Mars: War Logs is an import game released in 2013 which I picked up on Steam during one of their numerous sales for something under $3 (retail is just under $15). I was curious about it based on the images which had a cool cinematic retro future look and because it’s in one of my favorite genre, the story driven RPG. I had trouble running it on my old PC but after getting my new laptop I thought I’d give it another try and I’m glad I did.
The story takes place in the distant future on Mars. Long ago in the history of the game Mars was a prosperous colony on a well terraformed world. Now it is something of a post apocalypse wasteland where the surviving remnants of civilization fight over continually dwindling resources. People known as Psychers use ancient technology to manifest magic like abilities serving as elite military personnel for the factions.
The protagonist of the game is a renegade Psycher who becomes embroiled in a plot to stop the Psychers from one of the factions from completing a secret project and taking control over society for their own mysterious ends. The story begins in a military prison from which the hero escapes with a comrade, then moves to a neighboring empire where you either ally with a band of idealistic rebels or a concerned faction of the establishment to stop the Psycher plot.
Game play is two pronged. There is a branching story to navigate and you can form alliances with different factions and relationships with different potential allies. There are also various side quests to occupy your time. This shares about equal footing with the hand to hand combat encounters which are a mix of arcade action and leveling/gearing your character in various combat powers and attributes.
The storytelling and world building are the game’s strongest selling points. Unfortunately both suffer a little from uneven writing in the dialog and plotting. At times the story can be quite compelling, especially in the game’s first two chapters. As it moves on things get a bit more predictable and wrote and the end of the game is on the anti-climactic side. The same goes for the world building. It starts out very intriguing but before too long you realize you are only going to scratch the surface of it while playing the game.
The combat and character building are lackluster but not deficient. Most of the combat choices are decent and they do lead to different tactics during fights. The controls are a little on the awkward side and the combat animations are not the sophisticated sort you find in Witcher 3 or the Batman games. It is a pretty simple game with fairly simple mechanics.
Ultimately it feels like a game made by professionals but both a bit behind the times and on a very limited budget. The locations are linear and limited and the range of enemies is pretty small. There is a fair bit of detail in the art, but there isn’t all that much of it. I certainly got my moneys worth and personally I like a short game with a concise story. By the time it had started to show its weaknesses the game was nearly over.
I recommend it for fans of the genre so long as you go in wanting a smaller simpler game than sprawling epics like Dragon Age but with the same sort of game play and in an unusual genre setting.