This $20 RPG is a bit clunky-looking, but great value for money.
By Jess Colwill on May 9, 2013 at 6:34 pm
It took me a little while to warm up to Mars: War Logs. Somebody had described it to me as “the poor man’s Mass Effect”, and having enjoyed Mass Effect as much as I did, I jumped at the idea.
If you’ve heard that as well, forget it. You will have a better time.
Frankly, I get a much greater Fallout vibe from Wars: Mar Logs, and it’s not just the aesthetic. Vaguely diesel-punky in appearance, the game — believe it or not — takes place on a war-torn Mars. Different factions are duking it out for control of Mars’ resources and you are caught in the middle, in the POW camp of one faction.
I say ‘you’, but I really mean one of two characters whose roles you play. Confused? Let me explain. You run around, level up and make decisions as one Temperance, or Roy as he prefers to be called (or Space Elvis as I’ve taken to calling him). But his past is relatively unknown because the story, the cutscenes, the journal entries are all from the point of view of Innocence, Roy’s companion. It’s weird, and it threw me for a bit.
Also, Lars: War Dogs has sort of a virtue-name thing going on, if you haven’t noticed already. Mostly they appear to be ironic: Innocence for example is still young and naive, but has been to the front lines and has seen and done horrible things in the name of war (I also had a great time shouting, “Oh God, Innocence is DEAD!” every time he died).
There’s a lot to love about War: Lars Mog. The combat, for example, is interesting with equal parts strategy and button-mashing. On one hand, you’ll be mashing the buttons as fast as you can to get a hit. On the other, though, there are three buttons for melee, depending on if you want to break through someone blocking, say, or to keep an enemy on their toes. And when you’re fighting martian dogs, they can only take damage from behind — so they’ll come right at you, but you’re constantly evading, trying to get behind them.
It’s an interesting mix and it’s just challenging enough to keep you wondering: “Can I take this guy?”, and making it feel like a victory if you do. Having said that, there are some fiddly, annoying parts to the combat — so sometimes when you die it will be infuriating because COME ON, WHY DIDN’T THAT HEALTH INJECTION WORK ARGGGHH
When you’re dying a lot though, it’s probably not the games’ fault. It’s probably time to upgrade your gear!
I didn’t notice this feature for an embarrassingly long time, but in a way that was sort of a blessing. In your travels around Mars you’ll find yourself hoarding quite a collection of space-junk, metal, chemical components, that sort of thing. When you find yourself with a weapon or armour with upgrade slots, you can use this junk to upgrade your things, for example, adding a sheet of metal to your clothes to protect yourself, or a spiky head of nails to your iron bar to deal some more damage.
There is a substance called “serum”, which up to the point I’ve played, hasn’t really been explained. It’s some sort of biological substance — you can take it from fallen enemies, resulting in their deaths — but it’s also used as a currency, as well as for the creation of health injections. So you can use it to buy things, weapons, armour, health injections, but in a pinch you can use a lot more of it to make yourself a couple of injections to tide you over.
Related to this is your reputation. You gain reputation by generally being a good guy, doing quests in a nice way, and saying nice things. A great way to lose reputation quickly is to murder people for their Adam serum.
I enjoyed the questing system as well. For certain optional quests, War Togs doesn’t take the usual RPG approach where you either ignore a quest or take it and eventually succeed — you can actually fail them if you’re careless. Without too many spoilers, while trying to escape the POW camp, I had an optional quest to convince one of the more friendly guards who was fed up with the place to come along. The choice of the wrong dialogue option meant he wouldn’t be coming with us, along with all the changes to the story that that could mean.
It also opened up a completely different quest to poison him slightly to get him sent home. I’m a good dude like that.
I’ve focussed heavily on the good parts of this game. It took me awhile to warm to it, starting a bit slow and such, but in general I truly enjoyed what I played and really, the only negative aspects I came up with are fairly trivial. Things like the occasional spelling error, some fairly wooden voice acting and pretty dated visuals might mean more to you than an interesting storyline, and if that’s your bag, maybe this isn’t the game for you. It also has one of the worst cases of Invisible Wall Syndrome I’ve ever come across, and that can get pretty infuriating.
There’s a lot to love about Mars: War Logs: the setting, the combat, the way quests and conversation work. Unfortunately, a lot of it is hidden behind some questionable voice acting, dated visuals and poor animation.
If you’re looking for a solid sci-fi RPG though, with some really interesting elements, and can get past these fairly superficial obstacles, I would definitely give this one a shot. It’s not as fancy as your latest triple-A game, but hey, it’s also only twenny bux on Steam.
- Interesting setting
- Divergent, dynamically-changing quests
- Combat is generally satisfying
- Great value for the price
- Voice acting is mostly poor
- Overall dated look
- Stiff animations
Mars: War Logs is $19.99 on Steam. This review copy was provided by the publisher.