It’s strange—it seems as though lately, I’ve been running into a lot of games that feature really interesting backstories, but fail to pull the trigger when it comes to translating their narratives over into the digital realm. Just a couple of weeks ago, for instance, I reviewed Deep Silver’s Homefront: Revolution, which was set in a dystopian near-future. It featured a really fascinating backstory that I considered to be worthy of being a science fiction novel (being a science fiction author myself along with a vivid imagination). Unfortunately, it stumbled on several fronts and never translated its well-developed storyline into a well-developed game.
More recently, I stumbled across The Technomancer. I say stumbled because France’s Spider Studio is a relatively lesser known player in the game development world. Evidently, this small development house (more like a hut in this instance) was formed by a few friends who had worked on previous games together and thought it a good idea to team up and form their own little studio. That’s cool—a lot of development teams begin their humble origins in similar fashion. Look what happened with former upstarts such as Bethesda.
Unfortunately, this grouping of obviously talented individuals hasn’t delivered anything that has been impressive as of yet. One thing that they have been consistent with, so far, is coming up with really impressive backstories, which then fall flat in terms of the actual gameplay. A couple of their previous games, Bound by Flame, and the precursor to The Technomancer, titled Mars: War Logs, both had great narrative backdrops but really dropped the ball, gameplay-wise, and were unsurprisingy met with rather harsh reviews.
Spiders apparently wanted to break this dirge-tastic cycle and show the world what they were really made of—you can certainly tell that they gave it a much heartier try this time around. The Technomancer is definitely more impressive than Mar: War Logs, at least in terms of its technical and graphical prowess. Unfortunately, pretty much everything else in The Technomancer isn’t going to be winning the upstart developers any awards.
The Technomancer is an action RPG that takes place on a not-too-distant-future post-apocalyptic Mars. Twenty years has passed since the successful settling, but unfortunately, Mars has experienced a little wrinkle. The Red Planet’s axis has been thrown off a tad, and it has fallen into an orbit a little closer to the sun. What does this mean? Well, for starters, people who weren’t outright sizzled to death were horribly mutated into a wide array of bizarre creatures. Those who successfully avoided this catastrophic event, erected large metal-roofed dwellings that protected them from the increased bombardment of solar radiation. I’m assuming that sun block also experienced an up-tick in sales.
In a deft power play, gigantic mega corporations saw fit to co-opt Mars’ entire water resources and now more or less control the entire supply of H2o. A multitude of factions have also formed and are now hungry (or rather thirsty) for their own little slice of the water pie. Therefore, water wars have erupted between these entities as they vie for positioning, and access to, more and more of both the water supply, as well as territorial control. While I found this whole narrative intriguing, the introductory video didn’t explain much beyond that, and I felt that further elaboration would have been beneficial in terms of immersing players in The Technomancer’s universe.
After the introduction, players are off to character creation. The Technomancer’s version of this important feature in any good RPG game, is more like character creation-lite. Beyond choosing from a couple of facial and hair types, not much beyond that is customizable. From there you move on to your character’s attributes, skills, and talents. These weren’t explained at all, so I basically had to guess what they were and how they functioned. I was also pretty confused as to the game’s whole character creation process.
In RPGs, you typically play as a set character or as a character that the player sets up and builds from scratch. The Tomb Raider series is a good example of a character, Lara Croft, who has no room for customization, at least aesthetically speaking. Her face, body-type, and hair, are always the same in every Tomb Raider game. I’m not a big fan of that series but at least they stay true to their rigid branding. Conversely, you have RPGs such as Bethesda’s brilliant Opus, Skyrim, where you build a character from the ground up. In The Technomancer you play a set character named Zachariah Mancer, so why they included half-baked customization options is beyond me. Too me, you should either feature a pre-conceived character, or offer one that you can build to suit your own personal tastes.
The Technomancer plays out like any of The Witcher games. You saunter around and look for big major quests, and there is an assortment of minor, peripheral quests available as well. Along the way, you’ll meet a few NPCs that you can convince to join your cause, which is apparently to overthrow the megacorps and gain access to the oh-so-precious water supply. At least that’s what I think it was—the game’s over-arching goal was never really explained.
As a recent graduate of the local Technomancer school, Zach is imbued with various electricity-based, mage-like powers and abilities, both active and passive. Some of these manifest themselves in the form of buffs that you can bestow upon yourself, or any allies within your party, and others that are more of the direct assault type, such lightning bolts and such.
The Technomancer’s combat system is a very muddled affair. You can lock onto only one target at a time, so when you go up against groups of enemies—which is most of the time—things can get pretty confusing. Since you can attack and block one enemy at a time, when you are facing multiple foes on multiple fronts, you have to constantly switch your lock-on between them. To make matters worse, your teammates will frequently just stand there nearby and occasionally attack one of your enemies from time to time. Your AI buddies seem as though their main purpose in the game is to unlock cut scenes at certain points, not to aid you in combat.
Graphics-wise, I can tell that The Technomancer was given an upgrade, at least when compared to the abysmal visuals in Mars: Battle Logs. The character models are decent and the weapons look pretty good. However, when it comes to the character’s faces themselves, Spiders still has some work to do. For instance, during particularly harrowing scenes where a certain character was supposed to be going through extreme anxiety or exhibiting substantial sorrow or grief, their faces would remain pretty much the same. In other words, there wasn’t any emotion conveyed whatsoever.
As it is, The Technomancer is an ambitious project that the developers obviously cared about. However, its narrative scope has far outstripped it technical reach in this case. I could only see this game being palatable by gamers who can overlook its glaring gameplay flaws and play it simply for the sake of its decent science fiction backdrop.
The Technomancer has great visuals which describe a dreary futuristic reality. In order to get the most out of them you may want to invest in a decent gaming PC:
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