A Tale of Many Choices.
Focus and Spiders have brought us numerous games marred with critical mediocracy. Many of these mediocre reviews are deserved, though I always found something special and enjoyable within each of their games. Whether it be the fun, strategic combat of Of Orcs and Men or the interesting take on Game of Thrones, I’ve pretty much had a blast with each game. So when Technomancer came my way, I had to try it. The result? An interesting concoction of Mass Effect, Fringe, and Focus/Spiders games of past.
Now, this combination isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact, I love all three aforementioned items. I’m a huge fan of Mass Effect, I thoroughly enjoyed the entirety of Fringe (even though the last couple seasons were forced early), and, as stated, I love the previous entries from Focus and Spiders. With this being said, Technomancer certainly isn’t flawless, especially in the mechanics department, and those influences could have been a bit more subtle. And perhaps it was just me, but I felt the game screamed Mass Effect and Fringe wannabe.
So what is Technomancer? Technomancer is an audacious Sci-Fi action RPG that features three unique fighting styles the player can easily switch between mid-battle and a plethora of in-game narrative choices that each allegedly have their own string of consequences. Set on the tumultuous planet of Mars, Technomancer is the story of Zachariah Mancer, a newly anointed technomancer enlisted in the Abundance army during the middle of a war with Aurora (a rival city). The game itself capitalizes on these two gameplay factors, but before I begin discussing Technomancer’s successes, I’ll start with its struggles.
For a PS4 game, Technomancer isn’t particularly pretty. I’ll admit, I enjoyed the character models and range of motion, and having each piece of gear customizable and unique was awesome, but the scenery and graphics were last gen material. This is pretty typical for a Focus published game, and it really does nothing to detract from the overall experience, but the bland settings in Technomancer are forgettable. On top of this, I spent over ten hours in Ophir, the opening city, before the story (chapter two) sent me packing. In other words, I spent ten hours exploring the same two-and-a-half maps of Ophir. Luckily, any quests are easily found via the mini-map, which opens with R2 and allows you to free run. This saved me hours of wandering in the first area/chapter alone.
The voice acting, too, in Technomancer is not always a grand affair. Some talent lends itself to the game in the voice of Jamieson Price and Matthew Mercer, but others fall embarrassingly flat. Still, it was nice to hear some familiar voices, even if they weren’t part of your party from the get-go. The remainder of the sound in Technomancer performs to expectation, so there isn’t too much room to voice complaints.
The last issue I had with Technomancer must also be paired with one of its main features: Combat. Technomancer features three unique combat styles that the player can switch between mid-battle by pressing any combination of R1 and square, triangle, or circle. Essentially, this allows you to change between a combat pole, a dagger and pistol, and a mace and shield. The pole is melee oriented, the knife and pistol agility oriented, and the mace and shield tank oriented. By strategizing your combat and properly switching between styles, you can easily navigate difficult encounters.
Unfortunately, I died a lot. I don’t mind dying in games if it’s a result of my own inability or imbecilic actions. In Technomancer, however, many of my deaths involved sketchy combat mechanics. Dodging wasn’t great – especially when locked onto a target – and the shield timing was spotty. I often found myself with my dagger and gun, shooting until the pistol overheated and swooping in to finish my foes. As I progressed, the staff became more practical, especially when dealing with larger crowds. Choosing the right stance became necessary.
That’s where my gripes end. When leveling, Zachariah (you) can choose between multiple skill trees (four). Each tree relates back to one of the fighting stances, with the fourth linking back to your technomancer abilities. From there, Zachariah can improve stats like strength and agility, as well as feats like charisma, science, crafting, etc. Of course, the only upgradeable segment of every level was the skill tree. The stats and feats leveled every few levels.
The biggest success in Technomancer involves the second ‘big’ feature: numerous narrative paths. Now, this isn’t a new concept in the gaming industry. But with that said, Technomancer seems to take this concept to new levels. Literally every action appeared to have some sort of consequence, and I do believe these consequences both vary and change future outcomes based on the myriad options you choose. For example, I quelled a mutant rebellion by reasoning and charisma, and I denied Colonel Viktor any information regarding the technomancers. In response, Viktor used my methods of completing missions for the Abundance (Ophir’s military) army against me. Could it have gone a different way had I dealt with the mission differently? I chose to solve each mission or quest on my own terms and even lied about outcomes to my commanding officer. As such, when my world was turned upside down by Viktor, she found out. And while I was able to charisma my way out of my conversations with her (I chose, from the beginning, to invest all my points into maxing out charisma), I was unable to escape Ophir without conflict. Had I divulged information about the technomancers to Viktor, or if I had handled my military missions differently, I wonder how the narrative would have changed.
At its heart, Technomancer is an inspiring attempt at what open world action RPGs can be. It doesn’t always succeed at what it tries to do, but its ambition often makes up for its missteps. I expect some of my concerns to be patched away with the day one patch (assuming there is one), but there weren’t many technical issues at hand. I can’t wait to start a second playthrough and see if my choices drastically change the story – or if even minor decisions can alter a pathway. If Star Ocean and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE aren’t your style, perhaps give Technomancer a try if you’re itching for a new RPG.