I don’t know what it is about Mars, but I end up liking every single game I play that is set on it. From the Red Faction series to Doom 3 to that one section in Lego Racers 2, there’s just something immensely appealing about visiting the red planet. The rugged geography, the ideological conflict that comes with colonization and the fear of potentially encountering alien life are just some of the promising themes that come attached with this premise, and they fit especially well into the realm of video games.
Mars: War Logs, an upcoming RPG from a developer named Spiders, may not have the most imaginative title ever conceived, nor is it riding atop an especially high budget or an innovative aesthetic. However, there’s something to be said about a game being more than the sum of its parts, and to dismiss War Logs at face value would do a disservice to the talents of Spiders and their ambitions.
For whatever reason, Mars: War Logs just screams commitment whenever I glance at it, the clear indication that there’s a passionate driving force behind it and that Spiders genuinely cares about what they’re making. Although its obscurity is keeping the rest of our staff seemingly disinterested in it, I can confidently say that it’s one of my most anticipated games of the year, and certainly my most anticipated RPG.
True to its namesake, the game takes place on Mars. It is set about a century after a yet-undescribed catastrophe has shaken up the colonists and somehow made it even harder to live on the planet. Water is now scarce and has become the most valuable resource on Mars, and various corporations have risen to power in an effort to fight over and control it. Each corporation has its own territory, and the most prominent of these is a company named Abundance. As you can probably expect, they aren’t much for human interests when there’s money to be made, and they’ve established a firm and strict government over its citizens. They’re also in fierce opposition with a fledgling guild named Aurora, whose capital is the city of Shadowlair.
In the middle of all this turmoil and tension is Roy Temperance, the protagonist. Other than the fact that he’s a rogue and that he was born in Shadowlair, little is established about him, since most of his development is up to you, the player. Yes, Mars: War Logs has a dynamic choice-based conversation system that allows you to shape the narrative as you see fit, and unlike games such as Mass Effect or inFAMOUS, your choices never boil down to black or white morality, which will hopefully make Roy a more natural and believable character.
Among some of the other story elements are the Technomancers, who are able to harness the power of mysterious artifacts that are scattered around Mars, bandits and feral alien beasts prowling the surface and caves, and some potential significance with the sun, being that it seemed to be the focus of the most recent trailer. Altogether, the game has some promising themes behind it such as the prevalence of technology, political conflict and the nature of rebellion. Being that Spiders co-developed Of Orcs and Men and The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, it’s clear that these folks have some experience with telling interesting and profound stories, so it’ll be exciting to see how they handle this rich concept.
But lo, I haven’t even talked about the gameplay yet. War Logs covers pretty much everything you’d expect from a western action-RPG. Combat will be in real time, and players will have various weapons from guns to melee objects to fight with. You’ll gain various abilities during the journey, passive and otherwise, and an in-depth crafting system is also promised, which will grant you augments and upgrades for your gear. You can also expect other mainstays of the genre like an open world, caves and dungeons, and hub cities. The definitive draw to the gameplay seems to be the nuanced level of customizability it allows, since you can tailor Roy’s personality, appearance and playstyle however you see fit and watch as it influences the world of Mars and unfurls the intricate narrative.
With possible exception of its story, there certainly won’t be anything groundbreaking about Mars: War Logs, but there doesn’t really need to be. Spiders looks to be pulling a Darksiders by taking the familiar trappings of a genre, in this case the RPG, and running with them. Their distinct mark will likely come from their effort to fine-tune the gameplay mechanics and then seamlessly fuse them with an engaging narrative to create a striking interactive portrait of a troubled and colonized Mars. That, my friends, is why when Mars: War Logs finally releases digitally on PC, XBLA and PSN this year, I’ll certainly be getting my ass to Mars.