Solid Action-RPG Thrills With A Story To Tell – The Technomancer Review (PC)
* Review based on the PC version of the game*
The modern video game market has shifted greatly in the last decade or so. Triple A games and indie titles share the same space, often leading some to believe that they are the only option. Found slotting in the middle of the two giants is the middle market. The gap between big budget and small scale games, a market left somewhat unappreciated.
Publisher Focus Interactive has established themselves firmly as the modern leaders of the middle market. Pumping out games such as Styx, Sherlock Holmes and a healthy line of Warhammer games, they’ve garnered quite a reputation for themselves. French developer Spiders have been at the heart of Focus Interactive’s dominance.
The Technomancer is their latest release, as well as acting as a spin off/semi-sequel to 2013′s cult hit Mars War Logs. Players are cast in the role of Zachariah Mancer, a newly graduated cadet of the Technomaners. Confined to the expectations and traditions of his order, Zachariah’s role is to enforce the laws among the civilians of the corporate colony. In typical style, everything is not as it seems. Questions over loyalties arise, furled by hidden secrets and agendas. Zachariah is soon thrust into a world of hidden agendas and secrets.
At the core of the game are the expected options. Players can customise Zachariah to a certain degree, mostly trapped within heroic looking face presets and haircuts. There’s numerous elements that dictate how Zachariah plays. Instead of requiring total dedication to a single class, players can choose to specialise in one of three stances. Guardian acts as the standard tank role, absorbing damage and wield a mace and shield. Warriors can perform heavy hitting melee damage thanks to their staves. The Rogue combines quick melee strikes, firearms and traps.
The Technomancer skill tree offers the most interesting abilities. Relying on the management of the required resource (known as fluid), it offers a much more methodical method of play. Each ability in the tree can be used in any of the stances, allowing players to pick and choose as they wish.
Passive trees prop up the role playing elements, affecting the games subtle mechanics. If a player wishes to do so, Zachariah can become a charismatic enigma, allowing him to talk his way out of trouble. There’s the option to improve science and crafting trees, both of which offer dialogue options that can affect an encounter. More devious skills exist to give the player more freedom in how they wish to complete a quest.
One strange design option comes in the shape of how stats are handled. Every few levels or so, players can boost a single stat point, which determines what type of gear can be equipped. Agility, strength, power and constitution form the spine of each class. Rogues benefit from points invested into Agility, Warriors thrive on strength and Tenchomancers depends on power. Each stat becomes a requirement for their classes respective gear, removing some of the freedom promoted by the game’s other mechanics.
Further RPG elements come in the form of items and crafting. Each weapon and piece of armour found in the game offers various stats, with some being upgradable. Various bits of scrap can be looted and turned into materials for upgrades. They mostly offer protection from types of attack damage or improved damage, some provide minor stat boosts. It also helps that upgrades appear on the respective item, showing a visual form of progression.
In the flow of the game, each class works nicely. There’s no one build that’s better than the other. Experimenting with stances and powers provides a nice amount of options to explore, keeping the game fresh. Each combat encounter does toe the line between satisfying and frustrating, mainly depending on the amount of enemies involved.
Combat is fast, requiring the player to stay alert. When engaging multiple enemies, especially groups including ranged, things get a bit messy. Each stance offers two forms of attack, one evasive roll and any two skills the player wishes to use. Large enemy parties often force the player to spam their evasive option over and over. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it does become an annoyance.
The Technomancer’s main story comes with various twists and turns, often giving the player dialogue options and choices. Each decision can affect various elements of the core plot. Zachariah is not alone in his endeavours. Throughout his journey he’ll encounter new characters who can join him. Every character has a story, traits and their own point of view on Zachariah’s actions.
They’ll react to Zachariah’s choices depending on their personality. If a party member witnesses repeated acts they do not agree with, there’s a chance they’ll leave the party. Earning the trust of characters unlocks passive abilities, aiding the entire party. Party members can be ordered to fight in certain ways (support, melee, ranged). They can also use any weapons or armour looted during the game. Stats can not be changed however, which, may frustrate some more hardcore RPG fans.
General quest structure adheres to the modern Western RPG format. Go to a certain area, kill some enemies and engage with a NPC. A large number are dependent taking out some kind of rebel or officer, but it doesn’t always mean violence Is the answer. Stats such as science, craft and charisma can open up dialogue options for less bloody resolutions.
Main story missions are genuinely interesting, mainly thanks to some great world building. Mars feels like it has a personality. Each area is in unique, conveying various tones and themes. Factions, races and enforcement groups meld together to create an interesting universe. Discrimination, civil unrest and growing tensions simmer throughout, compelling the player to invest.
Presentation and audio can be a little and miss. Voice acting tends to feel wooden in places, cancelling out the attempts at drama. There’s a mix of nice imagery and architecture among some bland looking locations. For the most part, everything sounds and looks adequate, performing at 60 frames per second.
Rocks sometimes cause the player to get stuck or confuse NPCs. Enemies are scripted to the point you can reset them by running to certain points. There’s the odd bug here and there, but nothing game breaking. Just minor annoyances that require a quick load back in. One key thing to highlight is the requirement for a controller. The Technomaner does not play well with a keyboard and mouse what so ever. A game pad is not just a preference, but essentially a requirement.
The Technomancer isn’t the next big thing or a must play, but it provides a solid experience Its mechanics work well, allowing players to enjoy the game’s offerings. Spiders have created a solid action RPG with a oddly engaging story. Zachariah’s tale may not be anything mind blowing or dramatic, but it does provide a nice slice of science fiction joy.
Solid, enjoyable and endearing. The Technomancer is a good option during a relatively quiet period for video games.
Live gameplay can be seen on 28/06/2016 at 18:00 GMT during our Technomancer stream