Set on Mars several hundred years post-colonization during the War of Water, Spiders' cyberpunk space story melds Mass Effect-y sci-fi with Witcher-esque fantasy, albeit not approaching the heights of either franchise.
You play Zachariah Mancer, a magic-wielding, cybernetics-implanted newbie Technomancer employed by the Abundance corporation. Colonization was privatized here — think Hudson Bay Company — but the partially terraformed Red Planet lost touch with Earth a long while ago. This resulted is a dystopian disaster where the various companies have become domed corporate city-states at war with each other. (The Technomancer is actually set in the same war-torn world of the obscure PC-only RPG from 2013, Mars: War Logs.)
As the game begins, you've just become a full-fledged technomancer, but after uncovering a conspiracy you soon find yourself hounded by the secret police taking over Abundance. Once kicked out of the city, your ultimate goal is to stay alive long enough to find a way of contacting the lost Earth.
The action-RPG offers the usual character levelling with skill trees, gear crafting and combat disciplines alongside a narrative mix of main storyline and side-quests as you roam Mars' diverse settlements and landscapes. You must use your electrical mage-warrior powers against enemy clans, mutants and assorted alien life forms. (The combat is tough, by the way, even at "normal" setting, and can get infuriating.)
Though the gritty and gigantic world Spiders has built is ambitious and admirable — including architecture, aliens and art design — it's not exactly the best-looking game on the market, nor is it particularly innovative or polished. The facial animations are distractingly rudimentary and the voice-acting sub-par. This is an indie studio trying to stake a claim in corporate territory, and you can sense the strain of the budgetary restrictions they were operating under.
What saves the game is its unadulterated nerdiness, from that space magician title on down. Even in a medium as geek-driven as video games, The Technomancer feels unapologetically so, with little if any effort made by the French studio to appeal to the mainstream gamer.
It's the gaming equivalent of a B-movie that works primarily as a purist genre exercise, and what better time to dig into that type of pop culture than the summer? (Spiders / Focus Home Interactive)