Life is busy these days, free time is short, and there are a hell of a lot of games coming out… More than any person could ever play, let alone finish. I do my best to keep up with the neverending flood of titles, but there’s only so much one man can do.
In an effort to be a bit more nimble, I’ve decided to try out a new feature: This Is Not A Review.
Basically, like it says, this is not a review… The content of this column will be general impressions, ideas, thoughts, and any random thing that pops into my head after spending time with the non-review game in question. I’ll still be doing full reviews for sure, but sometimes something comes across your desk and you just don’t wanna commit the amount of time needed to roll credits.
The subject of the first installment of this is not a review? The Technomancer, from Spiders.
Basically, it’s a third-person action-RPG that feels fairly similar to Mass Effect in terms of general structure. It’s apparently set in the same universe as one of their older titles, Mars War Logs, although I can’t quite tell if it’s supposed to be a continuation of that story, a separate story set in the same world, or if they’re just taking a second stab at the same sort of concept.
The graphics here are actually quite nice, and the art team does a good job of making Mars look more than just “red” everywhere – it’s fairly Euro-depressive and dark, and the world in general looks like a pretty miserable place to be… which is appropriate since according to the story, the world is a pretty miserable place to be.
Unfortunately, while I really liked some of Spiders’ earlier work, they seem to be whiffing it bigtime lately, and this game is another example of that losing streak. For starters, one of the most important things a game needs to do is to get a player hooked right from the beginning, and The Technomancer doesn’t get it done.
After creating a very generic character (only facial features can be changed and there are no female options – booooo!) the game just doesn’t know how to get the player interested in what’s going on. There’s very little context given about anything, and the first mission shows the player a “big reveal” which has zero impact because we have no idea what this revelation means in relation to the character, the world, or the story.
The signposting of this opening level was pretty atrocious and I got lost for a while – another big no-no for a game’s opening hours. Once I completed it, the game immediately assigned me two rando teammates and sent me on my way to do a mission for a police force. Again, I had no attachment to my character or the story, and little motivation to keep going with the assignment – none of it meant anything to me. The team clearly put in a ton of work on the art side, so I can’t figure out why the writing and plotting is so bad. There just doesn’t seem to be any notion of how to get a spark going here. (PROTIP: Don’t give your characters the last name ‘Mancer’)
The other aspects of the game feel like wastes of time considering how uninvolving it is. I had the opportunity to pick up a bunch of random junk from fallen enemies, but the thought of upgrading a bunch of armor and weapons was not appealing. The combat seems to have some good fundamental concepts, but it’s really tough, even on the easiest difficulty. The tutorial section was a breeze, but the very first quest I went on killed me in the very first battle, and since I had zero buy-in here, it felt like the game was working overtime to get me to quit, which it did.
I have fond memories of Spiders’ early work (Of Orcs And Men was amazing despite how janky it was, and Faery: Legends of Avalon had great ideas for structure and content) but this group of devs just don’t seem able to get back on a good track. If they spent more time getting the player to give a damn about their world before giving them a bunch of busywork to do, it might help. As it stands, the game is as compelling as a stranger pointing to someone else’s pile of work and asking if I want to do it because it’s there.
Of course the answer is no.