The red planet is the new black as far as videogames are concerned. Earlier this year the burly Doom space marine headed back to Mars to waste more demons in gratuitously graphic ways. Now Technomancer has arrived taking Earth’s political and social problems to a whole new planet.
It’s the future. Mars has been cut off from Earth for years and is ruled by corporations. Since contact was lost with dear old Earth, the corporations have gone to war with each other for control of the planet’s resources. Increasing solar radiation has caused mutations, creating a slave underclass that is used for the most dangerous and menial jobs.
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In the middle of this repressive totalitarianism, and sounding like one of Rick Wakeman’s more elaborate albums is the order of futuristic electric wizards called Technomancers. They have the power to control and weaponize electricity. Each corporation has their own cadre of Technomancers who are the front line in the war for Mars.
This is where the player comes in. As a young Technomancer, the player must navigate the tense class structure as a member of the security forces in the Martian city of Ophir.
Ophir is split into three levels – the Exchange, the Slums and the Underworks. In all of these, the ruins from the original colonization contrast with the newer structures built by the corporations. It’s an interesting setting, evocative of Paul Verhoeven’s Mars in Total Recall.
The situation on Mars is volatile, throwing the player deep into a politically charged situation in which a rebellion is forming to fight against corporations and their manufactured wars. Decisions matter, as characters will respond differently to the player depending on their choices and actions in the game.
The combat system is as varied as the political situation. Alongside technomancy abilities, players have access to three separate combat stances that deliver a variety of playing styles.
Combat is simple and action-oriented. Three attacks are available, each of which varies depending on the player’s chosen stance. Each stance can be used in conjunction with Technomancy abilities and chaining attacks together is surprisingly rewarding. Later in the game, missing an opportunity to disrupt an enemy attack can prove deadly.
The curious setting, deep levelling system and the smooth, simple combat in Technomancer is an interesting combination and while the game is not as grand or ground-breaking as the likes of Mass Effect, it’s a decent effort for RPG fans, offering something genuinely different from the usual RPG fare of dragons, orcs, and sorcery.