STAFF REVIEW of Mars: War Logs (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Mars: War Logs Box art During the summer months, many gamers find that the "drought" of quality retail titles allows for surprise quality titles on the Xbox Live Arcade. MARS: War Logs is one such title that aims to separate you from your 1200 MS points ($15) and provide a fantastic RPG experience. Developed by Spider Studios and published by Focus Home Interactive, MARS: War Logs tells the tale of a man who is a prisoner in a POW camp named Roy. Roy's story is mostly a mystery at first but he befriends another inmate who became a recent resident named Innocence Smith. So now that we have the beginning established, let's peel back more layers of this game and see if this game truly warrants the $15 (1200 MS price point).

MARS: War Logs' story tries to deliver a top quality RPG story with elements and ingredients of character development and morality scattered throughout and a dash of combat skills to bring gamers around the globe a truly amazing experience. On the surface this game has all the right ingredients, sadly though the execution is one of a sous chef instead of a master chef. For starters the story of MARS: War Logs attempts to be detailed with a morality angle embedded within, however as you progress through the story you will find multiple faults. There seems to be little to no emotional build of the characters and other NPCs so where the story should seem meaningful, it unfortunately though ends up being very watered down, thin, and lifeless. There are moments of what could be considered emotional investments, but those moments are few and far between and when they finally arrive, you have already trudged through a very dull story with no emotional stake in what happens next.

Along with the transparent thin story is the inclusion of morality. Certain actions and responses in dialogues will either increase or decrease your reputation. If this aspect sounds familiar you probably have experienced this already in games such as Fallout and more. The difference here is that morality is somewhat nonexistent in the game itself. It's entirely possible to kill multiple people and not have any damage done to your "reputation", thus making you wonder, why would this be included at all? Sure there are character bonuses that come with different reputation levels but the pointlessness of having to work with a broken system leaves you with a sense of irritability. If the main story lacked any soul at all, the side quests as well offer very little outside of something to do to kill a few hours out of your life. This is a major disappointment because there are several successful titles that utilize these factors into a fantastic gaming adventure of your own control, and it appears that none of them were used for any sort of inspiration when this game was being made. Is it really that difficult? It's like trying to reinvent the wheel by making it square.

Things go from bad to worse when it comes to MARS: War Logs. Given that RPG titles strive to be lengthy in content, to give tremendous value for dollar to the gamers, the control layout of the game becomes critical because honestly, who wants to play a game for 30-80+ hours with horrendous gaming mechanics? Apparently Spider Studios does want exactly that. While the 3rd person maneuverability is good, the camera system isn't. Yes another game has fallen victim to the dreaded camera bug. This becomes increasingly annoying when you manage to get into combat, which by the way happens a lot. Combat in this game gives you two options.

1) Use a free camera to maneuver through the fight and focus on multiple enemies.


2) Use the lock on feature and keep the screen locked on one particular enemy and thus narrowing your field of view?

Now here is where it gets really bad. If you decide to use the free camera system you will find it is very clunky and will ultimately become your primary focus instead of the fight itself. If you decide to lock onto an enemy you will often find yourself getting the back of your skull bashed out by an enemy you didn't see because they were attacking behind you. With other top tier 3rd person RPG games managing this problem, we find ourselves shaking our heads wondering just what they were thinking when they looked at this broken pile, gave it the thumbs up and said "yes this is what we want to release".

Given that this game is supposedly set on the planet Mars, get ready to become a fan of the color red. Every shade, every tone, and even some of the blacks in the game, are really (we suspect) even darker shades of red as well. There are structures as well, but the metal has tints of what color? Yup, red. This tends to make the game incredibly boring to watch and even when you find observation points, the scenery seems to all blur together into something similar around every corner and through every door. With very little variety, don't expect vast and varying lands to explore, instead tons of red rocks, red ground, red sun, and more red everything else. The funny thing is that normally when a game is taking this much of a beating it tries hard to pull something back to make a big impact and normally that would be in the audio department. This is completely untrue for this game as well. The voice acting is good in some very rare points, but ultimately horrible in almost every other instance. Nothing breathtaking either when it comes to sound effects, or the soundtrack for that matter. It's a shame to because now it seems like the game has given up and is just waiting to be put out of its misery. Let's give them what they want.

When you think of what you can buy today for $15 you want value for dollar. Buying a Fallout game for $9.99 is a deal because you know you'll get a fantastic experience that will last for well over 80+ hours and deliver a top quality product. For $15 Spider Studios is giving you poor control layout with a God awful combat system, a short and meaningless story with mundane side quests that serve little to no purpose, graphics and sound that feel like a step backwards and very unpolished, and an overall dirty feeling that you have just been violated through your wallet. There are other aspects such as character development and item crafting, but those are also so underdeveloped that it really doesn't bear any weight to help the game climb out of the grave. R.I.P. MARS: War Logs, we will be saving our $15.

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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