For fans of the action-RPG genre, Bound By Flame was an early beacon of hope for PlayStation 4 owners, as the first such game to reach the platform. Unfortunately, it didn’t reach the heights that people might have wished, but with The Technomancer – a game for which precious few details, or images, are readily available – it’s clear that developer Spiders hope to build upon that as they return to the universe of their even earlier RPG, Mars: War Logs. The events of The Technomancer run in parallel to that game, but feature different characters and follow a different story.
Set in the distant future, the colonies of Mars have not had any contact with the Earth for a very long time, but have instead managed to survive on their own for around two centuries. Powerful guilds that control and battle the precious supplies of water have risen to great power and influence across the various cities of the planet.
Stepping into this world, you take on the role of a newly anointed Technomancer, freshly entrusted with the greatest secret of this powerful caste: that their magic-like powers come from a mutation. With mutants shunned by the general populace, you’re soon tasked with finding artefacts and technology from Earth, as the mother planet is held with such great reverence that if you were to find some way of connecting the Technomancer’s mutant genes back to Earth, it may be enough to dispel the stigma of mutation.
Your mission sees you coming into contact with a number of different factions within each city, such as the military or thieves, and you bargain with them in an attempt to secure these relics of the past. Naturally, these will often result in favour-earning quests for you to try and complete however you see fit.
One example saw the rookie Technomancer tasked with hunting down a group of soldiers who had deserted their posts and were hiding on the outskirts of the city. Reaching their hiding place saw him venture out from the steely grey city into the red rock tunnels and caves – don’t worry, it won’t all be grey and red, and other cities will feature distinctively different architecture – following a clue that came up to some of these rogue soldiers on guard.
As in Bound By Flame, you can switch quickly between styles of combat, something which is furthered by the extensive skill tree. A greater emphasis was placed on being able to make stealth kills, but if spotted, or deciding to wade into battle, combat options include sword and shield, a two-handed fighting stick, firearms and, of course, your Technomancer powers.
Already a part of their previous games, Spiders also want to further the choices open to you within The Technomancer. In this instance, having defeated the deserting soldiers, you’re able to pick from a number of paths. Letting them go curries favour with that group later in the game, but then you’ll go back empty handed and maybe have to try to lie through your teeth and say that you killed them to the captain who handed you the assignment. Making use of the broadened dialogue options within the game can exhibit your character’s social skills or lack thereof.
With the game featuring a day-night cycle that has various NPCs in different places at different times – not that you’ll really be able to see it when in the confines of the city – one interesting twist is that some missions will have a time limit on them. Wait too long and those deserters will have disappeared off to another city, though even that counts as a kind of choice and has ramifications later into the game.
Your decisions will not just alter how the various factions perceive you within the game, but will also have effects that ripple through your party. There are five potential companions within the game who will quite happily leave the party if you antagonise them too much with your actions.
Though it still looks like they might struggle to match up to the juggernauts of the genre, it’s good to see Spiders endeavouring to push their own game craft to the next level. The wealth of options that can be afforded you in completing a quest – or not – is particularly intriguing but, with the general reaction to Bound By Flame and Mars: War Logs such as it was, I fear they still have a lot to prove.