Mars: War Logs is an action-RPG developed by SPIDERS and published by Focus Home Interactive, set on a war-torn vaguely post-apocalyptic Mars where the descendants of the first colonizers of the red planet fight over its scarce water resources, after a catastrophe known only as the Turmoil cut the planet from the Earth mainland.
If the premise sounds interesting to you, I should let you you know right away: the folks at SPIDERS never did anything interesting with it. And the same can be said with many other elements of the game that sounded interesting on paper. Simply put, Mars: War Logs is a completely mediocre game that, quite frankly, isn't worth the player's time. Keep reading to find out why...
Story and writing
In Mars: War Logs you play as Roy Temperance, a renegade Technomancer turned prisoner of war, currently detained in a prison camp. Roy is a member of the Aurora guild, one of the four water guilds on Mars and the youngest, currently at war with Abundance, the oldest and largest. After a brief first chapter set in the prison camp, where you get to meet your NPC companion Innocence Smith, also writer of the titular war logs (which the game mercifully references as war diary), the war ends abruptly, and the story turns into one of resistance against the evil dictatorship that Aurora has become.
While the premise is fairly interesting, frankly speaking neither the story nor the moment-to-moment dialogue writing are any good. Characters have flat, one-note personalities and dull, character-less dialogue which also often features bad grammar and doesn't make any sense whatsoever (the game opens with the line "I never really though I'd end up in the middle of the war, but didn't really understand how"), and the actual plot is rushed, poorly-paced and doesn't develop organically at all.
You can influence your companion personalities through dialogue, there are choices and (minor) consequences (more on that later on), an interesting setting, and the story takes twists and turns here and there, so theoretically SPIDERS had all the ingredients to make a worthy story. Unfortunately, the results are barely noteworthy at all, and only because at times the execution is downright awful.
Progression and itemization
While the attributes tab of the interface presents a lot of stats upfront and might fool players approaching the game, Mars: War Logs presents a fairly simple character system. At every level you gain 2 points to put in one of your three skill trees and one point to buy a feat. Skill trees are divided into Combat, which is melee-oriented and by far the most useful category in my experience, Renegade, which focuses on stealth and dirty tricks, and Technomancy, which only gets unlocked after the first chapter and offers an array of electricity-based abilities, essentially filling the role of magic. Every ability has three tiers, and most of the upgrades feel like they make a difference, which is nice. Some abilities are also locked and unavailable to purchase until you've put enough points into their skill tree, forcing you to commit to one of the three at least to a certain degree.