The Role Playing Game market is a well stocked table at which fans of the genre can feast on some true delights. So for an RPG to really stand out among the likes of The Witcher, Dragon Age, Skyrim and Mass Effect a game really has to offer something big bold and new or, at the very least, tell an engaging story. So The Technomancer from Focus Interactive has some very delicious morsels to aspire to, does it come out as a succulent medium-rare steak or a toenail sandwich?
The Technomancer, developed by Spiders, is set on a post-apocalyptic Mars where the water wars have seen a growth in Water Corporations such as Aurora and Abundance who now battle for control from their huge doomed cities. You play Zachariah Mancer a young Technomancer. Technomancers are like electric wizards, kinda like Pikachu with scars and an attitude and they have abilities that allow them to fire electricity, among other things from their hands. You’re also equipped with three fighting styles or stances. Warrior, Guardian and Rogue. Warrior sees you using a staff and is a quick fighting style. With Guardian you’re equipped with a Sword, shield and rogue which is quick and uses a knife and gun.
The game starts off with you completing your training and then for some inexplicable reason you are sent immediately on a very important mission and seem to be feared and respected by everyone despite being an obvious rookie. Unfortunately, this kind of inconsistency of storytelling is apparent through the game and really hampers your ability to engage in the story. There seems to be little in the way of coherent story and whilst your main quest unfolds and can be at times interesting, it’s choppy and poorly executed. You end up hardly caring about any of it. You don’t ever really understand Zachariah’s motivation or care for that matter.
Even with the varied fighting styles the games enemies are pretty tough to beat. Although you are supposedly meant to be able to dodge and counter. It doesn’t really work and with some practice in the Warrior stance you can use a kick to disrupt the enemies attack when you see it coming and the batter him with your staff. All weapons are also able to be empowered with Technomancer boosts, which basically means charging them with electricity. Your character can also lay traps and use explosives as well.
The Mars setting is interesting if a little clichéd and you traverse the terrain in a Mars rover type vehicle but the games lack of any kind of visual finesse renders the setting dull and uninteresting. In fact, Mars seems to be a mixture of purples and browns rather than the red you would expect. The poor visuals are apparent throughout the game, from the horrid character designs to the bland locales. Even in some of the more impressive areas, and some of them are quite grand in scale, the visuals seem to be covered in a thin layer of fog. It’s like you have cranked up the brightness to the highest level and no matter what you do with the gamma correction you just can’t clear it. It looks and feels like a PS3 game and not a particularly good looking one at that! That said some of the alien creature designs, especially the bosses, are excellent and some of them and huge!
Then we come to my main bugbear, the god awful voice-acting and scripting. The script feels like it was written in a foreign language then translated using Google translate such is the awful quality of some of the dialogue. It may even be funny if it wasn’t for the fact you have to try to decipher what is going on. Marry this with some of the worst voice-acting I’ve heard in a game in years and you get the picture. The worst of which is Zachariah himself. You would think, at the very least, in a game where you have a lot of talking you would invest in a decent voice-actor for the main protagonist. It’s unforgivable and I find it hard to believe that nobody in the sound department didn’t raise this as a concern the moment recording began. It’s would actually be better to turn off the sound and use the subtitles but even they are low res and difficult to read.
The poor presentation of The Technomancer is sad because underneath there is a decent RPG with lots of good ideas trying to break through but not quite managing it. There is certainly a lot of depth to the character progression and the weapon tinkering. It tries desperately to be Mass Effect and in fact delivers a much truer RPG experience than Bioware’s games but it fails in every other respect. Poor storytelling, terrible character designs, below par visuals and some of the worse voice-acting in years make this one to pass by. At least until it drops from it’s AAA price point.
Gobsmack Rating 5/10 Smacks.