Game Review: Technomancer (Xbox One)

My fingers left the cold metal surface of the proximity charge I put in the ground of the slums. I rolled out of the way of a large ASC soldier as he swung a two handed hammer at me, it made a loud crash as it hit the floor, just a mere two feet from the explosive. My roll gave me a few lengths of clearance as I unleashed my Technomancer lighting from my hand. I had an additional fluid slot open and fried him again. I made him angry, good.

He charged at me with his foot just inches from the set charge, triggering it. The explosion set him flying. He staggered a bit when he managed to get back up, but not before my companion Phobos, a giant lumbering mutant, swung his mace into his backside, finishing him off. I approached him to find what sort of loot he had, and of course, I had the choice to siphon Serum from him, a popular liquid currency, but that would involve killing him, an act of which my Technomancer, Zachariah the merciless, would take no part of.

Technomancer is the official sequel to Mars: War Logs. Developed by French Studio, Spiders, they also made the enjoyable Bound by Flame for PS4. You’ll uncover long kept secrets, conspiracies, and interact with a varied cast of characters and travel the many locations of Mars, throughout the 30+ hour adventure.

You play as a new recruit to the Technomancer charge, Zachariah. You’re able to fully customize his appearance, and despite there being female Technomancers among your faction, you are only able to play as male Zachariah. During your initiation, you are told a valuable secret, that Technomancers are a form of mutation, and should this secret find its way to the ears of non-Technomancers, well, it would be disastrous. There are two forms of humanoid life that live on Mars; Humans and Mutants. Mutants are usually locked up, forced to work in labour camps, and various other conditions that are unfit for any form of life. Should the world find out this terrible secret, it would shake the Technomancer factions down to their very core.

After your initiation, you are sent to work under Captain Eliza. She has a tremendous amount of respect for the Technomancers, and depending on your actions, for you as well. While it would be content to just tackle all the missions she has for you, several distractions; side quests, are available for you to complete as well. Each and every action you commit to during these quests will shape not only your Zachariah, but that of the story as well. At a certain point in the first act, you’ll be judged on your progress and have to deal with the consequences.

As you complete task after task you’ll be introduced to Viktor, a higher-up at the ASC, which is a military unit that rules Ophir, the capital city of Abundance, and where you’ll spend a great portion of the game in. Viktor hates Technomancers and knows that something is funny about them, but he can’t quite figure it out. Seeing as you are a fresh recruit, he attempts to get his claws into you, to force you to spill on the secret. Viktor is your main nemesis throughout the adventure and will stop at nothing to hunt you down and expose the Technomancer secret.

I was excited when I was able to leave Ophir and see the other locations the game offers. Noctis, Mutant Valley and several of the smaller stops along the way are enjoyable, and offer some great variety, as much as a red rock planet like Mars can give you. What was less fun about leaving Ophir was all the times the game forces you to revisit it, and wow, they love sending you to Ophir. Nearly each and every quest you’ll find later on will have you return to Ophir in some shape or form. Once you finish those quests in Ophir it is very likely that you’ll earn more quests there that in the end, will have you revisit back to Ophir to hand them in, it’s a viscous circle of life that drags the game down.

I enjoyed the world of Technomancer, one that I became quite enthralled with during the first game; Mars: War Logs. Upper class locales, garbage filled slums, and cavern filled cities all look fantastic. There is a great amount of detail in each of these locations with tons to explore. While Ophir is an interesting place to visit, the constant returning to the same places over and over again diminishes the city greatly. Places like Noctis and Mutant Valley are vastly underused, especially Mutant Valley, which is accessible only late into the game.

Despite how busy and detailed the cities can be, they often fall into repetition. People are always in the same spots, doing the same things and often just standing there. As you complete tasks you’ll hear people having conversations about your achievements, regardless of knowing if you were involved or not. You’ll free slaves, find those that have gone missing and return historic relics to their people. You can also enter into an arena contest to test your mettle against waves of enemies and large bosses.

As you complete tasks, defeat enemies and progress throughout the story, you’ll earn exp and level up a variety of systems.

  • Attributes: These affect Strength, Agility, Power and Constitution.
  • Talents: Put points into Charisma, Lock Picking, Crafting, Science, Exploration or Stealth.

And finally the skill trees for the class of fighter in which you’ll do combat with:

  • Warrior: Armed with a Staff, you’ll use distance as an ally and attack with lightning speed.
  • Rogue: Armed with a Dagger and a Pistol, you’ll be agile and be tough to hit.
  • Guardian: Armed with a Mace and a Shield, you’ll bash your enemies and take abuse.
  • Technomancer: Embrace your power with the use of Technomancer fluid and upgrade your skills.

I played as the Rogue class with a large portion of my Technomancer skill tree filled out. I was able to dodge out of the way of most attacks, fire off my gun, and electrocute my foes. The combat system is nearly identical to that of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. While it is easily influenced by that game, the combat isn’t nearly as refined as the title featuring Geralt’s legendary adventures as a Witcher. Pulling off special skills that you learn and upgrade is fairly simple, but often I found that the rolling mechanic would not register my attacks unless I was standing still, making myself a target. Since the game’s combat is designed to always keep you moving, the rolling mechanic is essential to survival for the Rogue. The Warrior does a rolling flip ala Darth Maul from Star Wars and the Guardian uses his shield to soak up damage. Much like your special attacks, you can also set healing items to the same buttons, and often after a roll I would select one, but my character either wouldn’t use the item or he would instantly roll again, it was a bit frustrating. Eventually I found a basic rhythm to help with combat, healing and the roll mechanic.

Another aspect of combat than can be frustrating is the cheap hits and insane reflexes of the human enemy types. You can be smashing them in the face with your dagger and they’ll still raise their gun, or kick you regardless of how much damage you’re doing to them. You have a chance to disrupt them, which helps a lot, but sometimes it seems that the speed of your attacks are designed to make you work for that damage other than be designed to be fast and effective. There is a lightning attack you can do, but the charge up time is almost impossible to get a solid use of it without getting blasted in the face or kicked in the back.

It’s easy enough to switch between the styles, but since you don’t earn enough skill points to flesh out your skill tree in that stance, it pays to perfect one and maybe dabble in the others. You can lock onto enemies and flick the right analog stick to swap targets and found this worked quite well, with only one complaint; the environment. Often the background environments will block the camera, especially in tight spots. It’s like fighting in a forest and the tree’s get in your way. While some games solve this by making parts of the environment fade out or become see-through, thus allowing you to fight without worry, there is nothing like that here. Even with these issues, Combat is fun, fast and intense the further you progress in the game.

You’ll take on a variety of different enemies as you traverse Mars, but about 10-15 hours in, you will have seen maybe 90% of the enemy types the game offers, with only a small handful being saved for later on. Soldiers and small to midsize monsters will be the majority of the enemies you’ll encounter with a few giant size creatures saved for giant boss encounters. Most of the boss encounters are pretty impressive, but lack any innovative approach to them. Most human types can be easily put down with a few attacks followed up with a dodge roll, fire the gun, and a few casts of lightning. Bigger brute type soldiers can take an immense amount of damage and can be a bit of a chore to put them down, especially with a group of gunners surrounding you.

Where the game suffers with its enemy variety is the fact that during all the revisits to Ophir, you’ll fight the same groups of enemies in the same locations again and again and again. Since there is only a few ways to traverse Ophir, you’re stuck to the same paths each and every time you visit. I can’t tell you how many times I fought the insect looking creatures in the Underworks, it must have been hundreds of times.

Movement, aside from rolling, is an issue as well. Any pullback on the stick, regardless of a sudden stop or the analog stick springing back, will cause your character to turn around. If you need to interact with a locker or a chest for some loot, often my character would run away from the chest as I would stop to interact with it, it can be ridiculous.

Zachariah isn’t taking on the ASC forces alone and depending on your choices throughout the game, you’ll have a few teammates to join your adventure. Neisha, Amelia, Andrew, Phobos and Scott compose your team. You also have Jeffrey and David, but they are only available very early on in the game as a way to introduce you to the party system. There are moments in the game where some choices may end up with a teammate leaving the party, no matter how strong your allegiance to them is. You can romance Neisha, Amelia and Andrew throughout the game and each teammate you bring into your three man party comes with perks. I usually had Phobos in my team since he allows me to carry a lot more weight. Other characters grant boosts like higher Science or Crafting skills. Each companion also has a personal quest to complete and is crucial to romancing one of the three possible party members.

Defeating enemies, finding loot or visiting shops will grant you access to armor, weapons, healing items and crafting components. You can also upgrade most armor and weapons with each upgrade changing its appearance. You’ll require blueprints to these upgrades and a variety of components like electrical or metal parts. I found the variety in making armor look different with each type of upgrade fairly decent, but not terribly involving. It’s not the greatest crafting system found in games of this genre, but it’s interesting enough to invest a lot of time into.

The variety in armor sets is questionable as while you can have some pretty sweet looking Technomancer outfits, or some soldier styled gear, there is the remaining sets that either look right at home in something like Mad Max, or the ones that are more suited to a S&M bondage club. My first helmet was a black mask with slits for his mouth and eyes, my first jacket, a black leather one. After a while the bondage look fades and you start unlocking the really impressive stuff. I didn’t build my agility or power high enough so I missed out on wearing the Grand Master gear, which sort of sucked. It’s beneficial to wear Technomancer gear should you invest in that skill tree as regenerating your Technomancer fluid is essential. You can use injections to give yourself more fluid as well should you not rely on the regeneration speed of your fluid.

Affording this gear, upgrades and other options the game throws at you is used with Serum. Now, Serum can be earned by simply defeating enemies or selling off gear, even quests will offer it as well. You can; however, earn it by siphoning it from the bodies of your foes. This act of siphoning Serum from human hosts will kill them and affect your Karma. Karma affects how people see you and should you go on a killing spree, your teammates will take notice and not take too kindly to it. You’ll find that certain types of behavior will have consequences amongst your teammates and in their actions and their conversations with you.

I’ll state this right here, Technomancer is not made by a huge studio. Spiders employs around twenty people with a selection of freelancers hired to assist in game development, voice acting and other matters like localizing the game for certain countries. If you are expecting a game visually on the level of something from a AAA studio like EA with its Dragon Age or Mass Effect franchises, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. That being said, Technomancer can at times look fantastic.

There are certain elements within Technomancer that look great. Zachariah and his band of followers look fairly decent and some parts of the environment have textures that border on great to just ok. The more gritty areas like the Slum or the outside bright areas like Noctis and Mutant Valley are just packed with detail. Some of the larger bosses look amazing, with great texturing and fantastic designs. While the game isn’t on par with this current generation, Spiders small team has done wonders with what they have.

Technomancer has not been performing well in mainstream reviews and even some gamers have been disappointed with the game. Those who enjoyed Mars: War Logs and Bound by Flame have been mostly enjoying the game and maybe those who have not maybe had just been expecting something closer to a AAA experience, solely because it’s debuting on current gen hardware, who knows. I’ve also read a few reviews where the game is being considerably trashed, and while the game is far from perfect, it is not this horrible experience that some publications are stating it is.

Technomancer can definitely come across as a low budget experience for sure. Control issues, inconsistent visuals and a wealth of padding to make the game longer are just a few of the issues that plague the game. Issues aside, I enjoyed the 30 hours I put into Technomancer with only the revisiting of areas being the one unforgivable element to the time I spent with it. Had the quests been cleaned up a bit with some of the other locations in the game being used more instead of Ophir being the go-to location for 90% of the quests, then maybe it would have scored higher and been a more complete experience.

If Mass Effect and The Witcher 3 had a baby, and it was left out in the blazing heat of Mars for a day or two to mutate, well, that’s sort of what you get here, warts and all.

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