The Technomancer is a midgling game. It tries to chew much more than it can chew, and while it’s certainly ambitious, it’s a jack of all trades that’s more whacked in all of them than anything else. As a side title of sorts to Mars: War Logs, developer Spider’s newest title takes place in a distant future where humanity has finally conquered the red planet. In fact, so much so that it’s now as terrible of a place as Earth. Conflict over water resources generated war, which resulted in big conglomerates taking over settlements all over the planet.
Your character lies with the technomancers, a select group of elite warriors blessed with the powers of electricity who happens to lend their skills to the big wigs in charge one of the biggest cities in Mars, Ophir. Early on in the game, you learn that your powers come from the fact that technomancers are mutants. Given that that tidbit of information might not exactly sit well in a society that shuns anything other than being a perfectly average human being, it’s a vowed secret among the sect. With it in tow, after a quick introductory series of tutorials, you embark on a journey to… erm, do something or the other.
The thing is that none of the fiction in this game is interesting enough to follow, nor does it go to any particularly different ways. You’re obviously put against the powers in charge to fight the good fight, or, if you balance the incredibly derivative morality pendulum the other way, you can do everything in your power to benefit yourself in the chaos, but still end up taking the same path. Your choices merely exist for the sake of existing. They don’t really matter overall. That causes the game to boils down to an extremely tiring experience of running back and forth through the same handful of areas, fighting the same groups of enemies and talking to a few NPCs over and over again.
On the way, you’ll deal with other weak implementations of elements from other more successful RPGs. Stuff like a relationship system with your poorly animated doll face teammates who are really bland (like a mutant with a heart of gold, a downtrodden warrior, a drunk doctor, to name a few) and the side missions in order to to build up relationship or faction trust that yield little to no tangible or plot rewards. That’s not to mention a skill tree system that is most useful in helping you negate combat rather than making it more fun.
In fact, it’s in your best interest to avoid as much of the combat as you can. It’s by far the worst part of The Technomancer. Unfortunately, it’s also the thing you’ll be doing the most of in this game. On a surface level, it’s quite akin to The Witcher. Groups of enemies usually overwhelm your party, but differently from Geralt’s adventures — where he’s mobile, responsive and has plenty of options at his disposal — you’re unluckily given the most sluggish of controls, which blend terribly with positively awful hit detection for enemies that have no qualms about kicking your teeth in. These turn even the simplest encounters into quickload/quicksave disasters during a large portion of the game, bogging things down even more, as you trek across the same spaces, fighting the same encounters repeatedly as you complete busy work for quests.
Stealth is another part where The Technomancer falls flat. You’re free to try playing the game stealthily from the outset, but unless that skill is fully upgraded, you’ll only be sneaking behind characters and hitting them over the head only for them not to be taken out. It’s mind-boggling how this option is in the game if it’s not viable at all, but hey, that’s another check-box in the list of things The Technomancer barely has to offer. It’s also worth mentioning that no matter how many people you punch out, electrocute, ventilate with bullets or cut your way across, they’ll always be knocked out after a fight. If you choose to do so, you can put them out of their misery and suck money out of them, which somewhat causes them to die, earning you some evil points and the disapproval of your friends along the way. Monsters, though, aren’t so lucky. They’re dead dead when you defeat them. You can harvest them for crafting parts, though, which can only be used to upgrade armor and weapons.
Even if you get the further in the character skill trees, you’ll come to the realization that trying to mix things up is a fool’s errand, because the three of them don’t vary the gameplay at all. The Guardian tree was my choice, the one that gives a shield and an axe, as well as the ability to parry attacks. Sure, the other trees like the bo wielding Warrior and gun totting Rogue sounded more mobile, but by the time I had a surplus of points to spend on them after maxing out Guardian, it didn’t even matter. Combat boiled down to letting my party draw the attention of enemies long enough for me to barrel my way through them. There’s fourth option that’s sort of base skill tree that unlocks new technomancer skills that play with the other three specs, like the ability to imbue electricity to weapons and powering up a force field around your character. These powers operate via a very short recharge bar powered by The Technomancer‘s version of mana called fluid.
Fluid. It’s too bad that nothing in the game is really that. Even though the world itself is considerably well-realized at first, after only a few hours running back and forth in a couple of different urban spaces, the story pushes you off to a drab desert, as you make a daring escape from the city. Funnily enough, the game throws any sort of tension out the window only a few moments later, when it tasks you to pop back into the same city for the follow up missions. There’s little to no cohesion to your actions. At a particular spot in the game, my team members finally acknowledged the fact that we were making the trip back, only we’d already done that multiple times at that point.
It’s quite annoying to play a game like The Technomancer where the quests and missions have little to no regard to the time you spend playing. After ten hours of the same tired back and forth, I felt like I made no progress whatsoever. Worse, at that point, the quest progression broke on me: NPCs were out of dialog options and I had no map markers to go out to. Even though the quest text was telling me otherwise, I couldn’t travel to the area for the follow up. I even tried looking up if I had missed anything along the way, but that wasn’t the case. And honestly, I was totally okay with calling it quits.
For as much promise as The Technomancer‘s premise holds, little of it is met with actual quality. It’s a game that borrows from many and is quite full content-wise, but none of it never really pays off. Quests and missions boil down to busy work that’s only there to bog down any attempt at actual pacing, and only serve to mask an otherwise boring and unrewarding experience. Even as a simple distraction in order to enact a power fantasy, there are better options out there.