Reviewed on: PC. Copy supplied by publisher.
Let’s not beat around the proverbial bush here, The Technomancer doesn’t live up to its potential even slightly. Yeah, that’s probably a harsh way to start a review, but let’s spell out why this action RPG reaches for the stars only to fall short, roll an ankle and crack its head on the floor on the way down.
Set on a post apocalyptic terraformed Mars of the future, The Technomancer puts you in control of Zachariah, a Technomancer (surprise surprise) who uses the power of electricity and hitting stuff with weapons to fight crime and alien creatures amidst a planetary war driven by the scarcity of water. A loose sequel to Developer Spiders’ Mars: War Logs, The Technomancer should have been a cyberpunk filled gritty sci-fi RPG, but instead is as lifeless as the real world equivalent of the setting.
From the first opening cinematic you will get the sense of exactly what The Technomancer is, and that’s a throwback to the B games of old. The voice acting is painful, the graphics gritty, and the plot contrived. But hey, you can sometimes still make something work with those elements, unfortunately that doesn’t happen in this case. The gameplay, the emptiness of the world and tedious difficulty make it hard to recommend to anybody.
I desperately tried to finish the game before writing this review, but I just couldn’t do that. Well not literally, I definitely could have, but doing so would have resulted in so much frustration it wouldn’t be worth the time. Even on the easiest setting the combat in The Technomancer is so stupidly difficult that even small fights can take an age to progress past. Taking a leaf out of The Witcher‘s book, the combat almost mimics Geralt’s. You dodge attacks and spin around like a coked up idiot, but that doesn’t seem to help alleviate the sheer ball-crushing amount of damage you take. One hit staggers you and maybe three or four kill you. So all it takes is one hit from an an enemy to briefly stun you before his comrades Red Wedding the shit out of you. And when I say comrades, you are always heavily outnumbered, so expect to be ganked an awful lot. It just straight up isn’t fun having to hammer dodge constantly and to have that fail you on the regular as enemies shank you mid spin.
All of this is a shame because the styles of combat available are pretty cool. You can fight with a staff, dishing out area damage, use a knife and pistol to deal ranged damage and swift personal hits, or you can use a club and shield to protect yourself whilst swinging heavy blows. Switching between the styles is fast and at first seemed to be a winning feature. In one on one scenarios each style is fun to use, and the use of a stylised slow motion effect upon near misses and take downs is great, but it’s not enough to save the game from the serious enemy outnumbering issue. Oh, and salt the gaping wound on this one: sometimes enemies have automatic weapons that can take you down without much warning, making all your weaponry obsolete, and to boot they don’t have a weakness and can rumble with you when you get up close. Just writing this is making me annoyed at how many times I died in this fucking game.
To avoid the combat you can engage in one of the worst stealth mechanics in recent memory, which has you awkwardly walk like a crab with your bony arse sticking out. Once you get behind an enemy and initiate a stealth attack you don’t even fully take them down, you kind of tickle them with electricity, leaving them to beat you up for even trying to play this game like a normal person. I hated it, I hated it so much.
There are also boss fights throughout The Technomancer, which surprisingly aren’t as bad as they could be considering the base combat. The first boss did make me smile and reminded me of old school RPG games from the 90s, but beyond that there isn’t much else I could say about them other than they exist, and you will be hitting dodge a fuck load, just as you do in the regular game.
The Technomancer‘s main asset, which is the setting, could work if the characters inhabiting it had some emotion grounding them to the location, instead of pasted on expressions of neutrality or vague surprise, leaving it feeling cold and empty. Exploring a Martian wasteland is a cool concept, and one that had me genuinely excited for this game, but the execution is more than a little wonky. The sprawling cities look the part, but they are so sparsely inhabited that they feel more like a deserted MMO than an immersive RPG. And when you do find people, they are so obviously stuck in scripted routines that you can’t invest in them or their plight. The graphics also looks very very shoddy, and in no way can I understand how the promotional images I’ve used in this article have come from the same game. On a positive note The Technomancer’s imagining of Mars is creative, and one that could have worked in more capable hands.
Now let’s talk about RPG elements. The Technomancer has a karma and speech system, but they don’t really give choices that A) you care about or, B) that leave much room to engage with. Killing human opponents will make you lose karma, but in turn you gain the ingame currency, Serum. This is interesting in theory, but from what I gathered it didn’t have too many immediate repercussions, of course this may come into play later as multiple endings are available. Aside from karma, the choices of dialogue are varied, but the options still come across as weak and based almost entirely on which skills you have leveled up. Want to talk your way into somewhere, but lack charisma? Guess you have to fight, which is never fun in this game. Essentially at a lower level you’re left with only a handful of options that will work for you, and they might not suit how you want to play, which is a huge driving force for many RPG fans.
The Technomancer also has a crafting system, leveling trees for the three combat styles and Technomancer abilities, and plenty of items to loot. But all of this does very little to make the game seem worthwhile. I can’t imagine wanting to play The Technomancer past the five hours I put into it, and the thought alone is shudder inducing. Maybe that is partly my fault as a reviewer for not seeing it through, but when a game simultaneously makes me cringe and want to sleep as much as this one did, some of that has got to be the its own fault.