STAFF REVIEW of The Technomancer (Xbox One)

Friday, July 8, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

The Technomancer Box art Have you ever seen a blatant rip off that you actually enjoyed quite a bit? Now, I know that's harsh to start off with, but recently I sat down to give Technomancer a good solid run through, and even though I find it to almost be a lesser quality clone, I find it to be a clone of some fantastic Bioware RPG games from the golden years so many moons ago. Developer Spiders has actually been smarter than many other companies, and throughout this review you'll see where their brilliance takes form. I think when you take a deep look at Technomancer, what you find may just shock you (get it?).

As I began playing, my character, Zachariah Mancer, is about to be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Officer in the Technomancer Order on the planet Mars, 200 years after it was colonized. Technomancers are humans with a mutated gene that allows them to harness and control electricity. They have become both feared and revered throughout Mars. You're tasked to create a team, which you will build throughout the story, and your actions with the environment, along with the corporations, will determine how they view you.

There are also various corporations and organizations that are positioning themselves for control, and control comes down to water and serum. Water became a vital source of survival, corruption, and power, and throughout the story you must weigh the choices that affect your karma (how your followers and other NPC's regard you), your relationships (save someone's life and they may fall in love with you, but put a bullet in their head and that pretty much seals the deal), and even your associations with various factions (they can be hostile, suspicious, or neutral). Serum is the game's currency, which you can gain from fallen enemies, and if you decide to kill them you will get a serum bonus.

Things sound very typical and you'd be right thinking they are. However, this narrative is nothing short of a divine inspiration drawn straight from classic Bioware RPG games of the past, and that is a stroke of brilliance. With such a successful model already at your disposal you can imagine the guys at Spiders saying, "Hmmmmm... well what if we took the same type of model found in these other legendary games and applied it to ours?" That means what we have is a very deep system of character development combined with a moral dilemma tree system of choices. All of this means that the premise behind this game is sensational. Let me repeat that, the premise behind this game is sensational; however, the execution of the actual game itself is not.

Since we are on the topic of the story, it goes without saying that the voice over acting is laughable at best. Not only is it overacted about 90% of the time, but the other 10% is so comical that you almost feel it was a deliberate attempt to force dialogue into the game. All of this is quite disappointing because the music itself, and the sound effects, feel almost like they came straight from the Mass Effect universe. So, how one could have such terrible voice acting, yet put together a quality score and sound effects is puzzling to me. This isn't just a sliver of negative, but a massive black eye given that the voice acting permeates throughout the entire game. It really puts the hurt on Technomancer in a big way, and that's depressing because the execution could have really helped propel this game into a whole new category, but sadly it's not.

The gameplay mechanics in a 3rd person game have to be responsive in order to be enjoyable, these sadly are not. Now, when you’re playing, your character has multiple game menus to select from. For instance, Left Bumper will bring up your Technomancer quick access wheel at the top left corner of the screen where you can assign various powers and techniques that you can access on the fly. The Left Trigger will allow you to select various assignable buttons that pertain to items such as health potions, or traps, etc. Your Right Bumper will allow your character to select from three different fighting styles:

1. Warrior - The staff is your weapon of choice, with devastating single attacks and a wide but slow area of attack moves, the warrior can cause serious damage to a lot of enemies at once.

2. Rogue - This fighting style hooks your character into using a dagger and a gun. Get in quick and stab, slash, and pierce your enemies, then roll back to a safe distance. Utilizing traps become key for gaining strategic advantages in fights.

3. Guardian - The fighting style of the shield and mace. Using a shield, you can block incoming blows including gunfire, but anything that dares stand in your way will become another body statistic left in your wake.

The rest is very familiar as your Right Stick takes control of a sketchy camera that seems to be more of a hassle than helpful, and the Left Stick will move your character around as per normal. All of this is incredibly similar to games you have played before so that's great right? Sort of.

The responsiveness of the controls is next to nonexistent. There were numerous times where I would be fighting in Guardian style and blocking away when I wanted to dash backward to create some distance so I could lay a trap down. I pushed down on the LS to move my character back, along with the B button to do my dash, and my character actually turned to face the direction I was pressing on the LS. When I hit the B button to dash, my character zoomed right back into the fight, exposing my back at which point would get decimated by countless blades and gunfire which led to a rapid demise. You feel that the dev-team essentially thought to compensate for this sluggishness and erratic behavior by giving you a twitchy camera system to operate, and when your character finally decides to walk, the game almost naturally sends him into a sprint, which makes the A button sprint almost worthless.

Sadly, there is another gripe I have to raise about Technomancer, and that is with the map system. When you have quests selected you don't see any sort of notification or indicator on your HUD and you must push the RT so your map will enlarge to give you a wider view of your immediate surroundings. This is great until you find yourself constantly backtracking to reach objectives and running around with the map seemingly glued to the screen. It really detracts from the game, and unless you want to continue into the menu system to examine the full map, then that's all the support you're going to get. While that's a bad thing, what you need to realize is that the only reason it's bad is because there are so many things to do in Technomancer. Tons of side quests and main missions mean that you can level your character up rapidly. It took me only two days of casual playing to get my character to level 18.

All of this is wrapped up in a graphics presentation that feels very last generation. The character models are nice, but the environment itself is lackluster, and the various NPC characters, that seem to have zero point in the game, almost feel thrown together in a hasty way. But you're not really paying attention to that since you're looking at your full screen map trying to get to where you have to be anyways, so it's not that big of a deal. If you're thinking Technomancer is going to be some graphic powerhouse of pure brilliance, think again.

Technomancer is a game that I feel is undercooked. What I mean by this is that there are games that get delayed because they want to add more polish to the title itself, and Technomancer is a game that could have benefited from that. Had the developers at Spiders taken just a few more months to fine tune the gameplay, I have no doubt in my mind that Technomancer would be a breakthrough game for the company that could have launched them into a whole new level.

Technomancer has so much going for it in terms of story, sound, moral choices, and everything we’ve come to expect from a quality 3rd person RPG game from the big players in the gaming industry, so much so that it really feels like you’re experiencing a cheap knock off of a really great game. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means that it could have been a whole lot better. Imagine what the quality of Technomancer would be like had the dev-team taken the time to do all of this? Wow. I honestly started off with a lackluster impression of the game, but after some long days of playing it I can say that it has grown on me, and even though it's not perfect it sure is fun, and that is what a game is supposed to be in the end right?

Overall: 7.3 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.3 / 10
Sound: 7.9 / 10


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