What Are Journalists Missing When It Comes To The Technomancer?

Standard

About four years ago, a friend of mine told me to purchase a video game to play with him. It was called Medal of Honor: Warfighter. I had never played a Medal of Honor game before, but he persuaded me with the notion of its unique approach to multiplayer. I won’t get into the details, but to my complete surprise, I was extremely hooked on the game for many months. However, Warfighter did not fare well critically, not commercially, and the development team was axed and absorbed into another EA studio.

During that time, I struggled to convey to anyone else how fun the game was, and why it was worth trying, even when the reviews were astronomically bad. I stumbled upon an article written by Michael Cromwell, the Editor In Chief of a now-defunct website called PCG Media. In the article, Cromwell put forward his thesis, which was that the “games journalists” (who are the same as “tech journalists,” also known as money grubbing weasels) were bored or otherwise unwilling to give the game a fair shake because of its similarity to another popular shooter franchise, Call of Duty. Not only did I share Cromwell’s beliefs then, but I feel myself echoing them today about another video game: The Technomancer.

What is The Technomancer? Well, it’s a science fiction RPG set on Mars, where you play as a titular “technomancer,” or warrior priest, in a dystopian world governed by corporations who control the water reserves. In this world, people have been mutated by radiation, and those who survive are enslaved and generally treated horribly. The game is developed by a studio named Spiders, who are what many would call a “budget studio,” or a “AA developer.” Spiders does not have the multi-millions of dollars that companies like EA or Activision have, and thus, the game does suffer in that regard. The game is very Mass Effect-ish, and very reminiscent of Knights of the Old Republic.

In his article, Cromwell writes:

If, like me, you enjoyed EA’s new Medal of Honor Warfighter, but understand various criticisms thrown its way, you’re probably wondering why reviewers across the board are slamming it to hell.

IGN – “This isn’t just an upsetting sequel or me-too military shooter – Warfighter is disrespectful of your time and unwilling or unable to adapt to what’s been done better elsewhere.”

You know, that sounds vaguely familiar…

IGN – “The Technomancer seems like an RPG inspired by the greats of the genre, but it never really understands the fundamental elements that made them great.”

Let’s take Cromwell’s statements, but slot in The Technomancer instead.

What we can extrapolate from most of the reception of the game are two things: firstly, [Focus Home Interactive, The Technomancer’s publisher] don’t give review code, so anyone tasked with reviewing the game has to do it in about a day, or maybe three if they’re really cutting it short. Secondly, the general consensus is that [The Techomancer] is taking the bullet for all the other [science-fiction RPGs].

These two problems highlight a serious issue with modern games journalism: bored journalists.

[…]

I’m not blaming [The Technomancer] for not revolutionizing the [sci-fi RPG] genre, and why should I? Why should it? What I’m interested in is how it plays as a part of the sub-genre – in relation to the sub-genre – and in relation to its previous installment. That’s all that matters. Not my tedium, not my head-ache, not my shitty “oh god, not another one of these games” attitude. They’re not tired of the genre, they’re simply not looking deep enough into what [The Technomancer] is in relation to the other games within the genre.

I’m going to put forward another complaint: not only are the journalists bored, but they are also, as I said previously, money grubbing weasels. This point has been repeatedly emphasised by people much smarter than me, but the gist is that many “tech journalists” are extremely unwilling to bite the hand that feeds them. Listen, most game review sites are just aggregate media websites now. When Kotaku dropped news about No Man’s Sky being delayed from June until August, almost every gaming site was sourcing Kotaku, instead of doing their own journalism. It’s simply much easier to parrot someone else’s work for ad revenue, than it is to come up with it yourself.

I’ve been playing The Technomancer for the past week, a little over 22 hours of in-game time. Does the game suffer from bugs? Sure does. A few of my side quests have been bugged and can’t be completed. Is it unpolished? To some degree, yes. The graphics are not amazing by any means. But does that make the game bad? Does it make the game worthy of a 4.9 / 10 IGN review? No.

Back to Cromwell:

So let’s use IGN for our example of how oh-so-bored journalists are of this sub-genre. “Exhaustingly fast-paced as ever”. As ever? You mean, you expected and had hoped for it? IGN gave Black Ops an 85/100 score, citing the trends and mechanics of the modern military first person shooter (in this case as opposed to World War 2) as plus points. When it comes to Medal of Honor Warfighter, it is “unwilling or unable to adapt to what’s been done better elsewhere.”

What this tells me is that a sort of circular logic is ruining the reception of a game that merely wants to fit comfortably within an accepted sub-genre: Warfighter doesn’t do things as well as Call of Duty, therefore it’s not as good as Call of Duty, but it’s trying to be like Call of Duty, but it doesn’t do things as well as Call of Duty, therefore it’s…

In that vein, Warfighter never stood a chance with journalists. Those tasked with reviewing the game had tarnished their opinions with preconceptions; preconceptions which outlined exactly what they wanted, and exactly what they didn’t want. What they wanted was Call of Duty, but what they didn’t want was a Call of Duty clone. Spot the problem.

 

This critique reads exactly like what reviewers are doing to The Technomancer. They are comparing it against Mass Effect, a series that had millions of dollars funnelled into it. The Technomancer is comparable to Mass Effect 1, sure, as Mass Effect 1 had extremely unpolished graphics, terrible gameplay, extremely bad voice acting, and a whole host of lore elements that were excised out of the franchise and failed to appear in any of the following games. Yet The Technomancer is being compared to the Mass Effect series. What the fuck is that?

What this tells me is that a sort of circular logic is ruining the reception of a game that merely wants to fit comfortably within an accepted sub-genre: [The Technomancer] doesn’t do things as well as [Mass Effect], therefore it’s not as good as [Mass Effect], but it’s trying to be like [Mass Effect], but it doesn’t do things as well as [Mass Effect], therefore it’s…

The Technomancer does some cool shit that I wish other games picked up. For starters, you can hold R2 to view a transparent layer of the map on the screen in real-time, which allows you to traverse the various hub areas and find your war around. Most games make you pause to bring up the map, or set your own waypoints. The Technomancer sets your waypoints, marks important people or vendors for you, and you can easily check those waypoints at any time, with no pausing. It’s brilliant.

The game has skill trees for each of its four combat styles, and lets you use all four at any time, but especially before you choose one to use exclusively – if you ever do, because you can also sink points into all of them simultaneously. In Mass Effect, you have to pick your class before you ever engage in combat, so new players will have zero idea what any of the powers do.

The story is engaging and really reminds me of Mass Effect 2, which is consequently the only good Mass Effect game. The politics and struggles between the characters and their loyalties is very well done, especially given the nature of the treatment of mutants, and how the technomancer order fits in to all that. I’m not going to touch much more on the story since I haven’t completed it yet, but when IGN says:

While the story is complex, involving complicated questions of sovereignty and morality with many competing factions and subfactions, none of which are clearly good or evil, it’s presented without flourish or a true sense of stakes and tension

I can tell you right now that that is fucking bullshit.

If you venture far enough down the page, you can see the reader comments. Many of them go like this:

So, in summary:
– Poorly animated faces
– Poor roleyplaying aspect
– Poor quest design
– Mediocre story

Yet every one of these criticisms could also apply to Fallout 4 and that received a 9.5. I guess Spiders doesn’t buy enough ads on this website :/

It’d be nice to have honest reviews of all games and not just the ones that don’t pay you money to pad the review scores.


[Y]ou can give a lot of blame to sites like IGN. They gave copy paste [Battlefield Hardline] and [Battlefield 4] high scores which were copy paste of Battlefield 3.


This reviewer gave the same score as Sonic ’06, wat.


After buying this, I’ve come to the conclusion that the reviewer just really sucks at this game.


“The button you’re mashing is dodge rather than attack, and you have to be very careful about when to stop spamming.”

That’s a very strange thing to quote, so you’re complaining about not being able to spam dodge? Seems like you didn’t want to learn the combat with that mindset.


Wow! Either someone paid you to write an extremely poor and subjective review OR you’re terrible at playing video games. All I got out of this review was that 1) The graphics aren’t impressive, 2) The voice acting wasn’t the best, and last and foremost, 3) You kept dying, because you couldn’t figure out how to play the game.


I do hold a point of contention over the claimed difficulty of mundane human enemies being too difficult. Several games have “bullet sponge” enemies without it negatively impacting their score, and yet this game gets another nail in the coffin because if it.


He complains about lower enemies being overpowered and soaking up damage, as he shows a video clip of a higher level player killing three dudes with one hit….

I dunno how easy you want the game man.


This is what happens when reviewers get lazy and phone it in. They totally screw up on what is otherwise a really good game, and get exposed as having not played the game at all. I doubt this reviewer put in more than 15 minutes.


First of all this review feels like it was written by a FIFA player. Sure, the game is unforgiving and there is a learning ramp to mastering combat, but, and there is a big BUT, the gameplay is perfectly justified.


It wasn’t very long ago that even AAA RPGs had sh*te facial animations and voice acting.

– Skyrim (2011) no facial animations whatsoever.
– Dragon Age 2 (2011) shite facial animations.
– Deus Ex: Human revolution (2010) shite facial animations and voice acting
– Mass Effect 2 (2010) shite facial animations.


[W]ith bad review like this you’re killing a decent company with a good game… i wonder they didn’t want to pay or [something] so you smashed this game like this?

I mean seriously, this is just absurd at this point. TotalBiscuit, a YouTube reviewer who I enjoy and respect a great deal, also trashed The Technomancer based on 30 minutes of gameplay. 30 min! And mind you, these reviewers don’t have to buy the game like the rest of us, they are just given review copies. So it feel extremely insulting that 90% of the people who reviewed this game barely played half an hour of it.

I do understand the concept of subjectively enjoying things. However, the point of a review is to be objective. When you play a game developed by a studio who isn’t as wealthy as, say, BioWare (a developer who created a multiplayer game that purposefully locked away content into microtransaction booster packs), perhaps criticising them for not spending enough money on their game is purposefully being harsh.

Before I bought The Technomancer, I did a great deal of research. I watched about ten videos, read countless articles, looked into the developer’s previous games, watched videos and read about those games, too. I spent about three full lunch breaks just deliberating. Had there been more objective reviews about the quality of this game, it would not have taken that long. I’m sincerely glad that I picked up The Technomancer, but I’m also incredibly sad that there are people who will not play it because of scores that tarnish the game’s reputation for no reason.

Remember that friend that I mentioned at the beginning? I asked him to look into The Technomancer. I know that he likes RPGs, so it should be an easy sell. He told me that the reviews were slamming it. How many people are missing out on great experiences, just because reviewers like TJ Hafer aren’t being paid enough money from publishers to coax better scores?

If you are a fan of video games, please be wary of games media. They do not have your best interests at heart.

If you’d like to read the web cache’d version of Michael Cromwell’s article, you can find it here.

If you want to support smaller developers, like Spiders, and reach a greater game diversity in the future, please consider buying games like The Technomancer. If you’re a fan of science-fiction RPGs, such as Mass Effect, you may enjoy The Techomancer.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s