The Technomancer Review
This review was written after playing a review copy of The Technomancer provided by the games publisher Focus Home Interactive. OmniGamer’s writers happily give their honest opinions despite such acts of generosity, though appreciated.
A game with good ideas but poor execution tends to be the most disappointing because the glimmer of hope is practically snuffed out. Whether it’s Obamacare, Mighty No. 9 or Nicholas Cage’s acting career, the topic tends to be pretty polarizing. We can now add The Technomancer to that list because I’m still not sure whether I enjoyed the game. Developed by Spiders and published by Focus Home Interactive, The Technomancer is surely rough around the edges.
The Technomancer‘s story follows Zachariah Mancer, a technomancer, which is basically a lightning mage on Mars. Early on, he learns that technomancy is actually a mutation in a world where mutants are treated worse than Donald Trump at a Sanders rally. He vows to protect this secret with his life and enlists in the army of his fascist city to re-establish contact with Earth. But the leader of the secret police wants to be in the know at any cost because what upstanding tyrant wouldn’t want to know every dirty little secret. Zach and his companions have to deal with him if they ever want to live peaceful lives again or shoot Earth a quick message.
The detailed world of The Technomancer is by far the best aspect of the game. Even though some elements are weak like Mars being hot, sunlight mutating human DNA (sunburns must only happen on Earth) or how society looks down on killing humans during a water shortage. This may be science-fiction, but it’s more fiction than science and seems almost too convenient in what’s an otherwise consistently tight world.
World-building is the most important draw to large RPGs and in this regard, The Technomancer delivers. The Mars setting is intriguing enough to spur the imagination, and there’s enough depth and political factions to make the world feel believable. The companions are also a joy to learn more about, and the game spaces out the quests in the main story.
The Technomancer uses a faction system similar to that of Fallout: New Vegas. Sparing The Opposition’s leader (possibly the laziest name for a rebel movement ever) will obviously boost your reputation with them, but at the cost of lowering your rep with Abundance, your corporate country. Even the sidequests have a decent amount of story to them, which, thankfully, doesn’t make them feel like chores. Since they’re finite, you get a sense of accomplishment when you finish them all. No endless settlement babysitting here!
With that said, it feels like The Technomancer lacks polish. I noticed one too many continuity errors and a couple quest-breaking glitches. Hopefully, these can be patched later on. What can’t be patched is the combat, which is the worst part of the game. Games like Dark Souls have ruined me. If anything feels even remotely clunky, it leaves me beyond frustrated. Controlling Zachariah feels like controlling a character from the PlayStation 2 era. Imagine the clunkiness of The Witcher 3 before it was repaired by CD Projekt Red, but with poor game design. Attacks feel lacking and it’s borderline unfair when you compare the damage dealt to damage taken. Locking on to specific targets slows down the dodge, so it’s better to forget about it all together.
There are three different fight stances and different lightning spells, items and commands that you can map to a quick fire scheme. It’s definitely complex but with the exception for the health and the spells, it’s more effort than it’s worth. I played The Technomancer on normal difficulty and the difference in damage dealt to damage taken is ridiculous. And if you ever run out of health items, which happens often considering the sprint button and wasting a health injection on your immortal companions is the same one, the combat devolves into running away and slowly whittling away the enemies’ health with lightning and bullets.
It’s almost sad how easily you can abuse the AI in this game in one-on-one fights. Most enemies can be caught in an infinite combo with attack, kick, repeat. There is a stealth mechanic, but you can safely ignore it by sprint past enemies because they cannot chase you beyond their pitifully small territory. It’s safe to say there’s nothing redeeming about the combat because it’s never fun. It acts as more of a hindrance of completing quests and is often infuriating.
As far as other gameplay goes, there’s quite a bit of walking around different cities and navigating the menu system from Hell. Three different skill trees are not really necessary. However, it’s still more enjoyable than the combat. There’s also a crafting system that is rendered null and void by the generous supply of in-game currency.
I don’t normally like to harp on or praise graphics too much since artistic style is more important, but it’s worth mentioning that The Technomancer is visually unappealing. It is rife with awkward character animations and barely passable cutscenes that look like jump-cut vlogs with poorly executed dialogue. The Technomancer looks subpar to the likes of Mass Effect, which is nearly a decade old.
The voice acting was inconsistent, but never stooped below flat delivery. There’s an interesting world and game buried beneath all the flaws. The game would have been better with more polish, but it seems like the developer Spiders took on more than it could chew. The inspiration for the modern big-name RPGs is nearly palpable, but it feels rushed and incomplete. There probably wasn’t enough love or passion to drive Spiders to give The Technomancer the attention it needed.
I would be lying if I said there weren’t times when I was immersed in this game. The setting and world are more than enough of a draw for diehard RPG fans if you can stomach all the issues (and you’re going to need an iron stomach). If you have the time between all your Steam summer sale impulse-buys, then you may want to consider giving The Technomancer a shot for its story. The rest of this sci-fi RPG isn’t worth the time.