Very few game genres are as compelling as narrative-driven action RPGs. The Technomancer is a follow-up to 2013's critically panned Mars: War Logs, but does it provide an experience worthy of travelling back to the red planet?
The Technomancer takes place on Mars where water is hard to come by, people are mutating, and crime is rampant. This premise paves the way for an intriguing story to unfold throughout the lengthy campaign. You play as a man with special powers named Zachariah who you can customize to look as you wish. As you progress, you'll come across many twists that keep the plot interesting from start to finish. The backdrop of a war-torn Mars provides a feeling of desperation to the equation that is hard to come by in the genre. Talking to the locals, completing side quests, and making tough decisions add a great deal of complexity as you'll discover new paths, uncover details about characters' intentions, and form many relationships and alliances. Overall, all of these wrinkles add up to make The Technomancer a very promising game... at first.
One of the first disappointments that I encountered after starting The Technomancer is the poor quality of visuals. Watching the trailers got me excited to see detailed environments and meet interesting characters but these aspects aren't handled well at all. Environments are mostly dark and muddy with some areas being bright and lively yet I didn't come across anything memorable the entire time I played. I'm surprised that the main character looks as good as he does because it's up to the player to design him. With a few exceptions, all of the other characters are either disappointingly generic or just plain ugly. In the end, this is one bad looking game.
After wandering around for a while, you'll realise how tedious exploration is. First, positioning Zachariah to be able to pick up an item is very difficult because he runs a little after you let go of the stick. On top of that, sometimes you're forced to explore because your next objective isn't marked on the map. I don't know why most missions have a clear mark yet some are a mystery. Whenever I figured out where to go, I was more annoyed than happy. The only reasons to explore outside of missions are to find treasure chests and talk to the locals. Doing so will grant you more equipment and items but it still somehow doesn't feel worth it.
By far the biggest problem that I have with The Technomancer is the combat system. As you shoot, blast lightning from your hands, and wield daggers, maces, staves, and shields; it's clear that The Technomancer is quite ambitious with its battles. The best part about it is that you can switch between a few stances that change your weapons on the fly. Besides that, combat is nothing short of maddening. For example, you can roll to dodge attacks but don't even think about rolling around your enemy because they'll rotate with you and hit you anyway. As the enemies gang up on you and annoyingly attack at unpredictable intervals, it's hard not to throw your controller in a fit of rage. The only strategy that I found to work consistently is to keep stepping backwards while using projectiles and the odd melee attack whenever the enemy is vulnerable. That just isn't fun in the slightest.
Awful combat system aside, The Technomancer features an intricate character customization system that's rather rewarding. For starters, you can equip and upgrade pieces of armour and weapons. Upgrading them is done at workbenches by using found materials which is a satisfying dynamic. Additionally, you have three trees to allot points to upon levelling up. These include skill sets for each stance, special talents that'll help you accomplish tasks, and a list of attributes to enhance. Finally, you'll eventually be able to recruit party members who you can customize. If the combat was solid then this customization system would be quite a marvel.
Although The Technomancer is full of promise and seems like a pretty cool game at first, it all falls apart when you actually play it. Therefore, I can only recommend it to existing Mars: War Logs fans as I can't imagine anyone else would enjoy it.
- + Intriguing plot and game world with many complexities to discover
- + In-depth character and party customization that's rewarding to tinker with
- - Combat is downright frustrating with clumsy controls and annoying enemies
- - Ugly characters and bland environments
- - Tedious exploration is a chore