game’s story is actually quite good, I was easily hooked by not only the power struggle transpiring but the fact that I can choose which of the different factions I wanted to support. It weaves a great narrative that hits close to home with private corporations running the planet and fighting for more and more power. The different social classes also play a major role in not only the decisions you make but also they type of person you want Zachariah to become. Will you continue to be a good soldier and follow the tyrannical laws in place where free speech only exists in theory? Or will you take pity on the poor lower class and help them escape their terrible lives? The world strikes a nerve with things we see happening in our everyday lives.
Taking cues from titles like Mass Effect and The Witcher, The Technomancer provides a large world to explore and transverse. During conversations you can ask questions about the various factions and people you encounter. Each decision you make in quests will also award you affinity points for that faction but also put you in a negative light with another. Each mission provides you with an opportunity to end the quest how you like. During mission’s you are presented both sides of a story and it’s up to you to decide how you finish those quests. A lot of quests present multiple solutions and depending on your course of action will change your standings among the different factions.
Outside of the main quests, the game offers plenty of side quests as well. Thankfully a lot of these were actually fun to do while telling a meaningful story. These quests also allow you to expand your knowledge of the world and award you extra affinity with not only a faction but with your allies and party members who always have an opinion about your actions and the situations Zach finds himself in.
One of the biggest issues that have plagued previous titles by Spider Games was their combat. Thankfully The Technomancer provides the best combat system from Spider yet. For those who have never played the pen and paper RPG; Pathfinder, a Technomancer is a mage who combines magic with technology allowing for some cool combinations. The action fighting boosts some impressive animations and the three different fighting style help keep the combat from growing stale. As you level up you will unlock ability and skills points to improve your character along the various skill trees available to you. With three different fighting styles it’s up to you what you want to focus on. Each style plays well against the different foes you encounter, the Sentinel for example equips you with a mace and shield allowing you to block incoming attacks or you can choose to use the staff allowing you to hit multiple enemies at once and easily dodge incoming attacks. You can also combine your melee combat with long range attacks using your Techno-mage abilities.
Although the combat is a massive improvement over Spiders past titles it’s still not without its faults. Firstly enemies hit you with Dark Souls like damage. No matter what armor I had equipped most enemies will leave me for dead after three to four hits. Another problem I encountered were the unresponsive controls. I found myself getting hit and killed plenty of times simply because Zach wouldn’t listen to me when I told him to dodge or block and sometimes he wouldn’t even dodge in the direction I told him too and would head straight into the enemy’s attack.
Visually The Technomancer isn’t exactly a showstopper. It may be on the PS4 but it doesn’t necessarily show it. The environments are bland and utilize a dark moody color pallet. The sun can pretty much kill you on the surface of Mars so the team and the citizens of Mars mostly stay in the shadows and indoors leaving a lost opportunity for great open vistas on the surface of the red planet. The games world; though populated by many NPC’s, don’t add any believability in the locations they inhabit. If I didn’t know better I would have thought every person on Mars was mute. NPC’s move around and look like they are talking and having conversations but they don’t make a single noise completely taking me out from the experience. I spent a lot of time walking around the towns with only the background music playing. It was very unsettling.
Speaking of the background music, the games music tries to be a kind of neo electronica but it’s hard to enjoy it simply because it just seems to run its course. It’s as if the music simply just plays as if it’s on a record player up until the end of the song. Voice work is fairly good except for Zachariah who sometimes sounds like he’s forcing his lines and shows almost no real emotion even though the game presents him with many situations where someone’s life is in his hands and he doesn’t seem to care.
The Technomancer comes with its own crafting system but it doesn’t impact the game as much as I would have hoped. Crafting simply comes down to collect materials from chests and defeated enemies and using those materials to upgrade or craft your own gear. I never actually felt like I need to craft my own gear to improve my character or his companions when I can simply buy it. I always found better gear for sale then what I was able to craft. Even the upgrades for your gear didn’t feel like they added much of an impact. Stats like increasing your ability to stun your enemies or add poison to your attacks didn’t seem like they were necessary when your staff attacks already come with I high chance to stun. It’s nice to have a crafting system but it just feels like a missed opportunity.
The Technomancer proves that a company can improve with every future title it releases. The Technomancer tells an intricate story of corruption, conspiracy, and the ever thrusting lust for power and control. As a powerful Techno-mage your powers are not only fun to utilize but a joy to watch thanks to the games animations and simple yet enjoyable skill system. It’s just a shame that the world itself isn’t particularly pretty to look at and its citizens are that’s unsettling quite.