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Mars: War Logs

By Bobfish08-05-2013
BloodyFanGirl (editor)
Bis18marck70 (editor)
Mars: War Logs

The Defence

Focus Home Interactive
Adventure, Action, Role Playing
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8800
AMD equivalent
2 GB
3 GB

The Case


“Mars [War Logs] is a Role-Playing Game we've had in mind since the studio's creation”. Promising words indeed. So the real question is did that extra devotion, all that extra loving care, take this small, nascent studio to new heights? And will this be their magnum opus, set to catapult them into the limelight of our hearts for years to come? Let's find out, shall we?

The Trial


Now, let me preface this by saying, yes, I was thinking Red Faction too. Right from the very beginning, the first time it came across my desk (http://old.pixeljudge.com/en/news/mars-war-logs-screens/) here at Pixel Judge. It's an obvious comparison to draw and, whilst not entirely accurate, it's entirely justified too. There's a clear influence to be seen here in more ways than it is possible to list. But let me make this very clear. This is not Red Faction. Or rather, it is Red Faction, in the same way Star Wars is The Lord of the Rings. They share themes and setting, but they deliver in entirely individual ways.

Seems legit.

Seems legit.

Let's start with the worst shall we? I find it better to get all that out of the way first. There is, at present, no custom keybinding. I wish that was some sadistic joke, but it's entirely true. In fact, a quick look over the War Logs forum will reveal a post by one of the Spiders studio employees apologising and linking to an external key macro tool. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, showing they're at least trying to accommodate their playerbase, or akin to helping a man's virility by repeatedly kicking him in the nuts. You decide. All I know is, a PC title without custom key bindings in this day and age? Well that's just not cricket.

Having said that, the default (read 'only') keymapping options work efficiently and, for the most part, intuitively. There were a few times I found myself bashing R, cursing Mister Temperance (more on that in a moment) for not performing the guard break attack. But hitting the key above the one you want (guard break being F) is hardly something that can be blamed on a poor layout. Since I do that all the ruddy time regardless, despite having every game I've ever played, ever, set up exactly the same way.

That isn't my only complaint though. At time of writing, the game has already received two patches specifically to address NPCs floating in the air, an issue I encountered myself. For the most part, it was random people in the environment that were of no interest, but there have been a number of people reporting plot vital interactions being unreachable because of it. This happened to me too, towards the end of chapter two. This seems to be a relatively rare, but persistent problems that affects only certain card families, with AMD seemingly the most common. This has since been addressed in an (at time of writing) Beta patch, which took less than two days to arrive, so major kudos to them for that. But at the time...thankfully, you can send save files to someone else and have them play through the interaction for you, if you load an earlier one. But that kind of third party workaround is...irritating to say the least.



Beyond that, the game has no real flaws that I can point to. The combat is punishing, yes. Rage inducing even. But this is not due to poor design. Others may disagree, but this is one of those occasions where the game has clearly been designed to slap you about the face with a wet salmon, record it on its mobile phone, post it on YouTube and generate two hundred bajillion views. It doesn't pull any punches. It flat out wants to murder you. Not the player character Roy Temperance (more on that in a moment), no, it wants to murder you. In your sleep. With rabid Andrex puppies. Wearing body armour made of razor blades. Coated with anthrax. Made out of infectious cancer cells. So, yeah, keep that in mind.

To offset that, we're treated to a fairly deep, deceptively complex character progression tree. Your abilities are split into three areas. Combat, Renegade and Technomancy. Each tree has four levels, with each unlocked by investing a set amount of points into it. Whilst each skill has three levels, and later skills are restricted by requiring higher levels of the skill before it. See what I mean? Simple concept, but suitably complicated enough to make you think and plan it all out well in advance.

Though the latter doesn't become available until the end of Chapter 1, it's well worth the wait. You can even store up your skill points, if you really want to, and throw them all into it. Just, be aware, if you do that, you're in for one hell of a grind. Sand Throw (mercifully available from the very beginning) and grenades will become your best friends instantly. Also, trust me when I tell you, Renegade and Technomancy are where you want to focus on. The former gives you increased stealth and an insta-'kill' (it's called Knockout) that will allow you to drastically thin the opposition before open combat. The latter gives you arc lightning. 'Nuff said.

The loofah of the future.

The loofah of the future.

The narrative, however, is where this game really shines. It's a subtle, understated affair that deals with some very mature themes. Let me expound, I don't mean adult. I don't mean dick jokes and needless violence. I mean mature. This is a dirty, ugly game. The opening scene has Roy saving a young man called Innocence from being gangraped as he arrives in a Prisoner of War camp. This sets a very grim tone which persists throughout the entire game. With Side Quests that range from poisoning every animal in the POW camp to stopping a sociopathic mass murderer who guts his victims whilst they're still alive. All set to the backdrop of a post war despotic regime that treats people like resources. Those people then passing the contempt down to the Human mutants, called 'Dust' because of their corpselike, flaking skin.

It's a grim, kill or be killed world which our boy Temperance (more on that...now) guides us through. A world of 'virtue' names, like Temperance. It's never made entirely clear why or how this practice came about, but everyone you meet will have a name that somehow reflects their personality. Though, as shown later, they can sometimes become highly ironic, as you hear Impartiality calling for all the Dust to be massacred like animals. It's one of those subtle details that really drives home the alien environment.

Speaking of the environment, this isn't the best looking game you will ever play. That's not just because everything is dirty and decrepit either. Graphically speaking, it's fairly low end, which does give it the advantage of being extremely accessible from a specs perspective, but leaves it looking somewhat lacklustre. The dirty orange colour palette will be the real clincher, either driving home the desolate motif, or driving you away at how ugly everything looks. Because it is truly ugly, though intentionally so. It also, weirdly, synchronises with your monitor refresh rate, even though I told Catalyst to force this off, it still stayed stuck at an (almost) constant 72FPS the entire time. The only drops in frame rate occurred when there were significant numbers of moving enemies on screen, or when it was loading from one area to the next. The latter is something it, mostly, does by streaming as you open doors and pass between.

Dafuq is all this shit?!

Dafuq is all this shit?!

Throughout the entire experience you’re treated to what I, personally, consider some of the best mood music of any game. It’s haunting and eerie, yet somehow hopeful and uplifting all at the same time, perfectly capturing the fragile, desperate desolation of an alien world. That frontier spirit, as it were. With incidental sounds that drive the point home far more succinctly than the grit in your face of the dusty colour pallette.

The Verdict


All in all, this is a heavily, heavily flawed game that, in spite of all of the problems, stands up as a solid, tale of desolation and tentative redemption. It's very much a case study in unrealised potential. The unrealised part being, bluntly, lack of funding. The people at Spiders have a great deal of talent and oodles of ambition that is self-evident. They've clunked a little on this occasion, certainly, and the childish, reactionary nature of the gaming community will unfairly blemish them for this. But they have so much potential, I only hope they earn a strong enough return to develop this series further. Nay, to develop this into a series in the first place. And with the game clocking in at over twenty-four hours for a paltry £15, honestly, what the hell are you bitching about? Give them a chance damnit! Did I mention the ‘dogs’ look like freaking mutant lizards? ‘Cause they totally do.

Case Review

  • Narrative: A rich, deep, subtle tale that will linger with you long after completion.
  • Skill Trees: Not quite as deep as some may be expecting but they are still meaty and complex.
  • Art Style: Everything - absolutely everything - is grim and dirty, which some will love and some will hate.
  • Difficulty: Brutally punishing. Good for those who like a challenge, a turn-off for everyone else.
  • Glitches: The floating people is an irritation for the most part, but can be gamebreaking for the unlucky few.
  • Visuals: It barely scrapes through as par for the course.
  • Controls: They're good, but the lack of keybinding options is a big drawback.
Score: 4/5
Rough around the edges, but highly ambitious, promising much greater things to come.


Spiders has made its name with the oft overlooked Of Orcs and Men, which eschewed the usual human centric RPG adventures to tell a more interesting tale. So of course I was a bit amped when I heard that they were making a post-apocalyptic RPG - on Mars, of all places! Then again, let’s avoid direct comparisons to Fallout, with the gaming media loving either AAA or 8-bit indie releases, Spiders trod the ground somewhere in between.

What do I like about Mars: War Logs? The story, the enemy designs, the melee centric combat (which is now more involving than it was in Of Orcs and Men), crafting and loads of lore data. It’s an interesting world inhabited by interesting people. Where does it all fall short? The voice acting and the directing. The main Technomancer chick - the “princess” you saw in the trailers - is incredible badly done while Roy Temperance could use a voice that’s a bit gruffer. But then bad voice acting is a symptom of many games not made in English speaking countries, so you take what you can get.

Score: 4/5


Mars, the red planet where we, the mighty men, have supposedly arrived from. It, and the possibility of colonising it, has captured the minds of movie directors and it was only a matter of time until more games, besides Red Faction, started setting up base camp there. Mars: War Logs is a very different game from the aforementioned Red Faction. With its atmosphere and gameplay, it’s more akin to an adventure game than an action one. It is pretty linear with some branching story paths but you’ll feel more like visiting the red planet than experiencing the story. In a good way.

Unfortunately from a technical perspective this game has nothing to brag about. With poor textures, laughable voice acting, a ridiculous narrative and animations of only a decent quality, the game will repel a lot of gamers. General lack of polish puts Mars among typical Eastern European games...even though it’s made by the French. But even with these flaws I finished the game in 3 sittings. And not because the game was short...

Score: 3.5/5
Comments (8)
You must be to post a comment.
Posts: 48

I'll give it a try it did seem very interesting at first glance.

Posts: 3290

I've decided I have to play this again now

Posts: 207

So I've decided I have to try this one now...

Posts: 3290

What he said *points down*

Posts: 1548

We were but for different reasons. Well at least I liked it for a different reason. But that only says that a game has something for everyone no matter how flawed it is.

Posts: 3290

Well, as you can see, we were all primarily positive about the game

Posts: 1317

Even though I won't be able to play this yet due to my backlog, this is one of those games I think I'll buy just to support the devs.

At least they were way smarter this time, with the release date. Of Orcs And Men got released at the worst possible time of year.

Posts: 3290

Seems we all more or less agreed. I consider that a testament to the overall quality. Though it feels very much like I'm the only person in the entire freaking universe who actually likes the voice acting