I had mixed reactions when it came to Spiders last action RPG, Bound by Flames. I felt that it had a lot going for it but ultimately fumbled the ball at the 70-yard line. So when it was announced that they were working on yet another action RPG called, The Technomancer, I was a bit skeptic. Then I found out that The Technomancer is actually part of a series from Spiders, called the Mars: War Logs.
I also happened to enjoy Mars: War Log, so here I go, taking a trip back to Mars.
Game Name: The Technomancer
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed)
Publisher(s): Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Time to Complete: 30-35 hours
Reviewed On: PC running Windows 10, GTX 980 Ti, Intel 5820k.
What exactly is a Technomancer?
As a Technomancer, you are considered to be the best of the very best. Although the source of your technomancy is a mystery to many, ever since the Technomancers arrived on the scene, they have been put on the front line of the wars on Mars. Many battles are won and many victories have been celebrated thanks to them. Who are they, exactly? Other than having access to a great power, not much is known about them. Some love them and worship them, others despise the Technomancers and wishes they didn’t exist. Once you become a Technomancer, your life no longer is your own and you belong to the corporation you server. However, there’s much more than meets the eye to being a Technomancer, as you’ll find out during your gameplay.
When The Technomancer first starts off, you’re greeted to several minutes of dialogue that explain the current status of Mars and how the war is affecting the citizens, the corporations and finally, who and what you are. Once this brief history lesson is over, you’re dumped into the character customization screen. Here you’re able to select several features such as your face, skin tone, hair, hair color and eye color. You’re also able to rotate the character you’re working on so you can see the front, back, and sides, it’s handled very well I have to add. The customization isn’t as deep as other games in the genre but it is fun to mess around with and I believe I’ve sat around for at least 10 minutes as I tried to narrow down what I wanted my character to look at. After you’ve created your masterpiece, you’re free to allocate some points into your skill trees and talent trees. When you’re finished, you’re given control of your character and are sent off to start some training and beginning your first steps into becoming a full-fledged Technomancer.
I’m going to get this out of the way, as I know there is definitely going to be some backlash about this. You are not able to create a female Technomancer, at all. There is no option, at least not in the build I’m playing and it’s pretty much final build. I’m sure that someone, somewhere is going to voice their opinion about this not being an option, just wait and see. Is it an issue, I can say that it is. But it isn’t something to cause people to get up in arms. I would rather have people play the game for what it is worth instead of using it to push an agenda, which is going to happen here. In fact, I’ve seen several forums talking about the lack of a female character and the comments and discussions haven’t been kind. All I can say is play the game for what it is and to Spiders, I really hope you’re prepared for the backlash that is coming your way.
It’s all about the combat
Combat inThe Technomancer is conducted in real time and very similar to that of Mass Effect and The Witcher. You’ll have access to several different fighting stances; Gun and Knife (Rogue) which is useful for fast strikes, Shield and Mace (Guardian) which is useful for tanking damage and a staff (Warrior) which gives you more range between you and whoever you’re attacking. However, just because you specced into one type of class doesn’t mean you can’t use the other fighting stances. You’re able to switch to any style you want, depending on the situation or mood you’re in, you can swap in and out with a press of a button. This made for some really interesting moments while I was in combat and it was refreshing to see how seamless this was. You also have a dodge that allows you to weave in close or away from danger.
How the dodge works will also depend on what stance you’re in. The guardian stance, for example, will have you lunging back slowly, wherein the warrior stance you would be dodging much faster as well as covering more distance. I noticed this early on when I was trying to stay alive and saw that my character reacted differently when I switched in and out of stances. It’s nice to see that the stances also affect your dodging mobility. Don’t just think that the dodging mechanic was something that was tossed in as you’ll need to take full advantage of it, that is if you want to survive. You will not able to just waltz up to an enemy and not expect them to get upset at you invading their personal space. Learn to dodge and often! If won’t listen to me, then maybe you’ll listen to Team Four Star.
You also pick up companions throughout the game, some will like you, others will not care so much about you, but that’s life. You’ll be able to converse with them regarding various things, some will give you welcomed information, while others may just waste your time. I found that I really didn’t need to speak with them that much, but the immersion is there. And as with any RPG, your companions are at your beck and call; they’ll follow your directions when in combat and you’re able to upgrade their gear and their characteristics. Be mindful of them during combat, as they start off with their set roles and will attack anything in sight and usually die. Give them commands as much as possible in order to make it out of those fights alive. Or, you could just make them die for your glory, totally your call. They also can get in your way during combat and since there is collision detection in the game, they can also be a hindrance as they can trap you and leave you at the mercy of whoever is attacking you.
As the name of the game suggests, you’re also able to use what are called Technomancer skills, which can be used to buff your weapons as well as used for attacking and defensive purposes. Keep in mind that your technomancy skills can be used in any stance and at any time, assuming you have the fluid needed to use them. When you are in combat, you have total control over your character and can rotate the field of view as well as go wherever you place. You’re not held in place and can use this freedom for setting up different methods of attack. You can set traps and then distract enemies, get them to follow you and lead them into that trap or you can fight them straight up.
Technomancer also includes a karma based system, meaning the actions you make in the game will affect your outcome. This comes into play early only when you’re told to only disarm a pair of looters in your first instance. If you knock them out without killing them, you’re golden. However, if you happen to knock them out and then decide to siphon them to get serum, which is useful for creating various potions and also services as the in-game currency, you kill them and get dinged in the karma department. This puts you in a dilemma; should you take the drop in karma in order to better your character or hope that you can make up the serum or find some later on. This comes into play more and more throughout the game as well. And seeing how the game has a total of 5 different endings, how you handle yourself in the game will also affect your ending. So the decision to be the ultimate boy scout or a bastard who only cares about himself is completely up to you. Frist time around I did a mixture of good and bad, but I do plan on going back through the game as I want to see what the main differences are between being completely good or bad.
As you start to progress and gain more levels, you’re also able to customize your character further and allocate points earned into three trees; Skills, Talents, and Attributes. The skills tree covers the three fighting stances and your technomancy, allowing you to pick and choose what active and passive abilities you want. This helps flesh out the character as well as giving you access to certain armors and weapons, so you have to choose wisely. The talent tree is broken down into six passive characteristics; Charisma, Science, Crafting, Stealth, Exploration and Lock Picking. Every talent has an added bonus, and while you can eventually spec into them all, it will depend on what talents you take early in the game. An example of that would be the Science talent will provide you and your companions with life generation for every how long you are out of combat, where the crafting talent lets you recycle (break down) items without the need of a workbench. Finally, once you set and confirm your points, that’s it, there’s no way to respec so make it count.
Crafting also plays a big part in the game as it provides certain boosts to armor, gear, as well as letting you create new items. You can take an existing weapon or piece of armor and give it a damage boost, critical strike boost or several others. You can also build new items to help aid you along in your quest or even break those items down if you don’t need them anymore. And while it may not seem like crafting is worth it early on, as you progress you’re going to want to keep on top of it. You’ll also be able to find or purchase upgrade plans to make even better gear, so keep an eye other for those plans.
The options menu interface is a bit troubling. Not because of its presentation, no that’s fine. However, when you make a change from key bindings, video options or what have you, the only way to save them is to select save and quit. Now, I don’t know about you, but when a game tells me to save and quit, it means that I”m going to stop playing. When in reality this merely means that you want to save your changes. The developer (Spider) needs to address that and change it to save changes or something that doesn’t make the player feel like their game is going to be closed if they select that. I also felt that the map needed some much-needed utility. Sure, it provides things such as quests objectives are located, stores and other bits of info. However, that’s it. If you need to get to, say the local trader, you have to continually open the map to make sure you didn’t miss it as there’s no option to highlight that person. Having the ability to mark where you need to go would be ever so helpful. It doesn’t make the game unplayable, obviously, but it’s something I felt should have been added to the game. Thankfully you are able to open up an overlay while moving so that you’re able to find your destinations a little better than relying on the mini-map alone.
Looting is also a pain when you have to loot multiple bodies as there is no way to do a mass looting. You have to walk over to each corpse and loot them one by one. This annoying on so many levels and I felt it was unacceptable, especially for a game that’s coming out now and when so many other games are employing this. I’d love to see this patched in as well, but until then you really don’t have any choice in the matter.
To be honest, the storytelling narrative got to be a bit slow and boring the more I played. Most of the quests involved my character being given a mission that required me killing someone, finding something or both. The pacing was also a bit slow, however, once you’re committed to a fight, things get to be a bit more interesting. However it’s short lived and once the fight is over, you’re back to doing whatever mission you were handed. Thankfully Spiders has tossed in special types of missions which consist of you getting a mission done before the time limit expires or others that can only be done during a certain time during the day. Keep in mind that missions that do have time limits will have repercussions should you fail to complete them on time. No, I won’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen, you’ll have to find out on your own.
How’s the PC version handle?
On the PC front, The Technomancer, has a healthy amount of PC options; Resolution support for up to 3440×1440, Ultra-widescreen support (21:9), SSAA, Shadow level slider, SSAO, Anti-aliasing, Texture settings, FOV, Particle effects level and a few others. Definitely nice to see that Spiders didn’t skip out on that part. You’re also able to customize your keyboard/mouse or controller binds. Speaking of using a controller, I was able to use both an Xbox 360 and Xbox One controller with no issues. I did encounter an issue that did not allow me to bind my functions to my side buttons on my mouse.
Apparently, only the middle, left and right mouse buttons are bindable currently, but I have sent a reply over to Spiders regarding that. Hopefully, that will be corrected in an upcoming patch.
Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. When Spiders stated they were only developing Technomancer and wanted to take advantage of the new systems PS4/Xbox One as well as porting it to the PC, I expected better. While the game does look solid, it’s mostly boring and made up of dark colors. This also includes the textures, which at times look like they were ripped from a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 game. I get that the game takes place on Mars and they wanted to paint the whole “Gloom and Doom” atmosphere, but that isn’t an excuse for how boring the game looks at times. The character models, on the other hand, look decent, if not a bit stiff during certain animations such as combat. There are also subtle hints in the game that help you in certain situations. For example, when firing a gun you don’t have any idea on how many shots you have, instead, your gun will start to glow red until it’s bright red. Once that happens you’ll have to wait for it to cool down, which applies to both you and anyone or anything you go up against. The lighting in the game is also impressive. From weapons glow that gives off a subtle light that lightens up the area, you’re standing from the crackling blast of a Technomancer ability as it flies towards an enemy. Shadows that are cast off the characters are also differential, depending on how close or far you are away from a light source. Seeing how I played Technomancer on the PC, every object, regardless if it was an NPC, my character or a light post, everything gave off a shadow.
During the review process, I was able to play the game with maxed settings and was able to maintain a solid 60 frames per second at 1080p. However, when I started pushing up to 2560×1440, I was noticing a 5-10 framerate drop throughout the game and 10-15 during combat. Once I dropped the settings down a bit I was able to get back up to 60 frames per second, but with the machine, I was running it on I shouldn’t have had to do that. I feel that this is more along the lines with optimization and/or a driver issue. Since I am running a Nvidia 980 Ti video card, I’m expecting a new driver release on or shortly after the release of the game that should help with the frame rate drops.
The audio production is outstanding. I’m a sucker for voice acted dialogue and I’m happy to see that all conversations with your character are all voiced. But that’s not the only conversations that are voiced, as you’ll encounter NPC’s throughout the game who are also conducting voice conversation, either to another NPC or multiple. The sound effects vary depending on if you’re in combat or just walking around the landscapes, some were really noticeable such as footsteps while others were muffled. The in-game music will definitely remind you that you’re in the midst of a sci-fi/cyberpunk adventure. Nothing that really stands out but does feel like it belongs in the game.
Sadly there were a bunch of issues that I encountered during my gameplay such as the game freezing up at random sections. At one point I was successfully able to recreate the reason why it froze, which was when I gained a level and I attempted to place a point into my talent tree. I also noticed some artifacting happening during my review. Originally I thought it might have been due to me running an overclocked video card, however, I still noticed this when I removed the overclock or when I played Technomancer on another PC. The only way to get around this was to reboot the machine I was playing on, only for it to crop up again later on. I was hoping that this was just due to me having review code, yet this issue still remains in place on the night prior to release. This forced me to not play the way I wanted to unless I wanted to attempt to allocate those points into the talents that forced the game to hang. I’ve reached out to Spiders about this and here’s to hoping this gets fixed sooner than later.
*A copy of Technomancer was provided by the publisher for review
The Technomancer is a solid game, and it’s apparent that Spiders learned a thing or two since their release of Bound by Flames. While a bit slow to unfold, the story is solid, there’s plenty of quests to take on, the combat feels rewarding. the crafting and skill trees help flesh out your character. This also ensures that no two playthroughs are the same unless you’re determined to keep creating the same character. That said, once you play through the game once and reached an ending unless you’re determined to see the other endings, there’s little to keep playing the game. Many of the quests I did were boring to the point where I started ignoring many of them, and at times I started no care at all for the story and just wanted to make it to the next chapter of the game. Combined with the numerous issues I’ve encountered on the PC version, they almost forced me to stop playing Technomancer.
Still, if you’re a fan of other action RPG’s such as The Witcher or even Dark Souls, then Techomancer may be just the game for you. Despite some rough edges, Technomancer does more good than harm, it just suffers from doing too much during certain elements and not enough with others. Despite that, the journey is very enjoyable and that’s all that matters in the end.
- All interactives between NPCs are voice acted
- The Crafting and Talent trees are deep and help flesh out your character
- Karma system
- Seamless switching between stances during combat
- Pacing is a bit slow at times
- Mapping system could be better
- Too many bugs in the finished build
- The AI companions constantly get in the way during combat