My Thoughts on Mars: War Logs

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My Thoughts on Mars: War Logs

Postby Chapomon » 02 December 2013, 05:52

I have been looking forward to play this game since the previews came out and wasn't able to play it until the PS3 version were released and I have just gotten around to expressing my thoughts my experience. I love this game! I love the story, the lore, the dark themes, the choices, the characters (and their voice actors), the environment, game play and the crafting mechanics.

I love our heroes along with all the characters of Mars, they're just so full of personality and the companions, though half are optional, all have an established background and history. The environment has a nice gritty aesthetic look that fits the dystopic era (and by contrast, the cleanliness of the Source's headquarters.) The crafting system is interesting and encourages & rewards being a loot whore (especially on hard.) My only complaint about it is that there's no option to upgrade your companion's armor and weapons. I can understand that a companion may want to stick to their own choice of weapons and armor (expect with Innocence, I think he's melee weapon should have been something you can change) but they should have at least taken suggestions to improve their armor. Speaking of weapons, the combat is simple to learn but takes skill to master which I like how careful one has to be when approaching a fight. The each skill tree feels balanced and the fight styles feel distinct. The detail with the enemies is done very well, like enemies with eye gear won't be affected by sand, the beautiful mutant creatures and the challenge each one provides and that Drill Worm is makes a very tough boss fight, even on easy!

Now to the story, I love this tale, its dark, its does well to set up its own universe and has plenty of choices to encourage re-playability. What I think makes this story mature is the major choice at the end of chapter 2; there is clearly no right choice, no obvious good or evil choice. That is what a lot of games fail to grasp when offering story changing choices. Another thing you did very right is how that major choice (and another choice within one of those choices) actually seems like it changes the outcome at the end rather than things ending generically despite what choice was made. I also like how there is no happy-go-lucky ending, much like life, all the endings have a nice mix of hopeful and bittersweet outlooks. The only thing that could improve the endings is doing more showing rather than just telling us about about our companions and the challenges that lie ahead for Aurora; something like cutting to a still of whatever Roy is narrating at the time (showing stills of whoever is in charge trying to run Aurora in their own way, what our companions are up to when mentioned). However, Roy's narration itself is done very well, kudos to the writers and voice actors. Tying in with the story and characters, I have to mention that, aside from wanting to see the different endings, I could not bring myself to join the resistance since it results in losing Innocence; I would rather potentially be making a deal with a devil than have something happen to Innocence, that's how well you're writers got me to care about the characters.

While on the topic of story, here are a few things I wanted to bring up that could have used a bit of improvement:

Roy mentioning things that haven't been brought up previously and seem like he shouldn't know about them. An example is while taking with Innocence after climbing up a latter to get away from Aurora soldiers chasing them, he suddenly knows that there's a resistance and they should look for them. It's might have worked if he thought that there might be a resistance if the military is doing shady things and that they should look for more information but Roy seems to just know. Also, during some dialogue options with some characters, Roy seems to be able to bring up plot points that haven't happened yet such as asking Innocence why he wants to join the resistance before talking with Charity and being able to ask Garbage about the Shadowline and experiments before having a reason to; though that's probably more of a coding issue than a writing issue.

The passage of time within chapters seems very spontaneous as there never seems to be any transitions of time. It was odd to hear Roy talk about what Innocence wrote in his journal as if they had separated weeks ago when there is no transition and it only feels like they had split up hours ago. The only time it would seem like there might have been a transition is when Roy finds Mary but there is no indication how much time has passed and again, only feels like a few hours. And if Roy was nursing Mary for days, I think Tenacity could have attacked during that time as he seems to know about Roy's hang out.

If the romance don't add to the story or character development, don't have them. The romance feel superficial and you don't seem to learn anything more about any of your potential love interest that you don't get just from talking to them. This also goes with the lack of a sense of passage of time since you're wooing women you just met. It's one thing if the characters are just wanting to have a fling or be friends with benefits but falling in love and wanting to have a relationship in a seemingly short amount of time just seems forced. Speaking of flings...

Mary's motivations see to change out of nowhere. I like Mary as a character, she has a past and seems complex (or just crazy) but her motivations to hunt Roy down for killing Sean seems to get dropped and then just decides to join Roy is so sudden. She says Sean was just using her (presumably for sex) but from the interactions we see, that doesn't seem to be the case. When Mary comes back from fighting the Mole Queen, he seems concerned and loving; its not like he said "Too bad the tech was lost. Oh well, now go make me a sandwich then go to bed and assume the position." Nor is Mary's reaction to Sean's death seem like someone's reaction who was being used. Sean also gave up his status in the army to make sure he can care after Mary. Mary's epiphany about Sean using her doesn't really seem to add up. There could have been better ways of getting Mary to join Roy such as making Mary a mid-chapter boss and after defeating her, choosing whether to kill her and harvest her for a lot of serum or let her go free. She than could have later have shown up, having wondered around her hometown and remembering her life before being taken to the source and realizing how nice it would be to be free like Roy. Mary would than want to join Roy to learn how to be strong like him to be free but still might hold a bit of a grudge about Sean that she might over come over time. This way, it would have made Mary's motivations more rational and makes wooing her a bit more interesting as there would be more friction to overcome.

There is no narrative pay off to Roy's reputation. This is more of a nitpick since the reputation system when it comes to feats is done well and the way Innocence mentions it in his journal and other companions question Roy about it is handled very well but in the end, it doesn't really seem to change anything. I thought Roy's actions were going to ultimately going to change Innocence's personality for better or worse which is not the case. Also, why is it considered bad to kill bad people? Wouldn't it be a good thing to kill thugs and murderers especially since it doesn't seem like they're getting arrested after Roy beats them up? Also, the ruling government or anyone else doesn't have a problem that Roy harvested a large number of soldiers who were just following orders for serum? There's was a nice set up with the reputation system but it wasn't taken all the way.

What is serum and why is it valuable? I might have missed something while reading the codex but I don't think there's an explanation as to what serum is and why its used as a currency. Now, I like creative forms of currency in games other an generic gold currency but how does having a consumable currency work? It seems similar to BioShock's Adam since its comes from people and used for something that's injected but it just heals rather than give you super powers (unless you're a technomancer.) On face value, I think small quantities of water might have worked better as a form of currency as it seems highly sought after on the red planet and make serum just another crafting item that's worth plenty of water.

And lastly, I was a bit disappointed that there was no dog companion since one of the promo stills depicts Innocence and a dog. Nothing lost here and probably better off that way since I don't think giving Roy a dog would have added to the story; just thought we were going to get one.

Overall, I love this game! I know its going to be one of those games I'll find myself wanting to play later on. I assume based on the subtitle that Mars is going to have a sequel and I would love to revisit the red planet, its people and creatures. It would be neat if a save import was possible or if the sequel ask us what decisions we made in War Logs that affect Mars: X, but I would understand if that wasn't possible and a studio cannon was established at the beginning. I just hope this IP doesn't go the way of Faery (but at least Mars: War Logs did warp up its story with freedom a sequel rather than a cliffhanger.)

Either way, I look forward to more games from Spider and I'm eagerly looking forward to Bound By Flame. Thanks to all who had a hand on making this awesome cyberpunk game!

On a slightly unrelated note, I wanted to briefly express my feelings on Faery: Legends of Avalon as the registration for that board doesn't work. I loved this game as well, it felt like a throw back to older style games while having its own unique style, especially with its world being more vertical than horizontal like other games. The leveling up is cool since leveling up physically changes your character. My only complaint wasn't the lack of voice actors (which I can see how in this day and age, that would put a lot of people off) but how the characters didn't make any sounds when they talked. What I mean is, the could have talked like Charlie Brown's teacher when giving their dialogue but each character could have there own sound; an example of this can be found in the game series Banjo-Kazooie. I was sad to hear that there will be no continuation of this series especially with its cliffhanger ending. Hopefully, the studio has happy memories of series.
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