Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Technomancer

There's something about the moral quandary between the blending of man and machine to create superior beings. The why, the pros and cons, and the line in which men and women lose their humanity. The Technomancer wants to answer those questions, and despite it being dark, gritty, and sometimes stunning, the result is held back by dull dialogue and an infuriating combat system.

Developed by Spiders and out now on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, The Technomancer is actually a sequel to the developer's previous title, Mars: War Logs. You really don't need to play Mars: War Logs to understand what's going on as it simply takes place in the same universe but doesn't follow the same narrative. Honestly though, the world itself is quite fascinating, inflicting a violent and helpless dystopia where the benefits are only seen by few while the rest suffer. Unfortunately, the world-building and sense of place is marred by stilted dialogue that diminishes any impact in both the plot and interactions between characters.

There's a lot to nit-pick about The Technomancer. You can see their influences from much bigger titles like Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher but the obvious smaller budget mean there is something that lacks or just isn't good enough in every facet of the game. The visuals however surprisingly hold up well against its contemporaries. As each area is semi open-world, there are some stunning vistas to take in, especially considering most of the populace are forced underground due to toxic weather. You will enter massive caverns with structures sprawling in every direction. Getting to a good vantage point truly shows that this game has some visual chops.

Everything else though has its flaws, the biggest of which is the combat itself. While the game's intention is to be fast, fluid, and challenging, the truth of it all is that its much more along the lines of, cheap, sluggish, and frustrating. When in combat scenarios, should you face an enemy 1v1, it can be feel a bit thoughtful and responsive. However, rarely are you left in a situation like this and instead you're surrounded by a few enemies. The problem is that nothing feels as responsive when there are multiple enemies to contend with. No matter how far you get into the game, a couple of hits will take you down and when you can be cornered by a few enemies and spam-attacked, it's controller-throwing, popping a vein in your neck kind of frustrating. I have been killed by an easy enemy, one that I could take down in a couple of hits simply because it held me against a wall and spammed the same attacker over and over again, while I could not move or dodge out of the way.

The story as well holds the promising world back with dialogue that isn't delivered well at all as well as the writing itself being poorly written in places that will diminish any impact on major moments in the story. There are a number of bugs too that hamper the overall experience.

Despite its list of problems, there's still a light shining through the cracks, one that feels rewarding, offers freedom, and variety rarely seen in Role Playing Games anymore. There's an extensive skill upgrade system, and a surprisingly deep and enjoyable combat system that offers some enjoyment, when not being spam-attacked.

Still, the game aimed for the sun but did so with wax-filled mechanics and it all pretty quickly falls apart from the moment you start the game. Should the team have honed in on just some of the features, realised what actually was possible with their time and budget. and polished those parts, I would be telling you that The Technomancer is one of the best low-budget RPGs out there; Instead, I'm telling you it's OK and nothing more.

On a different planet to the best. 2/5.


Jason Redmond

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