Mars: War Logs Review

A fun Sci-Fi RPG that left me wanting more, for better or for worse.

A fun Sci-Fi RPG that left me wanting more, for better or for worse.

When I first read the description of Mars: War Logs on Steam, I was instantly sold. I had been craving a good Sci-Fi RPG for a while and I have to say I got my fix. While elements of the game are not particularly original, the individual components tie in together well, delivering a satisfying experience. 

On the Red Planet

You are on the red planet, in a dystopian future ravaged by war. While this is not exactly a novel scene, despite the trope it does a nice job. I enjoyed the different zones, but wish there could have been more. Not in terms of eye-popping graphics, but more sweeping red vistas to complement the grungy shanty towns. You are first introduced to this world by Innocence, a young prisoner of war who is quickly saved from the more violent inmates by the main protagonist, Roy Temperance.

A Jack of all Trades

Roy is a skilled “tough guy” with several abilities and talents at his disposal. While the role playing elements are not as deep as some games, it is versatile enough to provide meaning to your decisions, without punishing you for experimentation. You are able to choose your skills from three main branches, Technomancy, Renegade and Combat. Technomancy includes many spell-like abilities that may be use to perform effects such as area damage, generate shields, or enhance existing attributes. Renegade covers many of your rogue-like skills, and finally there is Combat, which is pretty self explanatory in helping you survive and defeat enemies in a more direct manner. 

Roy Temperance

(Image taken from in game)

Outside of combat, Roy is capable of crafting new items such as ammunition, consumables and upgrades, using bits and pieces found along the way. While not a complicated system, the items you craft and upgrade will go a long way in helping you along your journey. 

Kicking Ass the Old Fashioned Way

Most of the combat in this game is close range melee. You will have projectile weapons such as nail guns, or grenades, but they come secondary to whatever it is you are hitting people over the head with. I thought this was a little bizarre given the sci-fi nature of the game, but putting that aside allowed me to enjoy the mechanics for what they were. The combat is pretty straightforward, with your standard attacks, breaks, blocks, parries, and evasions. By weaving these tactics together, you can effectively deal with your enemies in an extremely rewarding fashion. Ignoring them and try to simply go head first swinging will most likely end in death (Pro Tip: Use the throw sand ability, it is a life saver). I appreciate a game that makes me strategize a little, but when you do mess up for what ever reason, the checkpoint system is also pretty forgiving for an RPG.

Combat in War Logs

(Image taken from in game)

Actions Lead to Consequences 

Throughout the game you are going to be faced with decisions that will affect your
reputation, the outcome of certain story elements, or how NPC characters perceive you. These decisions are mostly accomplished through dialogue, but other mechanics such as whether or not you harvest serum from defeated enemies also factor in — reminiscent of the original BioShock mechanic of saving or harvesting the little sisters. Depending on your reputation, your companion characters may start to react differently, possibly becoming frighten, or even attracted to you.

Harvesting Serum

(Image taken from in game)

Monkey Wrench in the Gears

The game has a lot going for it, but there are a few technical issues which detract from the overall experience. Combat for instance, can be extremely frustrating when dealing with multiple opponents. While there is a lock on system, it is far from perfect. I would roll away from danger, only to find myself facing the wrong direction, leading to multiple stab wounds to my backside, which hurts. Other times I would get caught on small ledges and effectively become surrounded, with no method of escape. It helps to use the skills-select wheel, which slows down time, to carefully think out your next move. Dialogue, which has a reasonable impact on the story elements, would also benefit from a little more refinement. Nothing breaks the game, but it does make you wish it had a little more polish.

In the End

I really enjoyed playing Mars: War Logs. The developers, Spiders, have created another interesting, original IP that I want to see more of in the future. With just a little more, I think this game could have been fantastic, that being said, for a downloadable title selling for $19.99 this game is pretty damn good. If you are interested in a fun, challenging, Sci-Fi RPG, this game scratches an itch, if only enough to leave you wanting more.

Mars: War Logs is currently available on Steam for PC, and will be released on XBLA/PSN sometime Q3 2013.

A fun Sci-Fi RPG that left me wanting more, for better or for worse.

Mars: War Logs Review

A fun Sci-Fi RPG that left me wanting more, for better or for worse.

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About the author

Max Graham

Born in Canada, currently living in the US, I am part of a startup that designs games for physical therapy. In my spare time I like to keep up on games and share some of my thoughts with the community.