Allow me to set the scene for you…
The game opens with a 5 minute cutscene of a bunch of guys in a train carriage, interspersed with 3 or 4 small shots of people walking or standing. This riveting rollercoaster of an opening is narrated as the inner monologue of a young man in the carriage who talks about how he became a soldier and about how boring it was and then about how he was captured. No action. Just talking, and sitting, and some standing, and a little bit of walking.
Then the cutscene continues in the POW camp, when the young man almost gets violated in a prison shower. The fat raper says a few unnecessarily disgusting things about ‘drilling holes’ (so we know that he is the resident cliche), before some guy appears and stands in the doorway.
The cutscene has now been somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes long, so then for the next few minutes (yes, minutes), the raper talks to the man in the doorway without reply as the game occasionally cuts to the same animation of him opening and closing his mouth. The raper repeats himself over and over and over, telling the man to leave, which he doesn’t, so then the raper leaves. Then the game puts us in the boots of the silent guy in the doorway.
And that's who you play as.
Not the young man we've watched for the last 10 minutes.
As the random dude who showed up about 3 minutes ago and who has established himself as 'some guy who stood in a doorway for a while and didn't speak'.
Apart from the poor pacing and narrative structure, Mars: War Logs is an exploration of how lifeless you can make an RPG whilst using a decent-looking graphics engine. It’s almost funny, given that solid combat mechanics, decent visuals, and creative and interesting lore should give us something substantial to play with – it’s better than a lot of games do nowdays, right? But it’s the little things like the fact that NPCs are placed at either the bottom or top of every staircase (in the same pose) to stop you from being nosy if you have the audacity to try and interact with the world, or that the dialogue options as they are written don’t match the dialogue that is it spoken – in either text or tone, or that the first two characters we see are two NPCs that use almost the exact same character model, sitting next to one another and performing the exact same looped movement, synchronised perfectly. These things break any immersion the graphical fidelity serves up and leave the game feeling really half-baked.
Not to mention the down-right awful voice acting in parts. “Sorry the dog attacked you, really…” is read as “Sorry. The dog attacked you? Really.” Who, in 2013, was overseeing the development of a game where such obvious issues are overlooked or left uncorrected? And what kind of society are we if we let these basic things wash over us in favour of ‘pretty 1080p widescreen’ and a ‘smooth feeling fight’?
Really this all makes me seem more angry than I was when playing the game - I was mainly just frustrated by the multitude of basic core issues. The game's NOT a piece of crap! It's just average or sub-par in a lot of immediately evident ways. Mars: War Logs seems like it’s trying to be the love child of Mass Effect and Red Faction, but it’s as if the developers thought that the key to the success of an RPG is that ‘they’re set in a far-away place and you get to fight things’, rather than the IMMERSION that the RPG genre is famous for, and the reason that it was created in the first place.