A Mars a day helps you work, rest and kill thugs with an electrified stick, or so the old saying goes. The forgotten children of Earth are wasting away on a barren planet. Water is scarce on Mars and if you want to dilute your orange squash you’ll have to fight to the death first. Opposing factions are at war and you, a newly initiated Technomancer, are caught right in the middle.
When we think about Mars, we generally think about wastelands, barren environments and an almost backwards slant on terraforming technology and manmade structures. The Technomancer pretty much nails this, but perhaps a little too much. Environments feel dark, empty and uninteresting. For an open world game, there’s not much incentive to explore it, and in fact some areas have been made in a maze-like style that seem designed only to delay you getting to an objective. Thank the God of Thunder for the map. While you’re walking and running about you can hold R2 to bring up a transparent shadow map that covers the centre of the screen and allows you to adjust your route on the go. It’s rather clever, I must admit, and I do wish more games would give the option for this style of navigation.
While I do love a far flung and darkly futuristic setting, Technomancer’s world left me feeling a little underwhelmed. There is some lovely detail here and there, but there just isn’t any character to this universe, no real reason to want to be in it. It’s an empty playground with not so much a slide to keep us entertained. The main character unfortunately isn’t much better. He’s very generic and devoid of almost all personality. If I met him at a singles party I’d go home with a phallic-shaped balloon instead. There are some options to modify his appearance and although they are a little limited, they do the job well. It’s his dialogue that is the problem. The voice actor didn’t have a great deal to work with and alongside his very stiff PS3-ish animations, Zachariah is a huge let down as a main character. His party members are a little better, however. There’s a bit more personality coming through even though they, again, have a very generic feel to them.
The best part of any RPG, of course, is the ton of stats and upgrades, and here The Technomancer doesn’t disappoint. As you level up you earn points which can be assigned to a variety of skill trees which allow you tailor how you play. You can improve your skills as a Technomancer by upgrading your powers to create massive lightning arcs and energy waves. You can assign points to your Guardian tree and gain more defensive abilities. Your Warrior tree will allow upgrades to your staff attacks and dodge skills, and lastly you can utilise your Rogue tree to improve knife attacks and gunfire skills. When you go into battle you can choose between Guardian, Warrior and Rogue depending on your playstyle and the situation. Your Technomancer abilities, however, apply to all fighting styles.
In addition to upgrading your fighting stances and electric whizzywoo powers, you can also tinker with Talents and Attributes. With Talents you can improve things like your crafting capabilities, Charisma, which improves your success in dialogue, Stealth and Exploration. Your Attributes include Strength, which will affect combat, Agility and Power. There’s plenty to play about with.
No RPG is complete without a spot of crafting. You can collect materials whilst on your various travels and once you’ve located a workbench you can use them to upgrade your weapons and armour and craft health and focus injections. The upgrades you can fashion will largely depend on your Attribute levels and you’ll need to make sure you’ve got some decent blueprints which can be purchased along with additional components from merchants.
As an action RPG, the action part is clearly an important factor. Combat is competent but not great. There are the different fighting stances to choose from which goes a long way in ensuring a comfortable fight for most players, but you will need to get your timing right because your party members aren’t always a great deal of help. They are the Mars equivalent of The Division’s JTF, always in the way and not massively effectual. You’re better off disregarding them and assuming you’re alone. Dodging is extremely important when you have more than one foe to deal with and be careful not to dodge right into the path of the guy behind you. Taking out the blokes with the guns first is a fantastic idea and it’s worth locking onto them and getting rid sharpish. Even on Easy mode your health will soon zap down to nothing and with a slightly wobbly camera all that dodging and circling may give a few motion sickness sufferers something to vomit about.
As far as basic RPGs go, this is an okay effort, but unfortunately we’re used to the immersion of The Witcher 3 and Dying Light, the tactical party battles of Dragon Age: Inquisition and the open worlds of The Division and Metal Gear Solid V. We’re a fussy lot these days because we’ve had the best and now we expect that from every developer. Technomancer falls very short of this high standard and that’s a shame because with this setting and background story it could have been something really great.
On paper, The Technomancer sounds like the perfect game and it does have a lot of good ideas and a lot of familiar ideas that have worked well for past RPGs, but it lacks polish. Without trying to sound overly dramatic, it lacks what it needs most: love. The best RPGs brim with passion. They’ve stepped on the shoulders of previous games, taken the best of them, and brought something new to the table. The Technomacer seems to have learned no lessons and the results are disappointing and mediocre.
S J Hollis Rating – 6/10