Mars: War Logs Review - Return Your Posterior to Mars
It’s always pleasant when a game you’re completely unaware of manages to ambush you and proves to be surprisingly novel or interesting. The unfortunately-titled Mars: War Logs is just such a game, flying well below the mainstream radar but providing a surprising amount of entertainment and depth.
In the not so distant future, man has extended his reach across our solar system and begun terraforming our red neighbor, Mars, in an attempt to offload some of the population of an overburdened earth. While these colonies struggled at first to gain a foothold in the inhospitable Martian landscape, they soon began to prosper, settlements growing into cities, proper civilization setting its roots. However, just as human life on Mars began to flourish, catastrophe struck: Mars tilted dangerously on its axis, exposing the colonists to deadly volumes of solar radiation, killing many, mutating others, and cutting the planet off from resupply from Earth.
The Story of Mars
War Logs begins years after this cataclysm (which the colonists call The Turmoil), and puts us in the shoes of Roy Temperance, a prisoner in a labor camp of one of the factions that’s fighting for control of the planet’s most precious resource: water. Roy, it turns out, has a complicated past that unfolds alongside the main narrative, and while there are some interesting revelations, neither Roy’s back story nor the story at large is wildly engrossing. The most interesting facet of the narrative is the setting, a lot of the character of which is only exposed by investigating text entries that are periodically added to your log. Though the developers bill the game as a “cyberpunk RPG”, the aesthetic feels a lot more steampunk than its high tech counterpart. It’s a lot more Red Faction than Neuromancer.
The primary mechanic in War Logs is its third person melee combat, which is serviceable if a bit less snappy and responsive than some of its contemporaries. It’s redeemed largely by the strategic options the game puts at players’ fingertips, which become necessities when confronted by some of the game’s more difficult encounters. Overall the challenge level is fairly consistently high, so having a war chest of traps, grenades, and spell-like “technomancer” abilities is a mandatory boon. The game also does an excellent job of allowing players to tailor characters to suit their play-style by way of three robust skill trees and a relatively deep crafting and upgrade system for weapons and armor.
One of the more surprising wrinkles in War Logs is the significant role that player choice and dialogue selections play in the way quests resolve and the story develops. Though hampered slightly by some subpar voice acting and poor (or poorly translated) dialogue, the choices you make about how to handle conflict or achieve your objectives can change the outcome of a lot of the game’s scenarios in dramatic ways.
For a twenty dollar downloadable title, War Logs is engaging and complex in a lot of surprising ways. Coming at a time when there’s not a glut of triple-A games crowding the market, War Logs is a gem in the rough.