Mars: War Logs is a highly ambitious indie RPG from Spider Studios. While it tries to rival big titles such as Mass Effect or Dragon Age, it does fall short in most places. However, Mars: War Logs does have its moments.
The game opens with a poorly translated time of war on Mars where prisoner Innocence Smith (yes, his name is actually Innocence) is carted off to a POW camp where he is about to be raped in the showers. Luckily for Innocence, who turns out to be nothing more than the narrator of the game, he is saved by Roy Temperance, who immediately includes him in a bold prison break plan.
Mars has a lot of promise at the beginning with the setting as a small and controllable area where you can forge friendships with inmates as well as guards through various side quests. The game even attempts to introduce some intrigue by allowing you to discover an underground ruin. The problem then comes from the antagonist, or more importantly, the lack of a good one.
Mars: War Logs tries to paint an overarching idea that the Technomancers are evil, brutal individuals who like to kill and experiment on human beings. However, because they are hardly ever shown doing anything besides talking, it is hard to subscribe to that idea. Sad to say though, the game fails to capitalize on any of the momentum and quickly culminates in an anti-climatic mission where you easily break out of prison.
The story then progresses from a poorly written prison break to a equally bad rebel resistance plot which does not even have a central antagonist to move the story along. The majority of the game will have you running errands for the various NPCs you get to interact with while the main story will drag along. This makes it harder to feel any sense of attachment to the world or the characters that inhabit it. The game also has a codex of lore which does little to make you feel invested in the story because of the lack of decent storytelling.
Mars: War Logs also has a sort of primitive morality system whereby your actions will determine how some NPCs will react to you, as well as having certain upgrades made available to you. None of the dialogue choices you make will affect your morality, though. Instead, after bludgeoning your foes with your electrified hammer, shooting bad guys in the face with your gun, or even hurling explosives at them will simply only knock them out. You are then confronted with the choice of killing them for extra cash. Should you kill your fallen foes, only then will your morality be affected.
Questing in Mars: War Logs is fairly tedious as well. The area which you get to explore is divided into various segments by doors which sometimes present the player with combat. The quests would then require players to run back and forth to complete multiple objectives before finally completing the quest. Quests are tracked using a simple quest log which does not provide any information about current objectives, but any objectives will be shown on the map as a guide to help the player find it. It dumbs down the questing to simply accessing the map and running straight for the next objective.
While it may be due to a budgetary issue, the graphics and environments look unimpressive at best. The world is dull and bland to look at and does not try to capture your attention. The game also spots a heavy overuse of brown in majority of the environments which makes it all the more boring and uninviting. NPCs are also reused several times, only occasionally spotting various scars or different headgear. Spider Studios’ effort in having voice overs for all the dialogue is commendable, but the lip syncing can sometimes feel off.
The highlight of Mars: War Logs easily comes from its combat. Combat is surprisingly challenging and taking foes head on will surely result in death. Players will have to dodge roll, parry attacks, and always make sure not to get ganged up on. As you level, the game offers skill points for you to unlock and upgrade skills, ranging from Stealth, Combat and Technomancy. While you get increasingly more powerful from your lightning power-ups, the game will bring the pain by throwing more foes at you with different attributes. Some will be immune to frontal attacks, others immune to your lightning powers, and more. With well-placed autosaves and a robust crafting system which revolves around you attaching increasingly nasty parts to your base equipment, it all feels like it is worthy of much better designed RPG.
While only the combat stand out as a true highlight, Mars: War Logs is at least ambitious for an indie developed title. While it has all the ideal elements it needs to be excellent, the resources available to Spider Studios ultimately causes it to lack in important areas, especially story and character development. This makes Mars: War Logs hard to recommend, but should you ever find it on sale and have some spare cash on hand, it’s worth a shot to play and support an up-and-coming indie development studio in the process.
A copy of this game was provided for review purposes.