It’s alright to acknowledge your influences on a project, sometimes. Games will occasionally use it as shorthand so you know what to expect. With The Technomancer, it wears its influences firmly on its sleeves, but feels like a hollow rendition of those better games. With a very focused story that doesn’t go off the rails, The Technomancer has the promise of a good game, but under-cooked far too many ingredients.
Very little in The Technomancer is interesting. Most of it fails to even interest its own characters. Taking place entirely on Mars, the game fails to have much to enjoy in terms of its narrative. Players take control of Zachariah Mancer after a very limited and brief character creation. You then set out to become an official Technomancer through an initiation mission. In comes one of the only interesting plot points, and one that gets buried throughout the majority of the game. I won’t spoil the specifics, but it helps flesh out a world governed by oppression and tyranny.
A B-movie version of Mass Effect is what I would call The Technomancer. When I talk about it acknowledging its influences, it isn’t a shock that Spiders borrows many concepts from the popular science fiction franchise. It even closely compares to their previous game, Bound by Flame, in terms of its mechanics. But plot-wise, this is a much more personal story and one that moves at a fairly brisk pace. Where Mass Effect wants to be a space opera, The Technomancer wants to be a space thriller. Complete with intrigue and conspiracies, very little of the game deals with larger arcs than the current mission at hand. This is an interesting way to take a game set on Mars, but Spiders is missing a lot of what would make that work.
For starters, Zachariah is uninteresting. He’s a blank slate that players can make decisions for, but he lacks any history or defining traits other than that he is a Technomancer. Even with Mass Effect, you at least chose your background. The voice acting alone feels detached from everything going on around the character, making for an awkward exchange between most characters. This goes for some companions as well. Characters who have interesting histories like Phobos or Niesha, lack interested voice actors. This created a dichotomy of me wanting to get invested in characters and the game’s lore, but finding every way it was presented to be deprived of emotion.
Enough about the story, though. For a fifteen hour game (longer if you do all the side quests), it has enough to at least keep things moving and pushing players into combat. On its surface, The Technomancer seems like an interesting game to actually play. There are three different types of fighting styles – Rogue, Warrior and Guardian – each handling fairly differently. As a Guardian, you are more agile but cannot do much in terms of long-range combat, plus you’re defenseless with the exception of a dodge. Then there’s the Rogue, who has a gun that provides long-range damage. The warrior gets a shield to add defense. You can switch between these styles at any point, but really, I only ever found myself gravitating towards the Guardian class.
The main reason for this is that my play style tends to be more aggressive but with as much agility as possible. The interesting twist on The Technomancer is that as a Technomancer you get the ability to harness electricity. That twist is fairly squandered though as it just means your weapon can be electrified, doing more damage, and if you want you can shoot some electricity at enemies. It’s the most basic modifier you can have, and offers very little in terms of complexity. I would still fight like I normally would, but occasionally I’d hit someone from afar because I’m low on health.
There is something to be said about the game’s combat. It feels like the game is always trying to keep you on your toes in combat scenarios. Those situations arise far too frequently and it’s disappointing because the game never really forces you to play differently from one scenario to the next. I would just hit the enemy a couple times, then either dodge or disrupt him so I can get some more hits in, then occasionally I’d have to shoot some lightning. There is an element of strategy in who you decide to fight first as there tends to always be someone with a gun shooting at you from afar, or a brute-like character that can’t be disrupted as easily and has tons of health. I would often just take out the gunmen first, then the smaller characters, then focus on the brute. You really don’t run into much diversity in terms of enemies or how they behave.
For a game set on a planet that is seemingly rampant with mutants, you’d expect a bit more diversity in terms of the enemy types. What was surprising was how often combat scenarios would begin, but how few enemy types there were. The Technomancer is all about lore and the world of Mars, but it doesn’t seem to have much to explore. Even in the handful of areas that the game takes you to (it really is a small amount, especially when you look at all the blank space on the map), there is a problem with environments feeling far too similar (a problem with Mars being the setting) and encounters just happening at predictable moments in each area.
At the same time, The Technomancer is kind of endearing. Its flaws are prevalent and abundant but that didn’t stop me from wanting to like it. It just felt like every time I got closer to liking the game, it pushed away. Even in its crafting, which is one of its hooks, the game manages to turn it simply into a matter of raising a number higher with seemingly little impact on the outcome of combat. If I ran into an encounter that had me using a few Technomancer abilities, the game would sometimes drop in framerate considerably, or even just when the game first loads up.
These problems compound to make a frustrating experience that feels so close to being decent, but just can’t seem to ever hit the mark. Its use of a more personal story is interesting, but is nullified by a lack of character building to have smaller moments mean something. Hindered by disconnected voice acting and terribly boring gameplay, there is little enjoyment to be found in The Technomancer.
A PS4 review code for The Technomancer was provided by Focus Home Interactive for the purpose of this review
- Smaller, more isolated story is refreshing for its genre
- Interesting plot points are sprinkled throughout
- Even the voice actors don't seem to care about the characters
- Combat is seemingly deep at first glance, but actually really shallow
- Performance issues
- Lack of variety in all aspects of the game
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