If you’re looking for an inoffensive, run-of-the-mill open-world RPG, The Technomancer won’t disappoint you, but it won’t blow you away, either.
An open-world, sci-fi RPG from French development studio Spiders, The Technomancer is set on Mars. You play a character named Zachariah, who has recently graduated from padawan to master in the Martian equivalent of a Knights Templar. The game follows a standard cyberpunk narrative full of twists and turns that aren’t that shocking. even when you don’t see them coming (which is rare).
And herein lies the major problem with The Technomancer. From the story, to the environments and art-style, to the gameplay—which we’ll get into shortly—nothing here feels fresh or unique in any way. Never once did I feel engaged in the plot or concerned for the characters, and not because the game handles these elements badly but because I feel like I’ve been down this path a million times before. I’ve fought these battles, I’ve killed these monsters, and I’ve scrounged for parts to craft a slightly better weapon at these benches before. Had this game come out in the early cycles of the PS3 and Xbox 360, it would have blown minds. Ten years later, however, and The Technomancer immediately feels dated and overly familiar.
Like the rest of the game, the combat, levelling, partyI’ll give Spiders one thing, rather than forcing you to pick a certain class or playstyle from the beginning and lock you into it, throughout the entire game you’re able to freely switch between three different stances: Guardian, which plays similar to a sword-and-board Dark Souls approach; Warrior, essentially a zippy staff-based style that’s great for fighting multiple enemies at once; and Rogue, which favours a Bloodborne-esque dual-wielding stance that uses a blade and pistol. Of course, while you are able to constantly flip back and forth between these classes, when levelling you will obviously have to choose where to focus the majority of your skill points. There is also the ability to employ Technomancer “spells” which range from firing electrical bolts that stun enemies to powering up your weapon with elemental damage.
Again, not a bad idea for a system, but nothing super innovative. The combat itself is also clunky, clumsy, and slow, and while there isn’t a huge problem with input lag, the controls don’t feel particularly smooth or tight. Combat usually boils down to button mashing until the current enemy is dead and you can move on to the next one. The usual “kill and fetch” quest system means you’ll be spending a lot of the game doing this, so it’s a shame the system isn’t more fun.
I’ve already commented on my feelings regarding the general aesthetic of the game, and sub-par graphics prevent the generic landscapes, characters, and monsters from being totally acceptable. In all honesty Technomancer looks like something that would have been mildly impressive in the later stages of the PS3 life-cycle. The less-than-fantastic lip-syncing combined with the main character’s dreadfully boring voice acting makes sitting through the cutscenes and dialogue (of which there is a lot) a chore.
The Technomancer suffers from a strange problem. If this were a release from a AAA studio, the game would get crucified. Being from a smaller team though, bad graphics and crappy voice-acting are forgivable issues. Not everybody has endless coffers of cash to ensure top-tier production values, and that’s totally ok. This really seems like a case of a small studio over-reaching their ability. Had they perhaps toned down the style a little, and attempted something more in line with their budget rather than trying to match the quality of a Bioware or CDProjekt Red offering, the game wouldn’t seem so second-rate. As it is, nearly every other aspect of The Technomancer oozes mediocrity, especially and most problematically the derivative and cliché story and gameplay.
If open-world RPGs are your thing, and you’re a sucker for a near-future cyberpunk setting, you’ll definitely enjoy the game. It’s not a terrible game, but it certainly isn’t a great one, so if you’re not a gigantic fan of the genre, I can’t really recommend it.