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Default Review of The Technomancer

July 7th, 2016, 13:40
Note: It’s a bit more of a rant than usual, as explained in the verdict. There’s no easy way to describe the game. However, if it is still wanted feature, feel free to do so (and remove this paragraph + do some tweaking), and/or tell me what else is needed. As always, if anyone wants me to edit or explain something, just let me know.


Review of The Technomancer
Spiders, a development studio from France, is back with another RPG. Previously, they have developed RPGs like Of Orcs and Men, Bound by Flame and Mars: War Logs, the latter being set in the same universe as The Technomancer. Their RPGs so far have had certain quirks, but they were still worth playing due to various original concepts and ideas. Is this also the case for The Technomancer? Let’s find out!

The Technomancer is set on Mars, quite some time after humans colonized the planet. Contact with earth has been lost, and various corporations run the planet. You play Zachariah, who is about to be initiated into the officers of the Technomancers, a rather mysterious organization exclusive to people seemingly born with special powers related to electricity. Each corporation has their own set of Technomancers, and you belong to The Technomancers of Abundance. Zachariah can be customized to a certain extent, but he'll always be male and he'll always be a Technomancer. Personally, I consider the former a bit of an issue in a world where female gamers are now common.

At any rate, a Technomancer is essentially an electric eel on land: They can generate electricity, without the need of tools, and use it for various attacks. For some unknown reason, they have decided to combine this primarily with various melee weapons, ending up with a fighting style somewhat similar to that of certain Sith characters.


Sith Assassin from The Old Republic. No wait, it’s a Technomancer.

Gameplay and mechanics
As far as I can tell, there’s no real reason why they primarily use melee weapons. They don’t have Jedi or Sith like “premonition”, so I think the only real reason is looking badass. As for fighting styles, there are four to choose from:
  • Technomancy: Enhance your electrical skills. Very useful for lowering the electric bill, as you can generate more than enough electricity on your own. Also used to fry enemies. Includes various electrical attacks, but also a few useful defensive bonuses. While powerful, it will not turn Zachariah into a traditional spellcaster, but it can actually come close. For the most part, he'll end up as something of a "battle mage", but getting as close to a pure spellcaster as possible is probably the most fun way to play, even if it is a bit challenging at times.
  • Warrior: Staff fighting, mostly used for taking down groups of enemies, especially monsters. Not particularly good against humanoids beyond a specific whirling ability that is gained by choosing certain skills. Probably what most people use, as I’ve seen quite a few references to “jumping around”, which is exactly what will happen if you choose this specialization and refuse to ever switch to Guardian.
  • Guardian: Standard tank specialization. Block, retaliate, repeat. Works wonders against virtually every humanoid in the game. Probably the easiest to master, though certain large monsters will be something of an issue, so it’s useful to combine it with something.
  • Rogue: Fast hitting specialization with a ranged attack. The only specialization that can use a gun, though the gun use is somewhat limited, as the gun overheats rather fast. The fast hitting does a lot of damage if your enemy is stunned or similar, but that is rarely the case. For the most part, this will lead to a lot of jumping around (similar to Warrior). Also the only specialization I have not fully tried yet.


Zachariah has four different skill trees to choose from

Over the course of the game, you will gain enough skill points to mix’n match a bit, so you don’t actually have to choose a single specialization and stick with it. In fact, I’d say mixing a bit is probably the best approach: For example, the Warrior Tornado attack is incredibly useful for certain enemies, but so is the passive blocking skill of Guardian, especially against ranged enemies.

This approach is surprisingly dynamic, and quite fun once you get the hang of it, but it could easily be frustrating if you simply dump all your skill points into a single specialization and refuse to really learn the others.

Decisions, decisions. What attributes to focus on?

Beyond skill points, you also have attributes and talents. Attributes are divided into four categories: Strength, Agility, Power and Constitution. They do roughly what you’d expect, although their biggest impact is actually in deciding what gear you can use: Strength for gear intended for Guardian/Warrior, Agility for Rogue and Power for Technomancy. Constitution increases carry weight, which is always useful.

Talents are a bit more interesting than attributes, and there are six of them:
  • Charisma: Used a lot in conversations where persuasion is necessary. Very useful. Also improves companions a bit.
  • Science: Used in science related conversations. A single point also increases out of combat health regeneration quite a bit, which is more useful than it sounds. It’s almost mandatory by the end of the game.
  • Crafting: Used in crafting related conversations, and allows you to craft upgrades for your gear. The overall boost to combat performance is very noticeable, especially later on with better schematics, but the early upgrades are minor at best.
  • Stealth: Improves stealth attacks. By far the least useful skill in my opinion. Stealth as a whole is a complete waste of time in a game where enemies are as numerous as they are; it only allows you to attack a single enemy, and then the rest of the fight proceeds as normal. Perhaps the top rank would allow you to bypass entire enemy packs? If so, it could be quite useful at certain later stages.
  • Locks/Traps: Used to pick locks and place traps. Thank you, Captain Obvious. I’m undecided on how useful it is, as I personally hate to leave loot behind (quests I can’t open and so on), but I never had a problem with money in this game (or rather, serum, as the currency is called). I’ll probably get it in the future as well, simply because I can’t stand not being able to open locks. I rarely use traps though, or any consumables for that matter, as I keep thinking, and I’m certain I’m not the only one: “What if I need these later on?”
  • Exploration: Allows you to skin animals and makes it easier to see loot. A single point for the animal skinning is nice, but that can be gained via gear (goggles, specifically), and it’s not used to solve quests, unlike Charisma, Science and Crafting.


Just enough options to make it interesting

Overall, the character development is surprisingly good. At first, I wasn’t expecting much, as it hasn’t really been a highlight of previous Spiders games, but I found myself eagerly anticipating the next level and the next set of skill/attribute/talent points. Also, levels came in at a good pace, which meant I constantly had a specific plan for what I wanted to do and in which direction I wanted to take the character. This is very unlike certain RPGs in recent years (Dragon Age: Inquisition, Pillars of Eternity and Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear) where the overall pace was so low I almost forgot about the whole “leveling up thing”, which is a bit of a drawback in an RPG.

In addition to skills, talents and attributes, Zachariah can choose two companions to accompany him in battle. The companions are quite varied, with interesting quests and dialogue, and are well worth spending some time getting to know. In combat, they can be given basic orders, but nothing major. For the most part, they’ll occupy an enemy or two and do a little damage here and there. As a comparison, I’d say they’re more useful than companions in Jade Empire, but not quite as much as those in Knights of the Old Republic.

In terms of personality and romances and such, they might not be Mordin Solus, but they’re on par with most BioWare companions. There are romances, but nothing groundbreaking. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even have noticed if they had removed them entirely, but that’s the case for a lot of games.

Of course, no RPG is complete without gear and inventory management, and The Technomancer is no exception. Zachariah can equip helmets, chest armor, leg armor, boots and various weapons. The same goes for companions, although it will never turn them into mean, lean, fighting machines (with one possible exception).

Gear in general is incremental, with minor upgrades being common, to the point where it even feels as if the game is level scaling. I don’t actually believe it does; I believe chapters replace enemies with higher level versions, but within each chapter I think it stays static, but the tiny upgrades makes it feel as if they’re scaling up, when the reality is it’s the damage output staying the same even if you level up.

This also causes a bit of an issue when it comes to economy, because money (or serum, rather) is generally never needed beyond the first chapter. There is nothing to buy, except upgrade plans and certain quest items. You can even kill knocked out enemies for extra serum, but it’s simply not necessary. It would have been an interesting concept if money was always tight and you wanted to buy a very specific upgrade, but as it is, the only reason to kill knocked out enemies is cruelty. The only thing that is actually needed is crafting materials, in order to upgrade items, but they’re easy to find for any thorough looter.

As for the crafting system itself, it is rather straight forward. Most weapons and armor can be upgraded with minor +damage, crit, defense, etc properties. It’s hardly revolutionary, but it can easily increase the output of given items by 20%, which does make a difference in a game where gear is as incremental as it is. A heavily modified item can last for hours, and can then be passed on to a companion once an upgrade is found, making it well worth the upgrade materials.

Controlling Zachariah is fairly easy. I used a keyboard and mouse and had very few difficulties once I got used to it. My only issue was a classic case of “consolitis” where one key does several things, so I ended up accidently killing people I was hoping to loot because they didn’t have any loot on them. I relied heavily on hotkeys, and enjoyed the fact that I could use the full range of 1-9 instead of some severely limited version (yes, I’m looking at you Dragon Age: Inquisition).

Update: They have already patched the game, fixing this issue. The two actions are now bound to two different keys. Nicely done.

Setting, story and exploration
While the mechanics are more than passable, and get the job done, it’s the setting, intrigues and characters that really carry The Technomancer. You start your adventure in Ophir, the center of the Abundance corporation. The city itself is divided into three different areas, and has a lot of content. Over time you get to explore other parts of Mars, in a sort of open world kind of way. What I mean by that is that it’s never really “open world” in the traditional sense, it’s more akin to Dragon Age 2.

In fact, exploration shares quite a few similarities with Dragon Age 2, both in terms of limitations, corridors and repetition. It doesn’t re-use areas in the same way, but every area is heavily used, which leads to a lot of backtracking and re-clearing of the same enemies. This gets frustrating after a while, and is possibly the biggest drawback of the game. There are only so many times certain enemies can be defeated before it gets tedious. Luckily, the fact that this all takes place on Mars, in a very different setting to what we’re used to, helps mitigate the boredom.


Mars may be a bit barren, but it’s still intriguing.

While exploring Mars, you’ll also come across various factions and people you can befriend. Initially, it might seem as if reputation is useless, but it does have a bit of an impact near the end. I would have preferred a greater impact, but it’s a difficult thing to balance. It’s easy to make it too important, leading to a lot of meta gaming, such as companion influence in Knights of the Old Republic 2 or Neverwinter Nights 2. Other examples are Renegade vs Paragon in Mass Effect and Light vs Dark in Knights of the Old Republic. I think I actually prefer the toned down version found in The Technomancer, because it allows me to properly roleplay.

It’s also worth noting that such roleplaying usually involves choices and consequences, and this is no exception. Quite a few quests have several solutions, some of which even have an impact towards the end of the game. I didn’t notice anything truly sensational, but I was overall rather satisfied with how I could affect the quests and people I encountered as I was exploring Mars.

Speaking of which, using Mars as a setting really was quite clever: By setting it on Mars, they’ve essentially eliminated the need to explain all sorts of historic questions that we’d get on earth. Where are all the ruins and original technology? Where’d all the people go? How come so little has changed the past 200 years? Has nobody figured out a way to deal with radiation and mutation yet? These, and more, are all questions that settings like Fallout would struggle to answer. In the case of The Technomancer, the answer to most questions is quite simple: It was always a struggle on Mars. There weren’t that many original settlers, and after certain conflicts, resources were extremely tight. It mostly makes sense, and it leads to something of a clean slate for Spiders (the developers).

I really like it. In fact, I probably like it more than I should, because it doesn’t have the living, breathing atmosphere of games like Gothic, nor is it as well put together as Mass Effect, and don’t even get me started on The Witcher 3, by far and wide the best game I’ve played in years.


One of the more interesting characters Zachariah comes across.

The actual story and characters might be a part of that. It’s nothing revolutionary, but there are enough twists and turns to make it interesting. I obviously can’t say much without spoiling, but I can tell you this: When you start out, you haven’t actually got a clue what’s going to happen, similar to Gothic. There’s honestly no indication of where this road is going. No great evil, you’re not the chosen one, none of that. Good news for people like me who are bored stiff of that concept.

I am aware that some reviewers have been whining about how the delivery isn’t good enough due to either voice acting or overall production values, but I disagree completely. There are a handful of RPGs that look and sound better, but, for the most part, RPG gamers are used to not having FPS like graphics and sound effects.


It might not look like The Witcher 3, but it does have its moments.

Most of my frustration comes from the backtracking and respawns, but not all of it. Occasionally, Zachariah will act like a twat for no good reason. For example, there’s no such thing as going undercover, even when it would make sense to do so. Also, he’s overall a fairly reasonable guy, but sometimes he’ll go full asshole mode on someone in an outburst that feels completely out of character.

Then again, I vastly prefer Zachariah to some of the horrendous cutscene idiotics of Shepard or Revan (flatten Kai Leng or Malak only to lose in a cutscene), so it’s only a minor nuisance. Still, I do prefer consistent characters in RPGs, especially since they are, after all, roleplayed, so it’s a bit of a shame.

Verdict
Well now, this seems more like a rant than a review. There’s a reason for that. I understand well the wide range of reviews and scores so far, as The Technomancer is a game in conflict with itself: On the one hand, it’s very easy to see that the developers are ambitious and really have some good ideas, and the overall concept is fantastic. On the other hand, the execution is lacking. It suffers from “Dragon Age 2 syndrome” in that there’s a solid foundation, but lack of time and/or funding means a lot of short cuts had to be made.

So the overall verdict really will depend greatly on the eye of the beholder. If you’re the kind of player who can live with some repetition and other quirks for the sake an intriguing setting and some interesting characters, this might just be the game for you. However, if fighting the same respawned monsters repeatedly will drive you mad, you had best stay clear.

The setting, while interesting, is also something I would expect some to dislike: This is Mars we’re talking about, a desolate planet. It’s not going to be vibrant and lush, so if that’s your thing, again, stay clear.

Personally, I want the game to succeed, because I can see what Spiders want to accomplish, and I hope they get to fulfil their potential. All their RPGs have been refreshing, but ultimately suffered a bit from a lack of polish and, probably, funding. The Technomancer is no exception.

So what’s the final score? Hard to say really. I’ll give it a 3 out 5, with the caveat that it could easily have been 3,5 or even 4 with the right adjustments (less respawns and increased XP gain to compensate would be one such adjustment). Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a 2 for some and a 4 for others.

Ultimately, it’s probably down to how badly you want something refreshing. If you’re still fine with traditional fantasy, there are better options out there. If you hunger for something out of the ordinary, and are willing to live with certain issues to satisfy that hunger, The Techomancer might just fit the bill. Otherwise, pick it up during a Steam sale.

Pros
  • Refreshing setting.
  • Interesting characters.
  • Unpredictable plot.
  • Fairly good character development.
Cons
  • Repetition.
  • Respawns.
  • Too many corridors.
Last edited by Maylander; February 6th, 2017 at 10:10.
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July 7th, 2016, 14:01
Thanks for the review Maylander You have confirmed my suspicions about the game so its something I will play but not at full price!

One question - how easy is it to skip the respawns? Can you easily run pass them? IS there any downside to skipping these respawns? Will my character be under level? Is xp balanced around these respawns?
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July 7th, 2016, 14:07
Thanks Maylander! I'm playing Mars: War Logs at the moment so I'm keen to check this out somewhere down the line.
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July 7th, 2016, 14:09
Originally Posted by Silver View Post
Thanks Maylander! I'm playing Mars: War Logs at the moment so I'm keen to check this out somewhere down the line.
Question for Maylander again, is it worth playing Mars: War Logs before Technomancer?
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July 7th, 2016, 14:17
Well done ML. Spiders have a clear vision here, but overreach it a bit and would do well to add some of their own features. I'd personally cut out stealth, focus on less but more fleshed out companions, smaller, more responsive world.
Honestly even with all the jank it seems more interesting than quite a few recent BW titles (which these guys sort of emulate).
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July 7th, 2016, 14:18
Originally Posted by lostforever View Post
Question for Maylander again, is it worth playing Mars: War Logs before Technomancer?
They're disconnected( Logs actually comes after it, in time line). More if you're interested about the world.
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July 7th, 2016, 14:40
Thank for you for the review, Maylander!

I prepurchased this game and I have yet to play it (must finish W2: DC first )
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July 7th, 2016, 14:49
Originally Posted by lostforever View Post
Thanks for the review Maylander You have confirmed my suspicions about the game so its something I will play but not at full price!

One question - how easy is it to skip the respawns? Can you easily run pass them? IS there any downside to skipping these respawns? Will my character be under level? Is xp balanced around these respawns?
Not really. They tend to be smack in the middle of a corridor. If you do find a way to skip them, you will lose out on quite a bit of experience, but I doubt it would be an issue. You'll still get more than enough skill points, and level doesn't automatically scale damage, resistances and so on in this game.

Originally Posted by BoboTheMighty View Post
Well done ML. Spiders have a clear vision here, but overreach it a bit and would do well to add some of their own features. I'd personally cut out stealth, focus on less but more fleshed out companions, smaller, more responsive world.
Honestly even with all the jank it seems more interesting than quite a few recent BW titles (which these guys sort of emulate).
Yes, it's oddly interesting and refreshing. There's so much frustration at times, but it's something I can live with because they're really going for something different.

Originally Posted by BoboTheMighty View Post
They're disconnected( Logs actually comes after it, in time line). More if you're interested about the world.
Spot on, I agree completely. There are a few references, but it's hardly important.
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July 7th, 2016, 15:03
Great review again Maylander, hope it could be our official RPGWatch review yet again!
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July 7th, 2016, 16:12
Respawns belong in mmo's, but I do like the appearance of this world, so I might give it a chance. Thanks for the review!
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July 7th, 2016, 16:35
This just has to be official RPGwatch review.
There is no better written and with so many details review out there!
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July 7th, 2016, 18:25
Maylander is usually good :-)
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July 7th, 2016, 21:01
Thank you for the review, Maylander!
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July 7th, 2016, 22:10
Thanks folks! I'm nearing the end of the 2nd run now, and I might even do a third just to check out the Rogue specialization + a few extra C&C situations. Replaying is fairly simple when a game is in the 20-25 hour region.
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July 11th, 2016, 00:12
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
Great review again Maylander, hope it could be our official RPGWatch review yet again!
Wouldn't that make him the Chosen One?
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July 11th, 2016, 11:53
Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
Wouldn't that make him the Chosen One?
He must be, given how he can play a 60 hours game in 24 hours.
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July 11th, 2016, 13:56
Thanks. Will pick it on a serious sale (like 75% discount).
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July 11th, 2016, 14:28
Nice and informative review, Maylander. Thanks!
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July 11th, 2016, 16:35
Great review. Agree with almost everything. The game is not as bad as many people stated.
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July 11th, 2016, 21:16
Thanks Maylander for good and informative review.

It was already said that some mainstream sites bash Spiders games no matter what but… I noticed one review (from local site) that seems like an attempt to break new grounds in bashing… or an attempt to become famous basher or something.
Some examples from first paragraphs…


First three sentences of the article:
"When something doesnt work, do it again. Its weird formula but studio Spiders sticks to it. After ambitious RPG Mars: War Logs that was botched by superficiality and designer's faults they came with Technomancer…
And soon after that…

- "But as soon as you see opening scene you will immediately realise that this product is not worthy of accolades. I would recommend to watch intro in small window in the corner of the screen for all people who has higher sensitivity to cliché, otherwise you could experience small nausea. Over-the-top voice will start to stack one blatant classical cliché after another: People drink water. Water is rare. You have thirst without water. Corporations rule. People dont like mutants.

Voice acting like from amateur theatricals combined with sleazy scenario knocks out player's experience and then in the course of next 30 hours the game tries to stand up back again….. But you can be sure that the game will knock you out again."
And then…

- "One of the main reasons for this failure is weak quality of texts and an attempt to give NPCs some characteristics - but this attempt is extremely over-the-top like when Conte (italian coach) celebrates the goal. For example you will meet feminist and within first 5 sentences she will say at least 18 insults of man…."
- "Through rain of insults its sometimes hard to understand what NPC is saying."
- "Sometimes the tone of female voice is so over-the-top that it looks like wannabe dramatic scene from adult movies."
- "Combat system is not extremely bad, but its likely that you will quit the game because of it. It tastes like average lunch in average restaurant that you will quickly forgot… Main problem of combat system are weak animations and zero response to hits. You could as well hit opponents by gummy hammer from Disneyland and the outcome would be the same."
----
And so on… it continues in that way. Its really published and labeled as serious review. If you know at least intro of Technomancer you would know that blatant nonsensical cliché is what that retard has written.
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