June 30th, 2016 at 2:49 pm
AUTHOR: Killian O'Boyle
|Tagged With: pc, playstation 4, Recommended, review, technomancer, xbox one|
With it’s sprawling cities and variety of combat options, The Technomancer makes a good first impression. But as you dig deeper into the post-apocalyptic world that French developer Spiders has created, the more it starts to unravel at the seams.
The Technomancer is set on a futuristic war-torn mars as corporations fight for control over water. You play as Zachariah Mancer, the latest officer in the Technomancers; a secretive group of humans with electric powers that serve as the armies greatest asset. After being entrusted with the secret of the Technomancers, Zachariah becomes involved in a power struggle between several corporations and must seek out refuge while avoiding the secret police who are attempting to learn the Technomancers secrets.
Despite the Technomancer taking place in a universe that is different to most, the main narrative that ties everything together feels more like a vehicle for side quests rather than anything engaging. When focus is shifted to elements that are unique to the Technomancers world like the mutants that have been transformed by the sun or the technomancers themselves it can be genuinely interesting, but these are only a handful of quests in which the majority feel so by-the-numbers that you can predict the plot points as they happen. Furthermore, the Technomancer delegates a majority of it’s lore to asking main characters what they think of certain factions or locals. Having to ask every NPC what they think of things in order to paint a better picture of the world can become tedious quickly, especially due to the stiff-looking character animations. It makes you wish that lore could have been explained through the story itself rather than heavy exposition dumps.
As you progress through the game you’ll come across three large sprawling hub-worlds and several smaller more linear levels in which you can complete quests and side quests in. These hub-worlds feel impressive, with each one having its own distinct vibe and views to marvel at. Even though every hub-world can have some confusing twists and turns, holding the R2 button can superimpose the map onto the screen allowing for easy naviagtion. However, as there are only 3 main hub-worlds, you end up spending a large amount of time in each of them which can cause that initial awe to fade over time. By the end of each hub-world I found myself holding down R2 to get to my destination quicker more than I was taking in the scenery around me. Quest objectives can jump from one hub-world to another, but the amount of travelling required between them can take so long that you’re better off sticking to completing quests in your immediate area. Quests also sometimes require that you wait a number of in-game hours, which means you need to travel to a bed, sleep and then travel back to the quest location. All of these issues can break up the pacing of quests and make them feel like you’re just checking off tasks on a to-do list.
Combat revolves around three different styles of fighting: Warrior, Rogue and Guardian. Warrior style focuses on staff attacks that can knock over opponents or target large groups of enemies, Rogue style focuses on poisoning opponents or attacking enemies from afar with a pistol while Guardian style focuses on deflecting hits with a shield and parrying. Technomancer abilities are available regardless of which style you’re fighting with and these allow you to cast offensive electrical spells. Each style plays differently from one another and styles can be even more finely tuned with skill points that you earn every new level. Skill points are used to power up specific attacks within the different styles adding new abilities or additional benefits. Occasionally you’ll have to choose between 1 of 2 perks when upgrading an attack, meaning there’s a variety of different options in how you want to approach combat even within a single style.
You have the option to switch between what style of combat you use at anytime, but since each style uses different equipment and skill points are sparse, it seems intended that a player should only focus on 1 or 2 different styles. Combat can start off slow during the beginning of the game, but as you unlock more varied abilities and new enemy types are introduced it becomes less about rapidly tapping the attack/dodge button and more about taking down enemies strategically. The main issue with combat is that switching between locked on enemies is tied to a flick of the right analog stick, but as this is used for the camera as well, hectic battles can result in the camera being pushed into awkward or unhelpful positions. While the beginning and ending hours of the Technomancer can be challenging, combat begins to drag in the middle as you start to level up at a faster pace and can dispatch most enemies with ease.
Attribute and Talent points are also awarded every 3 and 5 levels respectively which can further alter your character. Attribute points focus on general buffs like health of damage dealt by your character while Talent points unlocks new abilities like crafting, lockpicking or persuasion options. As crafting involves using materials that are obtained through lockpicking it can take awhile before you’re able to buff your weapons or armor with anything substantial. It’s an oddly slow system compared to skill points that are avaliable every level and do significantly better buffs to your character. Speech check options are also split amongst three different talents trees, but 2 out of the 3 speech check options rarely come up at all. You also have the ability to upgrade your stealth attack through the talents tree, but due to the open world nature of the hub worlds, you’re likely to just run into a group of enemies on the streets and initiate combat without getting the chance to attempt a stealth attack at all.
Companions play a large role in the Technomancer and are actually one of the games highlights. As you progress through the game you’ll encounter 7 different companions, each with their own personality, fighting style and buffs to your character. Combat-wise they’re incredibly useful for drawing enemies off you or even taking down enemies themselves if you’ve equipped them with more than their default gear. But even though companions are useful in a fight, their real strength lies in the stories that unfold with them. You can have a max of 2 companions in your party, and as you walk around and complete quests, whoever is in your party will occasionally comment on the situation at hand or even strike up a conversation with your other party member. These small little conversations add depth to their characters and make them more than just an advantage in combat. Even the side quests that each companion gives you are some of the only emotionally poignant moments found within the Technomancer.
You’ll need to make a variety of decisions throughout the Technomancer that will influence how certain factions and companions view you. Unfortunately this choice system can feel like developer spiders was biting off more than they can chew due to the large number of inconsistencies that pop up during play. One of my companions left my team and refused to work with me after I made a decision that went against him, but in the next cutscene he was aboard my veichle and talking to me like nothing had happened. Similarly I had one companion tell another that they would shoot them next time their paths crossed, but the next cutscene rolls around and they’re joking around like one didn’t want to murder the other a couple seconds ago. These lapses in memory appear frequently throughout the game and can take away all weight that your decisions might have. On top of this, there are a plethora of pop-in bugs like NPCs just appearing out of thin air. Spelling errors can be found within some dialogue options and at one point a conversation played out in the completely wrong order. Even quests aren’t safe from glitches as one quest was rendered completely unfinishable as I was locked out of speaking to a certain NPC. Small issues like this continue to pop up throughout the game making the Technomancer feel untested and unpolished.
At it’s best moments, the Technomancer can feel ambitious with it’s 20 hour campaign that takes you on a road trip through Mars’ beautiful locals and cities as you recruit companions to your cause. But when it comes down to the meat and bones, a decent combat system isn’t enough to look past the uninspired stories and technical hiccups present.