There are four levels of Difficulty in the Technomancer from Easy to Forget it. Easy isn't easy but it does give you a fighting chance.
The TECHNOMANCER from French company SPIDERS, and FOCUS HOME INTERACTIVE, offers us a chance to see what life really could be like on Mars. However, if we are to believe their version then our thoughts of heading towards the Red Planet should quickly change course and we should look for a more peaceful solution to Earth's population crisis. If this is the truth then on Mars there is nothing awaiting us but desolution and death, and I for one don't fancy a several year journey to find that out for myself.
The game begins and continues like so many other dark-future scenarios, with the completion of the creation of an heroic avatar, and then training him in the arts of killing by as many means possible as his personal skills allow. These include, sword and shield, spear, pistol and of course techno-magic. You are Zachariah, and can train in each weapon style against experienced soldiers before heading off into the wildlands with your mentor, Sean Mancer.
The humans on Mars, of which you are now one, are the forgotten, the children of Earth who years ago journeyed to this desolate Planet to inhabit and colonise it. Now after years of suffering the radiation eminating from the planet's core, many of the people have been affected to the point of being mutated into unrecognisable monsters, whilst others, although not physically or visibly mutated, have turned against the People's Assembly and live their lives outside of the supposed law.
Much of the gameplay has been seen before, sneaking, back-stabbing, spell-casting, various weapon-use, violence for excitement's sake, and gaining levels of experience that themselves give valuable and spendable points for upgrading Zachariah's expertise in the skills and abilities of your choosing (from those available of course).
Mostly the game is about combat and completing quests and tasks as you traverse the broken and rocky lands and as long as you balance your point spending and learn the skills necessary to survive you should be successful. A lot of the action takes place in dark and gloomy terrain which although is probably more natural is also unfortunate as a lot of the quite excellent animations and artistic detail are lost in the shadows.
I have to be honest and say I found it difficult to to get too excited about the TECHNOMANCER because there really is nothing (or very little) in it that I haven't seen or played before. The graphics are superb, the animation works, the facial expressions are realistic, and the animation for walking and running is normal. I was surprised to discover that Zachariah didn't jump when I hit the [space bar] but he did walk on WASD and run on W+shift. I like that I can add abilities and potions etc to the utility belt (okay it isn't a utility belt per se but it does the same job) for quick use by a single keystroke, but I then found the firing, spelling and swinging my weapon at the same time whilst in combat was a trifle confusing.
Apart from being occasionally confusing, some of the combat also didn't work as I planned, hoped, or thought it would. For instance, in most games of this type if you do a sneak attack from the back and you are unseen by your intended victim when you click the "attack" button you expect the victim to die immediately and quietly unless you alert him, not turn round and start fighting you while alerting the guards; though of course this may just be my ham-fisted use of the controls.
I said honestly that there was little to get too excited about but that's not quite true, especially if you are new to this game genre. I should have qualified that by adding "if you are used to playing dark fantasy stealth and combat games". If you are not so experienced or this is your first rodeo then there is plenty to get excited about. The character creation is quick, easy and non-invasive, unlike the MMO style of avatar making; ensuring that you get into the action quickly, though rather unprepared. Thankfully you have the training arena for the preparation you need, and although it is not particularly exciting I really suggest that you go through the four basic combat styles at least twice each as it really nimbles up your fingers for the reactions you are going to need once you exit through the gates. Then in the "real world" you will be ready to face the masses, mutations and the monsters. Simple key strokes change your stance and style, from spear user to sword and shield, warrior, caster, to rogue. Choosing the right stance for the right battle is paramount to success.
From a purely new player viewpoint, the TECHNOMANCER is a good game to play on Easy Level as your first venture, but from Normal Level up it asks a lot, is unrelentless and unforgiving. If, for instance, you come to it after playing high fantasy MMOs, you will quickly notice the difference. You now have a partner, your mentor, someone you do not control but who generally follows you rather than leads. Although he does offer advice and give instruction, this is mostly when you choose to talk to him (when the "speak" icon is available) but occasionally unrequested. There is a lot of action and very little planning because it is a game that requires more time and consideration than the action often allows for. There are very few moments of downtime, even after a battle - if you wait around guards or monsters will be upon you. Your energy is exhausted whenever you cast a spell so you need to be able to fight well enough for the energy to restore itself.
The TECHNOMANCER is a science-fiction, high fantasy, blend of future, past and action, in a land we have often seen in games and movies and read about in countless novels, and thus it is a dark and deadly entertainment that most of us are already quite familiar with. There are cities and towns to be evacuated, besieged and conquered and many monsters and creatures as well as mutants and men ready to prevent your advance towards victory. Does the Technomancer take science-fiction and man-to-man combat or man-to-many combat any further than other games ? In my opinion, no it doesn't. Does it fulfil the interest and expectations of gamers craving quality sounds, visuals and action ? Well yes,yes it does.
(pix from Google images online)