Give Mars War Logs a try, you might really like it!
Mars War Logs is the latest space-cyberpunk RPG game by french studio, Spiders. Now in the past you might have played other RPGs by this studio like Of Orcs and Men, but since I haven't I am not going to compare Mars War Logs to it. Also, frankly, I can't really compare Mars War Logs to any other game. When the game first came out on PC a couple of months ago, reviewers started comparing it to blockbuster RPG games like Mass Effect 3 and bashed it, giving it extremely low scores. I am not going to do that, cause it doesn't make any f*cking sense. You can clearly understand that Mars War Logs is a budget RPG, but does that automatically mean that it's a bad game? NO OF COURSE NOT!
I will start by saying that I liked this game, very much. There was something about the gameplay that keep me hooked in. I don't really like RPG games. I hate running around , doing pointless quests, I am not a big fan of the whole RPG genre. I stopped playing Mass Effect 3, cause I found it to be boring. But I liked Mars War Logs, maybe because it was small more confined experience and more bound to reality. What I mean by that is that the story is not the usual "You are the hero and you must save the universe", the story of Mars War Logs, even though it didn't make any sense till the end, is nothing like that.
The game takes place on the surface of Mars, a century after a great battle or something like that. It starts with a cut-scene narrated by a little british soldier named Innocence. Apparently he is being imprisoned after deserting the army. As he arrives in the prison he meets the harsh reality of it. A guy named Fatso is literally trying to butt-rape him, but fortunately for little Innocence, the main guy and the one you control throughout the game, jumps in to save the day. Say hello to Roy Temperance, another POW with a dark and gritty past. Anyway you save the little soldier from the "rape gang" by kicking their ass and make Innocence part of your grand plan, escape from the prison. And setting things ready for this great escape was kinda cool. You run around the prison, completing different tasks for the inmates, earning their trust, stashing hidden weapons, turning a guard into an ally and sparking a mutant revolution, yep it was all part of the plan.
Then after you escaped prison, you reach a "city" where you complete some tasks for some other characters and here we learn more stuff about Roy's and Innocence's past. Then you reach another big area where you do some other tasks for other characters and it all culminates into this big fight against "super soldiers" or Technomancers. Yes, the story didn't make any sense. It was during the final cut-scene that I started to understand some things about it. Roy was once part of the Technomancers, a "secret" society of evil soldiers who have electricity powers. They wanted to rule Mars or something like that, but Roy didn't want to commit to their cause, that's why they condemned him. Maybe it was more to it that met the eye, but I didn't really saw it and frankly I wasn't that interested. Another thing that I found strange at first were the names of the characters like Temperance, Innocence, Devotion, Courtesy, Sobriety etc. But it all started to make sense as I played through the game. These characters with these virtue names are nothing like their name, in most cases are the exact opposite of their name. It's a interesting idea that I haven't really seen before.
In base of Mars War Logs there is this "morale system" running or that is what I read in the press release. I didn't really see this mechanic in work. Sure there was a Karma indicator in the menu, but I didn't know what affected it or how to bring it in the "angel" part. I messed around for a few minutes, trying to figure it out, but then I stopped and started sucking everyone's life essence "Bioshock Harvest" style. I started sticking a needle into everyone I beat down to death to suck em' dry of their serum thing which acts like a currency in the game. So I become this evil dude wandering around Mars, completing tasks for random people, but nothing really changed. Now full disclaimer, I haven't replayed the game to get the alternate ending, cause I didn't feel like investing 15 more hours into Mars War Logs, but I will go back to it. Maybe this morale system works and maybe the cut-scenes, how people see you, how you interact with them, all changes. Maybe, just maybe things actually change, cause the only clear choice I saw while playing the game was in the end where I had to choose one faction over another.
But that's enough about story, let's talk about why I liked this game, let's talk about the gameplay. The scope of Mars War Logs is small, more grounded to reality (I know it has space aliens/super soldiers that shoot lighting bolts and it's set in Mars, but bear with me) meaning that it is not a story to save the universe or whatever. So the gameplay and what you accomplish, tasks and all of that are more simple and make sense. Combat is simple, you have melee weapons as well as ranged ones and grenades or traps. Later in the game you also get magic powers. Hitting dudes with a crafted iron bar then rolling away to throw a grenade or shoot them from afar is satisfying. The melee weapons have weight to them and you really feel when you hit someone or something with them. But it is also very challenging as Roy, however badass might look in the cut-scenes, dies pretty quickly in battle.
That is why you need to craft better armor and better weapons. That is also satisfying. In the environment or by looting enemies, you get different materials which you can use to craft better equipment. The system is easy to use and easy to understand and the stats of the different equipment really make a difference in encounters. Also leveling up Roy will do that trick. There are three different skill trees, one is for combat, one for Technomancer powers and the other one I think was for stealth. But since stealth is completely broken and useless, I used my points on the other two trees. Different unlocks granted different active or passive skills. Once you pass a certain point on the story, you get your magic powers and after spending a few points in the respective tree, Roy becomes literally unstoppable. Using these powers require mana, but there is this ability called "Overcharge" that you unlock which gives you nearly infinite mana. I just spammed the sh*t out of that and breezed through what were supposedly the most difficult parts of the game. But hey, it was satisfying to zap dudes with electric bolts, Emperor Palpatine would have been proud if he had seen Roy in action.
The enemy variety is small, there are like six different type of enemies. There are the soldiers with blunt weapons, the ones with ranged weapons, the ones with riot shields, the Technomancers, mutant moles and mutant dogs like creature.
Remember when I told you that I quit Mass Effect 3? Well, I quit it because of all the traversal thing. I couldn't find my way around it. I got lost countless times. And I had the same problem with Mass Effect 1 and 2, The Witcher 1 & 2, Kingdom of Amalur etc. But in Mars War Logs I didn't have that problem. The maps were small and I could find my way around very easily using the mini and big map. Sure there was a lot of backtracking, but since it was so small it didn't become annoying, it was kinda cool (as strange as that might sound). Running around, helping total strangers with their problems, it felt good.
Visually it looks OK I guess. Some of the environments look very cool and some other just...meh. The same can be said for the character models and the textures. The animations are also hit and miss. During combat the characters look and move in a natural way, but during the cut-scenes or just when not in combat the look total rubbish. In the sound department thing are also bad. The voice acting is terrible, although those of Roy and Innocence are cool enough, the other ones are very bad. Just so you know, I tried the PS3 version of the game and I am talking about that one, I don't know how Mars War Logs looks on PC.
Mars War Logs has some cool ideas and it manages to deliver on some, but fails on the majority. The story doesn't make any sense, the writing is bad and the characters are not that interesting. The gameplay has some nice elements and is satisfying most of the time. Presentation is a mess for the most part, but there are a few things here and there that stand out. The passion is here, I can see it and I want to see this studio develop a sequel or better a prequel, Mars War Story, with ten times the budget of Mars War Logs. Any RPG fan should give this game a try, maybe you will get into its lore, maybe you will see something that I missed.