I didn’t know a huge amount about Technomancer going in other than the box art looked cool and it seemed like a deep RPG with some sweet fighting. I figured its main protagonist has some sort of technological necromancing powers but as it starts and I learn your name is Zachariah Mancer it dawns on me that it’s probably not.
So a Technomancer is actually a thing and it’s just weird that Zach has a similar surname. A technomancer is kind of an emo Jedi schooled in a variety of fighting styles but poor Zach is caught between a sort of secret police and the army of a corporation. Honestly I had no clue what was going on at first other than everything was quite dark and broody and there are lots of browns and greys. It turns out that Technomancer is a sequel to a 2013 RPG called Mars: War Logs. I’ve not heard of it but apparently it wasn’t well received.
Set on Mars you will get to see quite a few different environments rather than just red dust (I had a worry it would end up looking like Red Faction!) so the initial panic subsides but my interest was first caught at combat training. Set in a third person style (in which actually the whole game bears a very similar feel to Mass Effect) you begin quickly by learning different ways of beating fools up. It’s not quite Batman Arkham – although you can lock onto individuals and sort of flip between beating them up – you have a choice of three styles which you can switch between at any point. First up is using a big stick which you can swing about and do area damage to everyone. Think Donatello. Second is Dark Souls style sword and shield and finally you have Bloodborne (knife and gun). The game calls them different things than this (Warrior, Rogue etc.) but I decided I would mostly play and level up Donatello.
A fourth fighting style is touted as the Technomancer but this basically a magic addition to your arsenal – lightning power. You are limited as to their use and look badass but it’s really a supplement. One part of this is the ability to add lightning power to your equipped weapon – there is no downside as far as I can tell to this but it does extra damage to people you hit so why it’s not always on I don’t know. First thing to do – make all your weapons breathe lightning. The more you level up you can add mods to these weapons which will do things like increase critical hit chance or deal extra damage etc. This is a nice way of customising your gear and your character – especially when you can level up different parts of your fighting styles too.
Sadly I found the combat fairly limited quite quickly and it became boring. Combos are simple and aside from light, heavy and kick attacks (or shoot) you can shoot lightning and people if you have it and then repeat. It’s clunky and if the best comparison is Batman then imagine a weak Batman which no clue when to dodge or counter attacks. Frustrating. I was hoping for more of a Sleeping Dogs style skill increase but it’s sadly not quite as substantial.
Another annoyance is that whilst you can use a pistol as a Rogue your enemies often have proper guns. People would often fire rounds and rounds at me and I’ve basically got a tiny shield or a stick to fight them back. It doesn’t quite seem fair and given how fragile you are it feels like you often experience setbacks as a result of your desire to bring a knife to a gun fight.
The RPG and story elements feel a bit like a budget Mass Effect. There are a number of dialogue choices but it doesn’t seem to make a huge amount of difference and the voice acting is either wooden or laughably over the top. There is a morality scale in here and you’re warned of it early on after beating up some humans here you can steal their life-force essentially to heal yourself but it is not really the way to do things. I took tons of souls and no one really seemed to bat an eyelid after the first time so I’m assuming it’s a Technomancer guideline rather than an enforced rule.
Underneath some fundamental weak areas there’s quite a nice game in here. It’s just a shame that some good fun is then spoiled by an irritating unbalanced encounter, or a fight loss because the camera gets stuck and you didn’t see that extra guy. It feels like it would have been a better game if the choices were stripped out into a fully linear story and the levelling up scaled back to focus on the combat a bit more.
Reviewed on PS4