Platforms: PC, Playstation 4 (reviewed), and Xbox One
While there’s really no shortage of RPG’s being rolled out every year, a very specific type hasn’t really gotten much play in recent years. Games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire are so few and far between that I really can’t think of games that aim for that type. The Technomancer is looking to fill that space and it makes no illusions as to what it was inspired by.
The Technomancer is an RPG set in the not so distant future. It takes place on Mars. Contact with Earth has been lost for years. Life on Mars seems a bit rough around the edges. If this sounds familiar to you at all, you’ve probably read a book, seen a movie, or played another game that took place on Mars. Nothing ever seems to go well there. This isn’t even new territory for Spiders, the game’s developer. They did Mars: War Logs, another RPG that actually takes place prior to The Technomancer, in 2013.
The world of The Technomancer is a cobbled together existence of what the original settlers built. The original habitats are all but in ruins, animals that have been brought over have been mutated to the point of barely being recognizable, and corporations rule the settlements and wage war amongst themselves. We just can’t have nice things, can we?
You play as Zachariah, a freshly commissioned Technomancer. Technomancers are people that have the ability to control electricity and act as police force and also pad the ranks of the army for the corporations. They have a secret to protect and one of their main missions is to find relics of the original colonists and try to get back in contact with Earth. Zachariah goes from simple errand running to uncovering a conspiracy threatening the power balance and peace on Mars. All pretty standard stuff here.
While the stakes in The Technomancer feel like they could be high, the way so many questlines wrap up, nothing really ever feels finished. Characters pop in and out seemingly at random, in conjunction with so many characters’ appearances and voices so similar to one another, you’ll be forgiven for not remembering who some of them are. Even the finale happened rather abruptly. I found myself surprised that it ended when it did.
The sidequests tend to be simple fare, running from one spot to another with enemy encounters in between. You can pick certain factions to do these sidequests for and that will ultimately play a bit of a role in some of the stuff towards the end of the game. While there was nothing world changing that I found favoring one opposing faction or another, you still could have the relationships with your companions affected by your choices. I had them occasionally speak up about their disapproval over my choice, but it never got far enough that I thought I was in danger of them leaving the party (something I’m not even entirely sure that’s possible).
Your companions will also give you sidequests that make them more friendly with you. Some of them, narratively speaking, are better than the main plot of the game. There’s one that involves two of them and actually had more impact and stuck with me more than anything else I did in the game. It was a deeply personal quest that had not only the best writing in the game, but also the best interactions of any characters in the game. The clues to the outcome are sprinkled throughout but are really only obvious upon reflection.
Early on, combat was incredibly hard. Damage done to you seemed so incredibly out of whack with what you were able to dish out. I was finding myself struggling with the even the most basic of encounters. So much so that I had to bump it down from normal to easy before realizing that I could just save-scum after each successful fight. It makes the early going more than a minor hurdle to overcome. If I wasn’t reviewing it, I likely would have called it quits if I wasn’t willing to bump down the difficulty.
Get a little more accustomed to it though and you’ll find a rather enjoyable system. I stand by my thought in the news coverage I posted before The Technomancer came out that the staff is the way to go. While using the sword and board can be enjoyable if you get the parrying time down well, you can add enough disruption bonuses into a staff that you’ll likely be wailing away at most enemies without them ever really taking more than a swing or two at you. Add in the extra damage that the staves do (plus the fighting style just looks cooler) and I think you’d be a fool to not invest heavily in the staff skill tree. Technomancer abilities also add in a little flair. I didn’t use them too frequently, but some of the effects they have can really help in some trickier battles.
We won’t be handing out any appearance awards to The Technomancer here. It’s a decent looking enough game overall, but the equipment your party ends up outfitted with is another story. The gear seems to get progressively uglier as you find stronger stuff. The headgear stands out as the biggest offender, as some of the helmets you find will have your party members’ faces completely blocked out. Also, never mind just how ridiculous googles look, they also make up about half of the options for protection for your head. God, there’s a look I hope never becomes popular in my lifetime. I wish that they had taken a cue from Dragon Age: Inquisition and allowed you to hide headgear. Headgear will disappear for Zachariah in some scenes, but not all of them.
Depending on how many of the side quests you decide to undertake, you’ll be seeing an awful lot of the same areas over and over. Being able to access certain areas only by first going through another can really wear down your patience. While it seems like a rather common thing in most RPG’s, it’s particularly grating here as there aren’t many areas. You’ll occasionally get a new one to check out, but your trip in will be for a one-off mission. You might not have any reason to ever see that area again, instead stuck bouncing between the main few areas. I don’t mind a lack of places to explore, but an easier way to access certain parts would have made the constant traversal back and forth feel less tedious. I would start to dread anytime I had to access the slums of Ophir since there was no real easy way to access it. A fast travel mode similar to what was done on the Citadel in the original Mass Effect would have been ideal.
The naming conventions might be the worst part of the game. At first, I paid no mind to the fact that the two head Technomancers shared the last name Mancer, assuming they were probably related. Once I got out into the first area and came across my first shopkeeper, I started to notice an odd trend. That shopkeeper’s last name was Goodsman. Okay, a bit too on the nose, but maybe someone fell asleep at the wheel on that and didn’t notice. Nope. Next shopkeeper’s last name was named Goodsman as well. Then someone called me Zachariah Mancer. Your scientist friend is named Scott Seeker. Another party member that drives the rover is named Amelia Reacher. I was waiting for someone related to Sol Badguy from Guilty Gear to make an appearance as the main antagonist.
I don’t think The Technomancer is going to be the surprise summer hit I initially thought, but it’s definitely worth considering if you’ve been craving something in the vein of KotOR. There’s an enjoyable experience to be had here, despite how much negative I’ve had to say. I think it being a bit of a letdown on my end was I had a lot of hope for The Technomancer. Perhaps too much.