by Derk Bil
previewed on PC
A date with Spiders
We sat down with Spiders' very own Jehanne Rousseau for a demonstration of Mars: War Logs. Jehanne and her team are weaving dark, cyberpunk inspired role-playing game set in a bleak, dystopian future. Colonized about 200 years prior to the events taking place now, Mars is a desolate place that never recuperated from a mysterious catastrophe that thre the planet into turmoil a century ago. Today, companies rule the planet and fight over the limited supplies of water found on the planet’s surface.
Cause and effect
Mars: War Logs follows the predicaments of Roy Temperance who he has been thrown into a Mars prison for reasons unknown to the player. Despite having a the history with the ruling class of Mars, Roy is a blank slate. It’s your job to fill it any way you see fit.
When the game starts, we find Roy in a desolate prison colony, about to bump into a boy. We soon learn that this boy is the narrator of the story and quite malleable to boot. The ways in which you interact with the kid - kind, cold or cruel - will alter the way in which the story is told. It will also affect your encounters in other areas of the game which should make a second play-through more interesting than in your average RPG.
Water is the most precious commodity on Mars. Its scarcity means that whoever controls the water supplies, controls Mars. Everything alive contains water, and upon killing something - or someone - Roy can obtain ‘water serum’ from the body which can be used as currency. You can’t just go around and kill everyone for their water though: Human life is scarce itself and taking a life is not without consequences, even if the other guy shot first. Harvesting human serum will cause the reputation system to start working against you, eventually making your life more difficult as people stop being cooperative.
Besides basic attack, block and dodge skills, Roy has access to a number of imaginative skills that really suit the barren, futuristic Mars setting. One of his secondary skills, for example, is throwing sand in the eyes of his assailants. With plenty of sand to go around, I expect this to become a popular trick and especially useful against other human opponents. It won’t always work though, in one of the battles that Jehanne showed us, Roy faced a group of mutated creatures resembling nothing so much as moles. Moles, as you know, are blind and you can throw sand all you like but it won’t do you any good.
The skills and perks system seems to borrow aspects from all kinds of RPGs but adds a unique flavor of its own. With every level that Roy gains, you get to pick a new skill from one of the three skill trees in the game. There are a total of 36 skills and each can be upgraded three times. Every other level, Roy gets to choose a new perk or trait and these are linked to the storyline in a way that your choices open or close storyline doors further down the road. He also shows potential to become a Technomancer. Technomancy is the future-age equivalence of magic that allows humans mental control over technical objects to cause all sorts of fantastic effects, usually harmful to those standing too close.
Scarcity is a major theme in the game. Besides life and water, practically everything else but sand is rare too. Mars: War Logs’s crafting system focuses heavily on reusing and improving items rather than forging anything new.
Roy not only finds company in the boy that tells his tale. There are five possible companions that may join him on his adventures, though only one will accompany him at any given time. The companions are trained in different areas and can adding skills such as ranged attacks, healing abilities or melee combat to Roy’s own.
There are some t’s to cross and i’s to dot, but Mars: War Logs is looking pretty good already. If you are looking for an RPG that is a little different from the mold, make sure you’re packed for a trip to Mars by spring of 2013.