by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Giving it another go
French developer Spiders is building a history of making games which have a lot of promise but don’t quite live up to expectations. The Technomancer is the follow up to 2013’s Mars: War Logs, and while the bigger budget is clearly on show, once again this is a game that doesn’t reach its potential.
The Technomancer has clearly been influenced by the likes of Mass Effect and The Witcher, and the game plays like a cross between the two. You’ll be visiting segmented, fairly linear areas with a party of companions, and you’ll be engaging in quite varied combat and crafting new items and upgrades. Our main dude in this case is named Zachariah, and you can choose between a few different faces for him, but there isn’t a great deal of customisation on offer. Plus, the facial animation of the characters is lacking in most regards, so you won’t be seeing much emotion from their expressions. Sadly, there’s also not an option to play as a female character.
Water is precious
The game takes place on Mars during the “War of the Water,” 200 years after humans colonised the planet. Water is a precious commodity, and there is constant arguing and fighting over the liquid, which makes you wonder why they even colonised Mars in the first place. Zachariah is a young technomancer, someone who is both a proficient fighter and practiced in the arts of magical abilities.
At least, he’s supposed to be proficient. Throughout the game, even as you level up, you never feel powerful enough to take on more than one or two enemies at a time. The difficulty increases as you go, and you mainly have to rely on your party members to soak up the damage while you attack from the sides. Getting into a fight against a gun wielding opponent is particularly dangerous, especially as the use of automatic weapons apparently wasn’t taught at technomancy school.
Zachariah can use a pistol though, and that is part of one of the three styles of fighting you can choose from on the fly. Rogue style has you fighting with a blade, and you can perform quick attacks and lunging attacks. Plus, you can fire off a quick pistol shot at far away enemies. Guardian style is a more defensive approach, and has you wielding a mace and shield. You’ll be able to stop incoming projectiles and attacks, as well as knock back enemies with a strong push. Warrior style, arguably the coolest of the three, has you wielding a staff, which can be used to attack multiple enemies in the same area.
On top of all that, you have your technomancy powers, and you’ll unlock more of those as you progress through the game. They can be used to add lightning damage to your weapons, you can give enemies a sharp, electrifying punch, and you can even shoot lightning out of your hand in short bursts at far away foes. You only have a small pool of juice to use these powers from, and you’ll have to wait a fairly lengthy time in between using them, or use an injection to get it back quickly.
If it seems like there’s a lot of variety, that’s because there is, but you’ll quickly fall into a pattern of using the same stance and powers once you figure out what works best for you. Plus, when you level up you’ll need to decide which of the four trees (one for each of the stances and the technomancy tree) to put your attribute points towards. Eventually you’ll have a weapon which is just strictly better than the others, and you’ll only rarely switch to those in very specific situations. Sadly, it’s also rare for the combat to actually feel fun. Registering hits on your opponent doesn’t give you any real feedback. Instead of your attacks feeling like they’re doing something, there’s a chance you’ll knock enemies back or into prone stance. You can upgrade this chance to make it feel like your attacks have some weight, but all the animations feel too floaty.
The Technomancer is also sadly lacking in the presentation department. The graphics themselves are just okay, but the artwork is quite bland. Once you start getting out and about, away from the city you start in, things become more varied, but there’s a several hour long slog through the same old industrial environments at the start of the game. This also brings us to how much backtracking and running around you have to do. Many early quests have you jogging backwards and forwards between NPCs to gain a little information. You are then sent somewhere else where you might get into a fight. It’s pretty monotonous, and the story isn’t exciting enough to keep you engaged. I found myself skipping through dialogue to get to the next bit of action, and poor voice acting pretty much across the board means I didn’t miss out on much.
There are a few moments when you feel like a badass. For instance when you knock out a bunch of guys with your staff’s area of effect attack followed by a long range electricity snipe on a dude in the distance. But these are cancelled out by those in which your party goes down within moments, leaving you to fend for yourself against two knife wielding maniacs and a guy with a gun who just won’t stop firing.
The Technomancer is yet another valiant attempt at an ambitious RPG, but there are other recent games out there which have done it so much better.
Varied combat leads to some exciting moments
Boring quests, player feels underpowered, lacking polish