Players waiting for the next installment of the Mass Effect franchise could get a little satisfaction with The Technomancer by French video game development studio Spiders.
While The Technomancer is not really a Mass Effect clone, it serves as a good offering in a world already inundated with AAA RPG titles. What Spiders has done here is provide a game at a limited budget that not only has a great story, but offers a unique gameplay experience that involves a wide variety of combat styles.
However, first, let's start with the negative: the character creation process. It's not that the initial character creator is basic, though. The problem is that, in 2016, it's pretty much unacceptable to have a customizable character but only offer the male gender. It seems that this is a huge oversight on The Technomancer's part, and for those who like to play as female characters, it also tarnishes gameplay from the onset.
Yet, it's not like gamers haven't always been forced to play as male characters, and eventually, once they get past that, The Technomancer is a solid game.
The setting is on Mars, a planet terraformed by ancient settlers a long time ago. Since then, the planet has lost touch with Earth, but the mage warriors known as technomancers pledge to find a way to communicate with the "Blue Marble." However, Mars' cities are each run by corporations that spend much of their time warring with each other. Can Zachariah, the game's main character, figure out how to navigate this political nightmare and reconnect with Earth?
This setting is already familiar to those who played Spiders' previous game, Mars: War Logs. The Technomancer takes everything from that game and expands upon it, including adding new settings, better graphics and a much-improved combat system. The story here is also really good, and even side missions feel as if they're relevant to what's going on overall. This is one of those games that players will want to explore immensely, doing every mission to earn reputation with NPCs and others.
There's also a romance option, although it's more limited than Mass Effect (it's more like Fallout 4 ). For those who love BioWare's brand of storytelling, though, this is very similar to that: there is laughter, tears and everything in between.
It's the combat system, though, that really makes The Technomancer stand out. At first, it seems complicated, but it gives the player a way to fully customize how Zachariah fights: there are four trees for both combat and magical abilities. Spending points (earned through XP) in each tree customizes how Zach tackles each battle. It's robust and well-done, especially considering that this is a game made on a budget that's a lot less than the AAA guys have to deal with.
The Technomancer is one indie title that is worth its price tag, offering many hours of gameplay, particularly for players who want to fully explore Mars, its cities, worlds and missions. It's also a great substitute for Mass Effect, which won't see a new game until 2017.
* We received a review copy of this game from the developer for the PlayStation 4.