Game Review: The Technomancer (PC, PS4, & Xbox One)

The Technomancer, developed by Spiders and published by Focus Home Interactive, is a futuristic RPG that puts players into the boots of an electricity wielding renegade: Zachariah, the newest indoctrinate into a mysterious group of warriors called the Technomancers. The Technomancers are used to uphold the governance of the corporations that vie for the scarce resources of the Red Planet Mars.

Martian valleys, city slums, and trading posts hold a number of secrets and challenges. Players can choose from a number of skills to build on, and mastering them will ultimately lead you to dominate the various enemies in fast-paced fluid combat. Emulating a cross between Elder Scrolls and an early Deus Ex title, Technomancer features a number of familiar RPG elements. Unfortunately, although it offers a lot, Technomancer fails to fully deliver anywhere.

Gameplay

Technomancer is a RPG that involves players spending a lot of time completing various fetch quests alongside their mission.  As they explore, they will meet a range of enemies including different human factions and bizarre martian wildlife. It manges to be overly complicated yet limited at the same time. There are three main components for gameplay: character customization, crafting, and melee combat.

Players have the choice to customize their protagonist, but this is limited to about nine player models with the ability to change features such as skin tone, hairstyle and eye color. Not much else. Where they do go into great detail are multiple skill trees for the player to build up. Leveling up Zachariah will grant you points for upgrading the trees, although different levels will provide points for different skill trees. Players have to manage skill, talent, and attribute trees.  Many players will enjoy the multiple trees, as they provide a wide range of areas to customize. There’s plenty of XP to be found in the world, so you don’t have to worry about scavenging for points. It does seem excessive, however, and may have benefited from some streamlining.

technomancer skills
Skills represent a players battle stance, Players can also earn and spend skill points under “Attributes” and “Talents”

Crafting is another important component. Not dissimilar to other RPGs, supplies can be gathered from fallen enemies, random lockers, and the occasional trash pile. They then can be used to craft items and upgrade weapons or armor. Your ability to craft is also affected by your crafting level and occasional item schematics. The upgrades you make to your equipment will add bonuses to your combat as well, so it’s not to be overlooked.

Technomancer’s combat is comprised of four different play styles: Warrior, Technomancer, Rouge, and Guardian. All combat styles are melee based, but do little to distinguish themselves. Players will ultimately be doing a lot of hacking, slashing, dodging, and repeating. The game makes it easy to switch between styles, but there’s no point. Enemies are not varied enough to warrant a stance switch, and once you invest skill points in one arm of the skill tree, it makes little sense to use the less beneficial ones. Besides, increasing these skills mostly amounts to adding damage buffs rather than new unique abilities or moves.

Combat most frequently takes the form of Zachariah versus a group of human or alien creatures. The combat itself is very fluid, and your player moves easily between targets with good animations and clear effect. In numbers, enemies can be quite challenging. However, you can even the odds.  During the course of the game, players can add NPCs to their party. Different characters will offer different bonuses in combat, but most importantly, they help to draw attacks away from you in a skirmish. They are surprisingly effective in this capacity and can’t be permanently killed. In addition to customizing your weapons and armor, you can also alter that of your group members.

However, the mix of navigating city maps and hacking away at enemies can feel repetitive after awhile. 

technomancer gameplay gif
My personal favorite: Rouge Combat

Two features which the game also has are an alignment function and stealth. Decisions you make do affect the loyalty of different factions. This can affect what side missions you get and your “karma”, but seem to have little impact on the progression of the main story. The game also features stealth mechanic which could have been easily be left out. Its uses are few and far between, and there is no significant bonus for a stealth attack. It feels like a feature that was a checkbox on an RPG spreadsheet, but never fully integrated.

Narrative

As previously mentioned, Technomancer takes place on Mars and its cities. The planet’s city states are run by “corporations”, although the distinction is not significant. The story revolves around Zachariah, who has risen from the low caste of “rouge” into the revered position of Technomancer. Technomancers can control electricity and use it in combat but the order has a secret. Zachariah digs deeper into their history and the history of the colonies. Meanwhile factions fight among each other for the scarce resources of the planet.

The player can make decisions that affect the Zachariah’s relationship with each faction. However, there is not a significant impact on the story.  The occasional awkward dialog and unenthusiastic delivery makes it hard to be truly invested in the story. 

Multiplayer

Unfortunately, Technomancer has no multiplayer component. This seems like a missed opportunity in a game where group work is part of the combat design. Three player co-op would have been a welcome addition, even within the linear structure of the game.

Performance & Graphics

There weren’t any gamebreaking glitches during my playtime, apart from some wonky camera at times. On my PC (Windows 10 64bit, i5-4210U 2.4 GHz, and 16 gigs of ram), I was consistently getting 50-60 FPS with no lag in animation or action. The moments the camera did find itself in a wall or low ceiling was, for the most part, unusual. However, its smooth animations don’t equal graphical quality. The visuals are dated compared to other games out this season, thanks to some flat textures and stiff facial animations.

technomancer facial animation

The most frustrating component of the Technomancer’s performance was its over-complicated controls. Players using mouse and keyboard will find a number of redundant controls, such as an activate button for some actions and a different activate button for similar tasks but apparently different contextual actions.  Some examples include open doors and crates with one button and moving between areas of the map or looting creatures with another, and the escape button working to exit some menus but not others. But the most perplexing of all was an action button to speak to some characters, but a different button to speak with other characters.

The console controls are even more complicated, shrinking a keyboard’s worth of actions into a controller. Even minute tasks require excessive coordination between multiple buttons to execute simple commands.

Audio

The audio in Technomancer doesn’t really stand out. It is contextual, however even in combat it sounds like the music many games would have in their menu. It may not be interesting but technically it works. Where Technomancer fails in the audio department is the voice acting. While most characters are passable, Zachariah’s performance (the voice you’ll hear more than anyone else’s) is completely flat and his lines are delivered with complete disinterest. Players may find it hard to be invested in the character or story when the story’s lead behaves like he’s just going through the motions as well.

Additional Thoughts

Structurally, the basic gameplay covers all the bases of an RPG, but is unable to offer real depth to any of them. Customization is extremely limited, as is crafting. While the combat is fluid and its animations rewarding, the system offers little variation for players. Hacking through enemies can feel like a bit a grind just to find some old relics or deliver messages between NPCs.

technomancer screen shot

I really enjoyed the concept and setting of Technomancer, it’s a sci-fi RPG with some interesting story elements and a very cool aesthetic. It features some distinct environments and some fun gameplay functions. The trouble is that is coolest thing about the Technomancers, their ability to control electricity, has very limited functionality. Many of the games feature need more depth, including making players decisions more meaningful, a combat system that rewards combos or skilled play, and customization with some semblance to it.

Overall Score: 6/10

Technomancer lacks the depth needed to sustain its playtime. It looks good and has no significant glitches, but Spiders has wasted an interesting concept on an dull and unfulfilling story. The combat can be fun, but the lack of variation means it may become boring. Fans of the genre who possess a high resistance to a hack and slash grind should, by all means, give it a try.

The Technomancer is now available for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Images © Focus Home Interactive 

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