Mars: War Logs is a new title from the developer Spiders, published by Focus Home Interactive. Spiders used their in house SILK Engine in the games development. The game plays itself very straight forward RPG with a cyberpunk feel. Not the best RPG, but it is at least it is trying, given that it is an attempt mimic the style of Mass Effect. The start of the game takes us to Mars, over a century after the colonists threw the planet into chaos. Water is the most precious resource with a few groups fighting a perpetual war for its control.
You play the game as Roy Temperance, a man of many talents. You befriend a young soldier named Innocence, recently brought to the POW prision. Innocence is also the narrator – the War Logs of the title referring to his diary. The POW camp/prision setting actually shows a lot of promise, but you’re not long for the prison life.
There is a bountiful amount of quest giving NPC’s and vendors to be found throughout the areas. They are to provide you with typical story elements however the game loses focus sending you in multiple directions at once, running errand after errand for them. This is implemented to provide us with lore, unfortunately shoving lore into a codex only works when it’s a complementary source to storytelling. Unfortunately because this is overdone I found myself skipping dialogue that felt unnecessary.
As you play through the story and quests you develop Roy’s combat style by choosing among dozens of skills and perks, and fight for his life with real-time combat against a limited range of enemies and ‘creatures’ (moles …giant moles). Also with regards to the game limitations there is an unusual amount of loading, every door and barrier acted as cinematic a load screen; which I enjoyed at the beginning.
A decent plus side for this game is the generous number auto-saves (because you will die), fast leveling, and a crafting system similar to the latest Tomb Raider. Allowing you to bolt on increasingly nasty bits onto base weapons like copper pipes, and upgrades to your armor. The moral system is always nice to see in a game though I feel it is slightly flawed. Regardless your choices good or evil, like stealing money you’re supposed to deliver, or saving the hooker from her pimp, it doesn’t seem to change your standings or dialogue options.
Combat has an arcade feel, though the mechanics seem clunky at times and your hit box feels enormous. Repeatedly smashing enemies in the back of the head with electrified crowbars, and tossing grenades at their feet is fun, but will only ever politely knock them out (…when did I become Batman?) The hilarity in combat comes from the fact that trying to have a straight-up fight is suicidal. This leads to frustration, running in circles trying to regenerate health making survival a matter of constantly being on the move and using hit-and-run attacks. Roy is supposed to be one bad dude, though we spend every battle rolling around mixing blocks and parries and special attacks like throwing sand in the eyes. I was hoping I would eventually feel powerful and you never really do…
I had high hopes and played to the very end of the game so I could give you a comprehensive review; however I think it just fell short of expectations. I will be forgiving and understand the vision, due to the limited budget this title was produced with. I’m hopeful this is a stepping stone to something more – perhapps a sequil? Regardless I do hope to see more great titles from the developers, it will be nice to see what else they may bring us.