Mars: War Logs Review

Though steeped in ambition, this latest role-playing game from French developer, Spiders, is a step back from last year’s Of Orcs & Men. For the asking price you may be getting a fair bit of content to chew on in Mars: War Logs, yet the incentive to do so is in short supply to say the very least.

Leaving behind its greenskin duo and their medieval kingdom, the developer’s latest, digital-only title casts players as an renegade wandering the red planet. It’s been years since humans colonised Mars, sprouting guilds all over the place in search of water and suitable habitats. Living conditions and the fight for resources soon lead to conflict, however, with the daftly named Roy Temperance caught smack-bang in the middle.

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Belonging to a caste of a mage-like Technomancers, Roy breaks free of his chains in search of freedom, only to find himself thrown in yet another prison. It’s here that he meets the equally ill-named Innocence, a teenager taken as a prisoner of war after joining the militia. Though Roy is the game’s lead protagonist, it’s really through Innocence that we see him develop as the young man recites their journey in his war logs.

Though the game’s irksome “virtue names” can be overlooked, the actual content of its characters is harder to ignore. Roy is ultimately used as a conduit for the game’s morality system, though ends up being unlikeable no matter which choices you make. Innocence is equally annoying with other major characters being few and far between.

Their delivery is made only worse by War Logs’ so-so presentation. The in-game visuals are hardly dire yet wooden animations and ugly character models detract from their overall appeal, though not as much as the voice acting. Once upon time RPG fiends would be content with walls of text but, after being fed on games such as Uncharted, Mass Effect, and the like, we now expect compelling dialogue and deliveries. Unfortunately War Logs achieves neither; though good in places, voice acting is poor overall and suffers from the occasional hiccup in translation.

Battles are kept relatively small with a maximum of eight or nine characters duking it out at the same time. Using the actions available, you’ll need to roll, attack, counter, and block as enemies swarm around you. Players can also slow down time, bringing up a radial menu that displays any/all remaining commands that haven’t been assigned to specific buttons. It has its merits for sure though, on the whole, combat is underwhelming and often frustrating.

For some, great story-telling is the bread and butter for any RPG while for others its the gameplay. Like many of its modern contemporaries, Mars is largely focused around character development and action-heavy combat. It’s a strange comparison to make yet we’d be accurate in saying the game feels like a hybrid between Batman: Arkham Asylum and BioWare’s Dragon Age.

For instance, trying to block and counter can be a harrowing experience. Enemies will mindlessly pummel away at Roy and his companions, rarely presenting the opportunity for a well-timed counter or a successful evasive roll. When paired with subtle, hard-to-read animations, even the smallest of skirmishes become perilous. I’d often find myself trapped between a swell of bodies with one failed block or counter leading to instant death. Mars: War Logs can be an incredibly difficult game – even on normal and easy settings – though something tells me this wasn’t completely intentional.

Outside of combat, you’ll have errands to run, items to craft, and skills to train. Most of your exploits will yield experience points which fuel stat-boosting feats as well as the game’s three skill paths. This is Mars’ substitute for a class system, allowing players to pick and choose traits from three conventional RPG archetypes; the warrior, rogue, and wizard. Though given different names they bestow you with the same spread of abilities, from laying traps and performing stealth kills to casting more powerful spells and increasing your melee critical percentage.

Your equipment will also define how well Roy holds up in battle. Through bartering and scavenging you’ll find an array of salvage that can be remoulded into consumable items and armour/weapon upgrades. It’s one of the game’s brighter ideas and definitely shines more vibrantly than the dull quest system.

Throughout your travels you will no doubt talk to a number of NPCs and pick up side-missions. Though a great source of bonus experience, don’t expect to enjoy them. Most will simply have you running from one checkpoint to the next, delivering messages before returning. It’s a cheap way to extend the game’s lifespan and comes across as primitive and inorganic. Where side quests can often be a highlight in some RPGs, their presence in War Logs does nothing to improve the overall experience.

What’s Good:

  • Not your everyday “save the universe” sci-fi narrative.
  • At least tries to implement a few original ideas.
  • Art direction is refreshing at times.

What’s Bad:

  • Flat story and characters.
  • Clunky, sometimes infuriating combat.
  • Dull visuals and poor voice acting.
  • Quickly loses momentum.

Having been in and out of the spotlight for a while now, it’s a real shame to see how Mars turned out. Though it has some interesting ideas, there’s no sugar-coating the facts; War Logs is a poor RPG with sluggish, frustrating combat and a story that barely leaves an impression.

Score: 3/10

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2 Comments

  1. Review seems fair, I played the demo and wondered why anyone had bothered making such a poor quality rpg.

  2. Sounds pretty dire, will steer clear of this. On a side note the womens french accent in the video is unbelievably sexy.

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