Published on August 16th, 2016 | by Chris Scott0
The Technomancer Review
Summary: A summer RPG to hold you over until Deus Ex.
Developer Spiders and their publisher Focus Home Interactive picked their spot to release The Technomancer. Outside the release window of Overwatch, Doom, and Uncharted and before the rush of the big fall games, The Technomancer looks to appease the gamer looking for a deep story based game during the emptiest time on the release calendar. But similar to the last few releases from the small French studio, this is a game that aims high but falls well short of its ambitions.
The Technomancer takes place in the same world as previous Spiders game, Mars War Logs. Much like Mars War Logs, The Technomancer is an action role-playing game in the vein of BioWare’s Mass Effect series. But where Mars War Logs was only a four to six hour adventure, The Technomancer boasts 15-20 hours of content in just its main story. For those that aren’t familiar with Mars War Logs, or like me have forgotten nearly all the details of that game, The Technomancer does a fine job of setting up the world and explaining the political maneuverings of the different factions.
The game takes place on a future Mars that was colonized hundreds of years ago by humans. The red planet is still mostly inhospitable and wars between the controlling corporations (the world’s government entities) for the scarce water have taken place for decades. Players will take on the role of Zachariah, a technomancer originally pledged to the Abundance corporation. Technomancers are humans that have the ability to channel the power of electricity. These select few have formed into communities where they all follow a near religious creed to search for and protect the knowledge of the first settlers. They are also conscripted into the military of the area’s controlling corporation. After becoming a fully indoctrinated technomancer, Zachariah finds himself on the outs with a high ranking corporate official. This sets off a cat-and-mouse game that spans the surface of Mars and holds the fate of humanity on the planet in its grasp.
If that sounds pretty cool, it is because it is, in fact, a pretty cool premise for a science fiction adventure. Unfortunately, what we actually get from The Technomancer is a half-baked narrative with a mediocre cast of characters and highly repetitive gameplay. The story plays out in such a way far less exciting than its premise would have you believe. For whatever reason, the game insists on bogging itself down with explaining the internal politics of the world and then hammering you over the head with them over and over again. I don’t care about hearing the history of the mutants (a discriminated minority) for the sixth time; I just want to do the right thing and help them. I don’t need a fourth lecture on the beliefs of the Technomancer (for crying out loud, I am one): let me get on with the game. And the repetition in the narratives from different characters keeps piling up that I was actively skipping dialog towards the end of the game because I just didn’t care anymore.
The narrative also presents a weird disjointed feeling with certain questlines. Small and inconsequential quests can, and will, spend enormous amounts of delivering story to no great effect in the overall direction of the game, but seemingly large quests, like one where you align yourself to be the leader of your sect of Technomancers, are given hardly any fanfare. It’s just a really weird way of progressing and telling the story.
Things aren’t helped any by the overly generic party members Zachariah will add to his group. Each party member has a loyalty quest that tries to shed more light on to them as characters. Yet, most of them are shoddily written and none of them help to endear the characters to you. Aside from the spunky transport driver that is looking into the disappearance of her father so many years ago, none of the supporting characters are really very likeable. And all of them are voiced in such a mundane way that even if they had interesting stories, they’d probably still put you to sleep relaying that information to you. That is, of course, if you can stay awake dealing with Zachariah, Mr. Personality himself.
Fortunately the game makes up for its mediocre characters and tepid storyline with some interesting, if flawed, gameplay systems.
Like all similar games of this nature, The Technomancer has a combat focus and a non-combat focus. The non-combat focus centers around player choice and while the narrative aspect of the game leaves much to be desired, finding ways to avoid combat by using dialog options and building alliances (and tearing them down) through conversation is a ton of fun. And, unlike most of the narrative, some of the alliances you build or destroy can impact the game later on to great effect. Little is more satisfying in the game then returning to an early game character to solicit their help and having them accept due to your actions earlier towards them.
Of course, while outsmarting opponents to come to a non-violent resolution is super satisfying, the game will put you in plenty of situations that you can’t talk your way out of. The combat system Spiders has implemented ha clear lineage to their older games with some new twists. Zachariah has the option of fighting in one of three stances. There is the up close and personal Warrior, the methodical Guardian, and the quick and nimble Rogue. The game encourages you to utilize all of the stances, claiming that being well rounded is the key to success in the game. I disagree and suggest choosing a stance based on your play style and progressing that way. Sure there are situations that will be made marginally easier by being able to utilize a different stance, but most of those happen in the early stages of the game. In fact, I found myself early on at a disadvantage because I was spreading my level points around too evenly. Once I started focusing on one stance, I had a much easier time and also felt far more powerful.
Playing as the Rogue I got a solid ranged attack and then quick cut melee attacks. This played directly into how I enjoy playing these types of games and, by the end, when I had maxed out the Rogue leveling tree, I was truly badass and a force to be reckoned with. I can’t see it being any different for other stances depending upon personal play styles. In addition to the combat stances, Zachariah has the abilities of technomancy and that comes with its own skill tree. I focused on making my weapons electrified and being able to shoot lightning out of my hands like a Sith Lord. It was kind of cool.
Teaming up with Zachariah will also be two members of his party. These party members can be outfitted with armor and weapons and they each have a different attack and defend style. Sometimes these party members are forced upon you but most of the time you can construct your team how you see fit. I didn’t see any squad mechanics, but I must admit, I wasn’t really looking for them, instead using my party as a whipping post for the enemy. I did this because they just aren’t super helpful. But they at least keep the enemies on the battlefield from just focusing on you allowing for you to systematically eliminate the opposition. And you’ll do a lot of eliminating the opposition because there is an awful lot of fighting against the same handful of enemy types. The only time this switches up is when you are subjected to a boss fight, which is never a fun time.
The Technomancer also has a fully featured economy, trading system, and crafting system. I didn’t really need to focus on it much though as it just seems to be there because it checks a box. And that is the biggest problem with The Technomancer: it just doesn’t seem particularly special. It’s a bunch of check boxes being filled because other similar games have the same features. Nothing in the game is particularly bad, but it is bland and repetitive. Because of the release date, I found a way to get through it (although I did struggle a bit). I’m not sure that others will though and I just can’t recommend it unless you are really jonesing for a problematic Mass Effect style RPG.
This review was written with material provided by the publisher on the PC. For more on our review process, please read here.