The Technomancer Review
The Technomancer is the new cyberpunk ARPG trying to capture the Bioware style and a successor to Mars: War Logs developed by Parisian Developer Spiders. The new name being chosen to distance this from the critical failure of Mars: War Logs, but just how much does The Technomancer improve on its predecessor? Read on to find out.
Firstly, they both share the same cool as hell setting. A cyberpunk dystopia on Mars where you’re a gifted with the powers of lightning. This time around players in Technomancer are a part of the Mars ruling establishment and, as such, are slotted nicely into a sort of clandestine role somewhere between the military and the Abundance corporation’s secret enforcers. Starting right before you earn your stripes and become a fully fledged technomancer you’ll find yourself coming out of the AAA quality cinematic into rather a lower quality of game that has more the feel of a B-Movie about it as opposed to the opening silver screen blockbuster.
The graphics are acceptable, however, even though the texture quality is low, but you do get some impressive scenic views which nicely set the overall feel to Technomancer and grants the title a palpable atmosphere.
Your character appearance does have some customisation available, but the overall result is somewhat fair to middling and never really rises above the mediocre. Dialogue varies in quality from good to bad, with examples of ‘nailed it’ and ‘nail it to a cross and crucify it’ in equal measure. The combat is more visually flashy, though in truth the whole affair does appear to be altogether more clunky than in the previous title in the series, Mars: War Logs, which is probably the only area it performs worse in.
Combat does quickly start to feel like a chore as you progress thanks to a somewhat punishing learning curve that allows for no middle ground as Technomancer sets it stall out early on the proceedings with enemies getting much tougher while you largely remain with either the same or only slightly raised stats after what seems like you have earned for more reward for your XP buck.
Your ranged options are somewhat ineffective with players being granted a mere two spells to take the fight to your foes, but alas with one of the duo only being able to be cast once every 10 seconds, ( something that you can get down to around the five second mark but only at the expense of a great many of those hard earned attribute points and a ton of precious XP ).
Guns are also limited with players only permitted a few measly shots before the weapons overheat like spitting snakes and require a painful extensive cooldown period. This is in stark contrast to your chuckling enemies who, while you fumble and struggle with your meagre magic and faltering firearms, gleefully blast away at you with what seems and endless barrage of hot death flying at you and buzzing around your ears like a swarm of angry hornets. Had the same styled automatic weapons being touted by your opposite numbers been available to you, then perhaps the balance of Technomancer may have felt a little more like ‘even keel‘ as opposed to a lurching, drunken ‘Howard Keel‘.
Throughout the game you’ll find yourself just spamming the dodge button as fast as your little fingers can carry you, all the while looking for an opening through which you can take to your heels or gain a moments respite from the constant and incessant enemy assaults, hoping and praying you don’t get shot during your madcap dash in your bid to acheive that opening.
It feels almost as though your own method of approaching combat and that of your enemies work almost in complete opposition to each other. As if the styles were developed independently and when put together they just don’t blend with each other well enough to give the player a feeling of fluidity. Combo’s are almost impossible because the enemies start deflecting and counterattacking your assaults almost instinctively, and no sooner have you engaged with one combatant than another breaks up your offensive with an attack from behind shattering the combo, and more often than not this will be with a telegraphed ranged attack. I never thought I’d say this, because it’s really been overused since it’s inception, but this game could benefit dramatically from the Arkham combat system. I’ve always maintained that, in a good melee combat system, that if you get hit, you only have yourself to blame.
Levelling up your character actually does little to improve your abilities, and is a result Technomancer comes across more akin to any other standard third person beat’em up title, albeit with RPG elements to it. Your combat talents typically increase specific aspects, for example damage or stagger chance, and this then moves by 5%-20% but with only minimal actual mechanical changes to the gameplay itself. While this has the advantage of making all the stances still useful, even when you opt to specialise your talents to concentrate mainly on one particular attribute, it also makes that specialisation feel somewhat pointless. However, in stark contrast to the almost ineffectual combat upgrades the non-combat talents do add the most variety to the proceedings affecting everything from conversation options and crafting right across the board up to and including salvaging options and lockpicking. Though sadly, again, players are limited to just three linear levels for the 6 skills on offer. Attributes are the worst aspect of character enhancement, with each of the 4 attributes having 5 levels, and each of those doing exactly the same thing as the previous level, so much so, in fact, that the developer has not even bothered to alter the description between levels.So it goes that if you were to invest everything in agility, you would only get a 5% physical crit chance, 10% spell crit chance, 5% status effect chance. Considering the amount of grinding that must be done to get the opportunity to upgrade your character the system comes across as more than a little underwhelming when you consider that as reward what are treated to is hardly of breathtaking benefit for 15 levels of investment.
The game takes the sledgehammer approach to storytelling, even more so than the latest Bioware titles have, and as a result I suspect what nuance there was has been largely lost in translation. Your character is a typical blank slate, with very little to like or dislike about them, and therefore you feel no real emotional attachment nor any kind of ‘loyalty‘ to this avatar you are asked to spend so much time caring about. It seems very much like they were trying to tick all the boxes without thoroughly fleshing most of them out. Character Customisation, skill trees, harvesting, crafting, morality system, reputation system, lockpicking, conversation trees, party members, loot, magic system, ranged weapon, and stealth; it’s all there, but most of it is underdeveloped and utterly underwhelming.
All in all, I have to say that The Technomancer is a very average RPG in a world where we don’t really get average RPGs anymore. It’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that as a budget game Technomancer feels a little ‘pricey‘ for what is delivered. An ambitious attempt to recapture the magic of older Bioware RPGs on a fraction of the budget, but one that I don’t think I can honestly recommend anyone picking up at with the AAA big budget £34.99 (£29.74 release week discount) price tag. When the price falls to half that, and you’re feeling the itch for some old school Bioware RPGs with an unfair combat system, then it might very well be worth a pickup.
FORMAT: PlayStation 4
PUBLISHER: Focus Home Interactive
Pricing at Launch: £34.99 Steam