Mars: War Logs is a cyberpunk third-person action-RPG set on Mars. The game is developed by French studio Spiders (Of Orcs and Men) and published by Focus Home Interactive. We’ve been playing through the PC version of the game which is also due to come to XBLA and PSN later this year.
The action takes place nearly a century after a catastrophic event thrust the Red Planet into chaos. On Mars water is the most precious commodity as it is essential for survival. This has led to wars between the various corporations and colonies as those who control the water have the most power.
Players take the role of protagonist Roy, a talented renegade and prisoner of war at Camp 19. On Mars all people are named after virtues and the name given to Roy by his guild Aurora was Temperance. Not one to conform, he chose and prefers the much simpler Roy.
At the start of the game before we meet Roy we are first introduced to Innocence Smith. He’s a young recruit in Aurora’s army who has been captured by a rival guild called Abundance. Coincidentally he’s on his way to Camp 19 where Roy is being held.
The two characters cross paths when Roy stumbles upon Innocence getting attacked by a group of violent inmates. Roy manages to stop the attack and befriends Innocence as he’s planning to escape and needs someone who can help him. It’s an interesting setup for a game and a very ambitious one for a small studio.
After these events the game gets underway and you are given quests which further the story and optional side-quests to complete. The quests are pretty standard and usually involve you needing to go to a specific location, find x number of something for someone or just talk to a particular character. During conversations you are usually given a choice of things to say and your responses can have an effect on how the story plays out. As you progress through the story Innocence documents what happens in his War Logs.
Being an action-RPG there is a big focus on combat in Mars: War Logs and we’re pleased to say that it’s fun. Initially combat is mainly melee and involves a lot of movement to try and avoid attacks. Roy starts off with a cracked pipe as a weapon which he can swing at enemies or try to block and counter. When enemies block you can use a kick to break their guard and you can also roll. The roll is great for avoiding attacks and is also useful to get behind enemies to do more damage.
Combat can be fairly hectic and getting surrounded by enemies can often be fatal. At times you have some companion AI controlled characters with you to help out. Sadly the companions tend to go down quite quickly but they do usually manage to keep some damage off you. During the game you get access to new weapons including guns, traps, grenades and eventually electricity wielding Technomancer powers.
Downed enemies can be harvested for serum which is used as cash. Doing so can have a negative impact on your reputation. Enemies can also be looted for armour, weapons, items and components. There’s a crafting system in place that allows you to upgrade your weapons to add extra stats to them. Items can also be recycled down into components.
The game tries hard to incorporate all the RPG elements you’d expect. Roy gains experience in order to level up and doing so increases his stats, feat and skill points. Feats are unlocked by completing certain tasks and then you can buy them for specific bonuses. Initially Roy has two skill trees, combat and renegade, but a third opens up once he gets his Technomancer powers. Skills are bought with skill points and each skill has three levels. There’s plenty of scope here for customising Roy many different ways which adds to the replayability.
We noticed some strangeness with some of the spoken dialogue in the game. Often the end of each sentence seems to be cut off. Enabling subtitles helps but at times they differ from the spoken lines which can be a little annoying. At launch there were many issues with the English localisation of the game but Spiders have since taken the time to fix most of these issues and have even recorded the voice actors again.
Graphically the game looks rather nice and it seems Spiders Silk Engine features some decent tech. The biggest complaint graphically is probably how similar and bland the game can look at times but with Mars as a location this is to be expected.
At around 15 hours Mars: War Logs may be shorter than your average big budget RPG but it’s a fantastic achievement for a smaller studio. It’s a little rough in places but it has a certain charm and we’ve enjoyed our time with it. PC gamers that enjoy RPGs should consider checking it out while Xbox 360 and PS3 owners can look forward to the game this September.