Spiders’s The Technomancer is filled with potential. From its interesting world, to its complex RPG mechanics. Unfortunately, Technomancer’s ambition caused it to fly far too close to the proverbial sun and burn into a crisp of mediocrity. In the world of the Technomancer, the remnants of humanity have colonized Mars. On Mars, water is scarce, leading to internal strife and wars. Major corporations sprung up, oppressing the people and hoarding water. Technomancers arose as a sort of militia to protect the people from the corporations and the vicious creatures of Mars alike.
The game opens with a rudimentary character creator whose very existence seems pointless, since the options are limited, and the character is already prenamed. The inability to play as a female character seems unusual, especially considering nearly every other modern RPG featuring a character creator has the option to. This is hardly unexpected as it seems very little effort went into the actual creator.
Once you’re out of the creator, and the game begins, it becomes abundantly obvious that the controls in this game are far from polished. The movement feels similar to trying to push someone across a block of ice. There are three styles of combat, each of which caters to a different playstyle. The knife and gun style focuses on disruption and mobility. The mace and shield style focuses on defense and heavy attacks, while the staff style focuses on wide sweeping attacks in order to eliminate large groups of enemies. Each of these styles can be paired with your Technomancer abilities, which despite the interesting name, really just means you have generic lightning powers. Combat is a fairly repetitive affair. Hits carry little to no weight unless you upgrade your abilities or weapons in order to increase their disruption stat. Each stance has its own skill tree, as do the Technomancer powers. Along with the four ability skill trees, there are also talent trees. These trees upgrade your character himself in areas such as charisma, lockpicking, and stealth. The game’s skills work on a binary system, meaning if your skill isn’t high enough to complete a certain task, you cannot do that task, period. This means certain missions involving pursuasion or gaining intel will be unable to be completed until your charisma is a certain level. This is also true of lockpicking. This system can be frustrating, because for an an RPG that claims a variety of choices, it limits those choices.
The narrative of the game, while not limiting choices, does seem to make your decisions have a very obvious right and wrong choice to make. There are many factions you can side with in Technomancer such as the Technomancer order, the rogues, or the merchants. The first of these factions you are introduced to is the Technomancer order, and you’re first assignment with them is to find and kill deserters from the order. Technomancers are born soldiers. From the time they are initiated, Technomancers are constantly fighting wars to protect the people. Your captain explains that, as terrible as it may be to hunt your own, should people hear of deserters, it would be bad for the image of the Technomancers, so the deserters have to die. The mission itself is confusing because after beating an enemy in combat, your given an option to “Drain Serum (Kill)” indicating that unless you use this option, you haven’t actually killed your enemy. Serum is used as currency in Technomancer (which is a ridiculous concept seeing as how it is drained from other humans), but draining it lowers your karma. Upon finding the leader of the deserters, he pleads with you to let them go, saying he and his men are tired of fighting, and simply want to live a quiet life. It isn’t until after you beat the leader half to death that you are granted a dialogue option to kill him, arrest him, or let him go. The decision isn’t presented as a moral choice, but it certainly feels like one.
Technomancer is a game full of potential, however it is yet another ambitious project that so obviously suffered from an insufficient budget and a team that was not large enough to properly execute a game of this scale.