Brace yourself for an adventure that will drag you across the Red Planet of Mars on a quest for self-preservation and justice. During the era of the War on Water, you will combat the likes of governing powers, divided factions, and solar radiated evolved creatures. The Technomancer, developed by Spiders Games, puts you in the shoes of a young, but extremely gifted, space warrior named Zachariah as he nears the end of his almost life-long training. With branches of developments for personal skills, weapons, armor, and fighting styles, you are given all you need in order to take on anything that crosses your path. Be careful as you proceed. Although you are a fearsome mage-warrior, there are many people out to kill you, and those mutated creatures mentioned earlier will not take it any easier on you when you encounter them. You can pick this game up on PlayStation Network or Microsoft Store for $59.99, or Steam for $54.99.
Once a colonized and functional society roughly 200 years ago, Mars has now become an apocalyptic feeling environment (although I have a feeling it looked pretty close to an apocalyptic society before the war and chaos broke out). Solar radiation has ultimately driven the remaining inhabitants into sheltered communities, where hands of fate have divided the governing officials and their armies from the ones who call the streets of a back-alleyway-feeling slum-town home. The even lesser fortunate ones who are not associated to either of these communities are either running chaos and criminal activities as bandits or worse… are forced to work for them as slaves, because their own radiated bodies have deemed them to hold a social status much less of everyone else.
Technomancers, mage-warriors with hidden remarkable talents of controlling electricity, are trained and scientifically improved to be stronger than ever before. Scientists have been able to develop an implanted chip that amplifies their powers of electricity, while not frying their brains at the same time. You are allied with the governing power known as Abundance, but will find which faction or rivaled government power you choose to help more over time.
Not to give too much away from the story itself, Zachariah, now into the real world around him, will see both good and bad of his own allegiance, as well as others throughout Mars, which will drastically change if you so choose. Technomancers are despised by a large portion of surviving society, so imagine how many people will want you captured or even killed when you, the most powerful and influential technomancer to date, makes dramatic changes to their own self-interests. As you uncover more truth about your past, you will find more dangers as the secret police find it in their best interest you stop searching for answers. Your travels will take you to many corners of Mars, and even cities frozen under ice, as you find why you are truly a technomancer today.
The game, being an action roleplaying game, puts tremendous importance on the combat. There are technically 4 fighting styles: Warrior, Rogue, Guardian, and Technomancer. I say technically 4 because, in the upgrading skill tree for combat styles, there are 4 separate upgrade paths, but technomancy is used at all times, regardless of which of the other three you are using. The game encourages you to use more than one fighting style, which is exciting and creates dynamic fighting as different enemies or altercations will almost require different approaches. You change these fighting styles on the fly, and it never feels too difficult. Below are the four fighting styles in more detail:
- Warrior – The first of the three fighting styles deals with a single large staff. This is the weapon of choice when dealing with large groups of enemies as it swings for area damage. I found myself using this fighting style the least though as it gave no sure defense or true ranged attack. Upgrading this will increase its range of attack and "tornado" where every nearby enemy is hit several times while you are moving.
- Rogue – This fighting style uses a pistol on the left hand and a quick swinging dagger in the right. The pistol gives you great range on your enemy, especially when battling bosses whose arsenal is full of close range area damaging attacks. Shooting an enemy will also have a great chance of breaking their charging attacks. Upgrading this class will allow such things as poisoned dagger, explosive rounds, and more shots before the gun needs cooling down.
- Guardian – A fighting style based around a mace and shield, this gives the ultimate defense. You either swing the mace or block an attack, and if timed right, will knock an enemy backwards leaving them vulnerable to a combination attack.The shield can be a life saver to say the least. It will stop bullets, multiple attacks at once even from multiple directions, and can be used so smash the enemy which potentially will break their attack or defense. There is no health penalty for using the shield, even repeatedly.
- Technomancer – The superpower of controlling electricity and casting it on enemies. This will be used with the three previous fighting styles at all times. Upgrading this skill tree will improve one of the Technomancer attacks, either Electric Arcs which is a ranged stunning attack, Electric Storm which is similar to the warriors tornado attack, or a temporary magnetic armor that creates a protective shield around Zachariah, to name a few. One more Technomancer ability that is arguably the most important is electrifying your weapons to dish out more damage with whatever weapon you're using. Using these abilities requires focus. You can find focus injections to replenish with by looting enemies or crates, or by crafting them at a workbench.
The fighting is for the most part really smooth. I often found myself dying early on in the game as I learned that enemies are quick to counter attack, and if you’re really unlucky will knock you back and forth between each other before you are able to roll out of there. This will quickly deplete your health and if you are not supplied with Health injections will leave you at a huge disadvantage. This is just simply a learning curve, and does take some evaluation of when to attack, singling out enemies from the group, or simply throwing an attack or two and rolling out.
Variety in the attacks is few. Each weapon has the same 4 or 5 attack animations. The rolling/dodging does not help much as far as making things feel less repetitive. I would have liked to see a little more variation with this, but have definitely seen worse from other games. The way you use them is what is emphasized, and as focused as I was in many combat scenarios, I did not think too much about any kind of repetitiveness. When you get the hang of timing everything just right, it will be a very rewarding feeling when you defeat enemies.
One of the most impressive as well as very important features of the game comes with the in-depth dialogue options. Many times you will have more than just two options of how to react. Some of them will gain you reputation for a given faction, or even lose some. Other times you may find yourself in a tense situation where your choice will lead to either an all out brawl or a verbally resolved encounter. This is not exclusively within main quests, but also the side quests. They are each unique and will lead to a different turn of events or dialog based on what you chose.
One example, after rescuing a merchant from the imprisonment of the “Vory,” a major bandit/mercenary mob faction, I was told by the merchant he had found a young woman who suffered from amnesia on his travels before being captured. Sympathetic to the situation I made a few stops around the map to inquire what might have happened to her or if anyone had reported her missing. My objective of finding her a safe return to perhaps a family member was ended when I spoke to my captain within Abundance who I expressed concern she may be working for the Vory and should be detained. This was not a linear story for the side quest, I could have easily continued to search for someone who could help her or knew her personally, but it is the choice I ultimately made to turn her in. In any mission, this is a much-appreciated sense of uniqueness that can create a new adventure each play through, and is an added bonus that these branches of dialog and story are prevalent throughout side quests as well.
The interface has a lot of things going on and can be tricky to remember which buttons bring up the specific sets of actions you want. Although this can be difficult to remember at first, it does feel pretty smooth in time. There is a set of actions for changing fighting styles, using consumables and traps, and the main interface containing quests, map, gear, inventory, and settings. The navigational map is frustratingly unhelpful at times as it doesn’t show which direction to travel in order to get to the objectives across the map. This problem is worsened due to the fact that there is no option to highlight which one you make primary. Another drawback to it is that it does not show where enemies are located, making it difficult to find them as they group up on you.
The enemies you encounter will either be humans or creatures roaming Mars. Bandits will be equipped with the same weapons you carry (mace and shield, dagger and pistol, staff, or even their own unique gun). Don’t get fooled thinking they are all exclusively close-ranged fighters just from first glance. Some will step back and pull out a pistol. Typically you will engage in combat with several bandits or other human enemies at once, so these ranged attacks will be dangerous when you have others in your face. Occasionally you’ll run into opposing Technomancers serving for rival factions who, like you, will have the ability to electrically charge their weapons. Monsters will pose different challenges. You’ll run into brainless shrimp looking enemies at first, but will later take on massively sized, and extremely dangerous creatures, resembling that of a praying mantis or earthworm. Some creatures have evolved to include poison attacks, and others are simply brute smashers. Every conflict will have a solution, you just need to find the right fighting class for you in the situation and execute.
The places you will explore are impressive in appearance but basic in the design of the layout. You’ll begin in the main city where your faction Abundance calls home and base of operations. This city is connected to the poor and rundown slum city where the mob-like faction, The Vory, call territory. From here you will slowly travel out on missions, exploring ruins of the societies that once were, and the caves surrounding. Later on, you’ll find yourself in shanty towns and more ruins hidden under ice. You’ll find uniqueness in all locations, but the same concept that you are only able to go in one direction or another until it wraps around to your objective. The free roaming is less a characteristic of the game, and more a vision. You’ll feel like you’re exploring at times, but simply running through imaginary hallways filtered with the games environment.
My time on Mars was shared with many NPCs (of course). The game does a good job at giving each one of them their own unique identity and personality. Even Zachariah himself has a uniqueness to him that you are able to create at the beginning of the game. It’s nowhere near extensive, how much you can customize him (no “her” option), but it does provide some differences between your Zachariah and someone else’s. As you can see in the picture above, there are five characteristics you can change: Face, Skin color, Hair, Hair color, and Eye color. The personality of your protagonist will ultimately depend on each one of your dialog interactions throughout your play through.
Throughout the game you will gain access to companions. I’ve found that they have helped tremendously when taking on multiple enemies, especially when one or two of them are shooting guns at me. These companions can either be close ranged fighters, long range gun shooting assistants, or even healers. You will be able to give them commands on what they need to be doing during combat, and can equip them with upgraded armor and weapons. The game also provides a means of having romantic encounters (and I’m substituting that description for cleanliness), which will play out depending on the choices and alliances you make along the way.
Sound and Graphics
The games music is about what you would expect; nothing amazing but nothing that takes away from the game. The characters you come across will have voices unique to themselves and match their personalities or situations. At times they sound exaggerated or unrealistic, but so be fair, they are hardly monotone. Zachariah, the protagonist, will sound aggressive when needed to be, and other times curious and timid to fit his socially inexperienced role. During objectives, the friendly NPCs involved will typically repeat their same phrases to let you know when you are going in a wrong direction or when an enemy is approaching, and the enemies will do the same. Walking around outside of combat, though, you will hear unique and varied dialog from NPCs as they socialize or complain, adding to the atmosphere of the game
Spiders Games didn’t shoot for photo-realism as far as graphics, but it does not mean they are not good. If you have played or seen gameplay from their previous work on Bound by Flames, you will see the consistency in this style of graphics, but Technomancer does make large improvements. When outside, the sun makes for a beautiful color and brightness of the planet. It does a great job of making you feel the environment and immersing you into where you are located. When inside, the areas can feel pretty dark, and at times I even had problems navigation. Turning up the brightness more than the recommended settings helped, but at times would appear too bright when in well-lit areas.
The Technomancer is a solid game. The combat is similar to that of Witcher 3 which was a major hit in 2015 and into 2016. It has a feel of originality but follows alongside nearly every stereotype you would have regarding a space-based adventure while also giving you a fairly engaging story. At times it may feel a little slow as there is no fast traveling and the navigation map is a little too small to trust, especially with no enemy indications, but getting past the small imperfections, it makes for a great game. No news of planned DLC may make old news quickly, but regardless, it will make for an exceptional gaming experience.
|+ Emphasis on dialog and choices||– Repetitive attack animations|
|+ Tons of quests||– Untrustworthy navigation map|
|+ Variety in combat styles|
|+ Upgrades and Skill trees|