The Technomancer Review
Remember when you were 12 years old and your parents still made you sit at the kid’s table during big family gatherings? You’d try so hard to be grown up and mature and earn that spot with the adults but you were relegated to an undersized chair where your knees hit the bottom of the table and your little cousin spit food all over your face every time they spoke. Despite your attempts to look like an adult you just weren’t there yet and even your best efforts couldn’t hide the fact that you were an awkward tween. Spiders’ The Technomancer is much like that 12-year-old, it’s trying so hard to be a Dragon Age or a Mass Effect and rather than standing out amongst these epic experiences it instead shows its faults as a much lesser experience.
This is a harsh criticism, I know, but the sad fact is that during my time with The Technomancer I had a hard time figuring out what the game wanted to be. Its attempts to be like so many other games left it without a true identity of its own and ultimately hindered the experience in the end. At various points during my time with The Technomancer I would think to myself, “Oh I can see what they’re doing, this is just like in *insert game here*”, and while it was an admirable endeavour it always came off as a cheap knock-off.
“[The Technomancer’s] attempts to be like so many other games left it without a true identity of its own…”
The setting is Mars and you are Zachariah, a rare human blessed with the ability to harness electricity at your fingertips. You are, logically, a Technomancer. Starting out in the Martian city of Ophir, Zachariah learns that he has been betrayed by those he trusts and after escaping, he is thrust into a mission to find a beacon that will once again establish Mars’ connection with Earth (something long lost at this point). Just before you step into Zachariah’s shoes officially, you are put through a character creator and here, right at the start, is where you see the confliction of big dreams versus a smaller budget. The character creator offers limited options and no choice to switch to a female Technomancer. I don’t think this has anything to do with not wanting to be equally representative and more to do with not having the available cash to animate and voice an entire second protagonist.
Diving into the game you’ll find the plot is serviceable, at times interesting, but for all intents and purposes stops short of being captivating. You’ve heard this story before, and it wasn’t bad the first few times so it’s not bad now, it’s just not new anymore. Stiff animations and monotonous voice work hinder The Technomancer from drawing you in as well. On many occasions, you’ll find yourself staring at naught but a forehead when having a conversation with a companion and is just one mention of many little glitches you’re likely to stumble upon in the game.
If you were to look for a saving grace, something that helps pull the game out of “don’t bother” territory, it’s the combat. While enemies aren’t overly varied, often times quite predictable, the skills you have at your fingertips are done fairly well. Rather than shoehorning you into one type of fighting style The Technomancer allows players to switch stances on the fly from mace-and-shield guardian to pistol-and-dagger rogue to staff-wielding warrior. All of these stances also allow Zachariah access to his technomancy abilities where he can charge up his weapons and fire off bolts of electricity to his heart’s content. The fairly deep skill tree system allows players the freedom to pick and choose where and what they want to truly focus on but at no time is the ability to switch between them all taken away. An unfortunate aside is that while you can develop skills in your skill tree you never truly attain any game changer abilities that freshen up the combat for later portions of the game. What you do when you start will invariably end up being what you do at the finish to one degree or another.
“The Technomancer isn’t necessarily a bad game, it just isn’t a good one.”
As open world RPGs go, The Technomancer provides more than its fair share of side quests to keep you busy. Sure they’re mostly predictable in terms of what you’re doing — ie: kill this guy, get that thing — but it allows you the freedom to take on a ton more than just the main storyline. Of course, while you can roam the cities of Ophir and Noctis as well as the dusky landscapes of Mars, one can’t help but feel that it comes across as rather empty. This might be more of a personal thing, I’m not entirely sure, but even populated areas that had NPCs wandering around felt cold, devoid of any real personality, and just plain lifeless. If that’s the tone Spiders was going for then I must have missed the memo because I certainly expected a bit more vivacity to a planet under the siege of greedy corporations bordering on a populace revolt. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, the environment design itself is spectacularly well done with gorgeous vistas and very distinctive hub areas. It’s just a shame that those graphical wonders are so hindered by the lack of life to fill them up.
Spiders does an admirable job of providing depth to The Technomancer when it comes to the sheer amount of character growth and customization systems in place. The fairly bland character creator aside, there is still plenty to sink your teeth into from reputation building, weapons crafting, companion recruiting, abilities, talents and more. In this area, despite everything not being done to perfection, The Technomancer belies its smaller budget and looks bigger than it is.
Even in light of its technical glitches, predictable narrative and total personality flatline, The Technomancer isn’t necessarily a bad game, it just isn’t a good one. It exists as an example of how Spiders dreamed of making an epic, open world RPG but ultimately was limited by its resources. Sadly, in its attempt to be like so many other great RPGs we know and love it loses its chance to be anything unique. As a serviceable RPG to fill the summer void, it might keep the diehards happy but will have a hard time finding an audience that truly cares about it.
*** PS4 copy provided by the publisher ***
- Enjoyable combat system
- Great looking environments
- Tons to do
- Uninspired narrative
- Tons of minor glitches
- Monotonous NPCs and voice work
- Lacks personality