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MARS WARS LOGS

From the Game's Website:
Developed by Spiders studios for Xbox LIVE, PlayStation Network and PC, Mars War Logs Logs is a science-fiction RPG that offers a wide variety of dynamic quests and tactical combat, a high level of character specialization using different skill trees and an excellent crafting system. Mars War Logs takes place on the planet Mars, almost a century after the huge catastrophe that plunged the Red Planet and its colonies into chaos. Water is the most precious resource on the planet, and different corporations are fighting to gain control of it. In the midst of this ruthless struggle, you play Roy Temperance, an adventurer with many talents, and immerse yourself in an intense cyberpunk RPG set on the Red Planet.

MARS WARS LOGS is the story of, and narrated by, a hero by the name of Innocence. It comes from the same French Company Spiders that gave us "Of Orcs and Men" last year which was a far superior game. This is then a bit of a let down after Of Orcs and Men but not many companies can follow up on a great game with another great game, even if it is quite different in looks, background, theme and play.

The game begins with Innocence in prison and about to be man-raped when he is rescued by the true hero of the story as far as the player is concerned, a man named ROY. Roy Temperance is a hero with a dodgy dark past but of course that was to be expected as nowadays all heroes have a dark background whether it is earned or framed.

Throughout there is a look of budgetary design, not low budget but not high end either. Graphically there are parts that come to life while others are dull and blurry, basically there is a minor lack of detail at times as you can see from the few screenshots on this page (the background art doesn't particularly compliment the foreground).

There is a lot of too-ing and fro-ing going on during play. Quests, tasks and missions that have you running back and forth up and down and at times not a lot of imagination. As stated above the hero is called Roy and, when you get to the evil villain you find that his name, whose must not be spoken (oops! sorry wrong story) is the Technomancer (or is that Necromancer) with the terrifying name of Sean - gasp of fear ! Thankfully the weak names are only a small slight on this RPG game, there is much to enjoy and many hours of fighting, discovering and adventuring awaiting you. Some of the character qualities are tested to breaking point. You can also do pretty bad things, that bely your name or that of your ward (Innocence) yet remain on the side of good.

The Guilds:
Abundance is the oldest of the water companies, and was set up shortly after the Turmoil by the survivors of a group of hydro-engineers sent to the enclaves by the ONM (Organization of Nations on Mars). They were assigned to manage the exploitation of the water resources and to supply water to the various industrial and human complexes. After the great catastrophe, Abundance's sole objective was to enable the colonists to survive by ensuring water reached the maximum number of enclaves. This meant continuing ONM's mission in any way possible, despite having lost contact with Earth.

But during the long period of chaos following the Turmoil, the founders of Abundance began to realize the extent of their power in the new Martian society. Convinced that their way of doing things was the best and only way, they learned to use water as a blackmailing tool to crush the opposition. Thus Abundance gradually moved away from its original benevolent corporate structure and became an enlightened dictatorship, eventually turning into a consortium that was as despotic as it was monolithic.

Officially Abundance is still the company dedicated to serving those who need the most help… only now it makes sure everyone understands they can't do without its services.
 
Aurora is the newest of the large water companies. It was originally a small confederation of independent water researchers; pioneers. Aurora's founders were hoping to discover new sources of water to break the cycle imposed by the other companies by redeveloping pre-Turmoil technologies and exploring the unoccupied zones. But the decline in technology and the punishing Martian sun called a halt to their ambitions, forcing Aurora's dowsers, after some initial minor successes, to enter into permanent conflict with the other companies for the known sources.
 
Aurora is still very different from other companies both in its philosophy and its often audacious political and military tactics. This company operates using mysticism and faith that stems from its keen interest in the pre-Turmoil era and its often hopeless attempts at exploration. This religious ideal is so entrenched in their philosophy, that each newborn receives a “virtue name” that is designed to guide their entire existence. The cult and rituals are all-pervading, more so in recent times, and have infiltrated the highest echelons of power where the Technomancers are established.

Their size in terms of both numbers and power not only enables the company to compete with others, but also ensures the company's future dominance. The designers place this in the CyberPunk genre but it isn't how I remember CyberPunk of the role-playing days, oh so many years ago for me now. I am not sure which genre I would actually put this game in. Some of the clothing looks like it comes from Dune or the Game of Thrones whereas the creatures on Mars often look like they come from a poor version of Dungeons & Dragons.

There are lots of side issues visible or mentioned that could have graced this game and made it both longer and more interesting but it seems that the designers have thrown in some bones but not added the meat to make them of value.

The background, from the games website - this tells the story better than I can. What this doesn't tell you about is the actual game play and the mechanics. The combat is cumbersome at times and the screen jerks around if you go the wrong way or to a place you aren't meant to go. For example in the cavern with the Queen where you have to destroy the eggs (6 of the groupings) if you try to go back up the tunnel you cannot even though you can see your partner just in front of you you cannot reach him. If you try the screen jerks and bounces. If you go back down the tunnel the Queen and her minions will block you from moving and no matter how many times you hit the Queen you cannot defeat her in straight combat. This is only a minor complaint - about the screen moving - it is otherwise a warning not to try to run away but instead to discover the way forward, the way to defeat the Queen and other creatures during the game. It can be (is) frustrating but it is also challenging.

Mars was colonized more than 20 years ago by Earth colonists. At that time the colonies were scattered enclaves in regions suitable for human and animal habitation, and sustained by the controlled proliferation of vegetable organisms that generated a breathable atmosphere. Cities quickly grew on the Red Planet, and areas of agriculture, mines, breeding areas and research centers were established that enabled the colonists to be self-sufficient. The long-term objective was to create a new Earth… but the process was interrupted well before it was achieved.

Seven decades after the arrival of the first Earth colonists, the settlement of Mars finally started to flourish and develop. This prosperity came to an abrupt halt by a catastrophe on the scale of the solar system. Tilting on its axis, the Red Planet left its normal orbit and moved slightly closer to the sun. The thin Martian atmosphere was now unable to filter the dangerous radiation emitted by the star, plunging the colonists into a hitherto unknown and total chaos as the sun's deadly rays caused death and destruction on the planet. Many inhabitants had to flee the ruined cities and devastated agricultural zones, and were exposed to the sun's harmful radiation... all communication with Earth was lost, and the Red Planet was now isolated.

Practically the entire population was suddenly swept away, and many of the survivors who suffered just brief exposure to solar radiation started to mutate. The colonists who managed to reach their shelters in time continued to live as best they could in cities that were more or less intact and shielded from the now deadly sun's rays. The loss of contact with Earth coincided with deliveries of essential raw materials such as wood and oil products. Fabricated metals and composite materials like steel, plastic or powder, were now almost exclusively derived from recycled products and the lives of the colonists quickly reverted to a level comparable to that of the Middle Ages on Earth. If there were indeed any technological relics that still worked they were very rare, and became the almost exclusive property of those who now occupied the role of priests and guardians of the knowledge: the Technomancers.

Of all the resources that would become scarce, one in particular was truly vital for the survival of the colonists... the only resource that would enable them to support agriculture and to quite simply stay alive.
The rare installations that were still operational and the water sources that could still be exploited soon became scenes of fierce battles for control of them; because the different autonomous 'governments' that had risen up from the ashes of the colonies had understood one thing above all: if you control water, you control Mars.

Even today, the wars that were tearing the people of Mars apart are still raging. Amongst the most violent is the one that pits Aurora, the young guild, against Abundance, one of the oldest water companies. Aurora, owing to its Technomancers in particular, recently gained a decisive victory against Abundance by capturing Green Hope, one of the largest agricultural centers on Mars. But this victory could be very short-lived if the civil war devastating the interior were to spread. This is where your adventure begins: you play Roy, a prisoner of war captured by Abundance and currently held in Camp 19. The arrival of a young detainee, Innocence, will give you the chance to escape you've been waiting for...

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015