The Technomancer takes place in the relatively distant future, 200 years after humanity has colonized Mars. Players take on the role of Zachariah Mancer, a member of the technomancer order on Mars. As a technomancer, Zachariah is a mutant who can control the destructive elemental power of electricity. Early on in the game, Zachariah ends up on the run from one of the most powerful corporations on Mars, and puts together a ragtag team of individuals who will help him shape the fate of Mars.
The story isn’t exactly ground-breaking, filled with cliches and overused sci-fi character archetypes, like the erratic scientist and the sardonic technician, but it’s not actively terrible either. Hidden behind some of the monotony are a few magical character decisions, and intriguing sci-fi musings that pull the player in. However, the good moments are dragged down by the consistently awful dialogue and cringe-worthy delivery. Ultimately, what could have been a decent narrative ends up being one of the low-points of the game.
The Technomancer will feel familiar to many players, and well, the elephant in the room is that it draws a lot of very obvious inspiration from Bioware RPGs. Everything from the companion system to the soundtrack bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain popular sci-fi RPG. And unfortunately, The Technomancer feels like a rather low-budget version of the Bioware formula, having more in common with Mass Effect 1 than Mass Effect 3. By mimicking Bioware’s model, The Technomancer casts a light on its own shortcomings when it doesn’t meet the standards players might expect from that kind of game, and it often does fall short.
That said, The Technomancer certainly sets itself apart from the titles that influenced it, which is most apparent in the world that has been built for the player. The world of The Technomancer is foreign, unique, and genuinely interesting to explore. Little details, like every character’s last name defaulting to their job/role/status in society creep up on the player as they experience the world, and it’s everything that a fan of open-RPGs could hope for. Unfortunately, the world is not introduced to the player particularly well, mostly due to the game’s poor writing. The opening monologue introduces the player to about fifteen different concepts over the span of thirty seconds, and amounts to nonsense, only coming together hours later. Similarly, various political factions, societal norms, and unusual qualities of the world are rarely introduced to the player in an organized fashion, but rather are left to the player to figure it out at some point…or not.
The presentation of The Technomancer is a bit of a mixed bag. The landscapes are beautiful, but oftentimes feel very empty. The music and sound effects are grade-A, but the voice acting is atrocious. Most humanoid characters look stiff, and low-res, but all of the non-humanoid creatures look great, and are animated extremely well. The worst part about the presentation is that some elements are so great that you’ll forget about its flaws for a short time, and then when the less-impressive elements show themselves, it hits the player hard, like a surprise punch to the gut.
For example, I had just finished a particularly enjoyable section of the game that pitted me against a large group of enemies in a massive landscape on Mars. The music was thrilling, the combat was tense, and the sights and sounds were truly impressive. Then, things calmed down, and characters, with their blurry faces, started speaking in their poorly-written, badly-acted monotone, and I felt the joy suck right out of me. It’s a bit like riding a really intense roller coaster, and then stepping off the ride and making eye-contact with a Dementor for five minutes.
The Technomancer also suffers from various, albeit minor, technical issues. The framerate in particular can be spotty, especially when moving through hub areas, or fighting large groups of enemies. Zachariah is also prone to getting caught onto items when exploring the world, or getting stuck in various rooms due to wandering NPCs that just happen to be blocking the only exit. On one occasion, I also encountered a glitch where a quest-giver wouldn’t allow me to return a quest, and instead kept repeating a previous dialogue prompt, which prevented me from turning in that quest. Although these small issues linger throughout the game, most of them are rare, and aren’t likely to hinder anyone’s enjoyment of the game.
If there is anything that The Technomancer nails, it’s combat. The combat system consists of three distinct play styles: the rogue, an agile style that arms the player with a dagger and a gun; the guardian, a defender build that gives the player a medium-range weapon and a shield; and the warrior, which gives the player a massive staff, with many area attacks. Additionally, all players can make use of the signature technomancer abilities, all of which involves using electricity against foes.
Each combat style plays completely differently, and they’re all a lot of fun, but the star of the show is the technomancer abilities that allow the player to shoot lightning bolts at their enemies, imbue their weapons with lightning properties, shield themselves in a forcefield of static electricity, and much more. The player is almost always outnumber by enemies, and can only survive by dashing quickly around the battlefield, and hitting the enemy quickly, and getting out even faster. It’s a fast-paced, exciting, and surprisingly difficult experience that end up being one of the highlights of the game.