There are times in a gamer’s life where they feel “connected” to a game, be it in an enthralling story, a perfectly developed atmosphere or simply being good at it. 20 years ago, Shadowrun was brought to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the form of a Role-Playing game. Up until that point I played what most kids played on their Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo consoles – Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, etc. I had never heard of Cyberpunk fantasy, but was about to be introduced to one of the best examples of it. To say I enjoyed the game would be a gross understatement. Shadowrun felt to me as an awakening, as though something within me resonated with its dark and gritty version of the future. I lost myself in a world where Elves, Trolls, Orcs, magic, technology and greedy mega-corporations all co-existed in a fascinating tapestry. With Shadowrun, I found my connection with games.
Jordan Weisman, entrepreneur, video game designer creator of the Shadowrun table top game turned to crowd sourcing (on KickStarter) for a new Shadowrun game after regaining the rights to Shadowrun from Microsoft. The support for a new Shadowrun game was overwhelming with the KickStarter goal ($400,000 USD) being reached in 28 hours. After a few trickles of information and screenshots, ‘Shadowrun Returns’ has finally lived up to its name, but does it match the fantastic Super Nintendo game? Is it accessible to newcomers? Read on and find out chummers…
Instead of playing as a premade character, like in the Genesis and Super Nintendo Shadowrun games, players are able to create their own character from a variety of options such as sex, race, archetype (class) as well as different character portraits and appearance options.
The classes are the usual offering that Shadowrun players have come to expect, but for those of you, who are new to Shadowrun, allow me to quickly introduce you to them.
First, there’s the Mage, who can attack enemies with devastating spells, as well as enhance the abilities of allies and cast spells with negative effects onto enemies.
Next, there’s the Street Samurai, who can carry up to three weapons into combat, as well as unlock abilities for ranged and close-quarters combat.
Then there’s the Decker, who can hack into the many networks that you’ll find during your many runs. Using his deck, he can hack cameras, doors and automated weapons, and can open up more stealthy opportunities for the tech-savvy Shadowrunner.
The Shaman is able to summon powerful spirits into battle to aid his allies, though controlling a spirit can prove to be a difficult task for a novice shaman.
The Rigger controls small armed robots called drones, and at a higher level is able to control multiple powerful drones.
Lastly, there’s the physical adept, who specialises in unarmed combat techniques. More than just simple martial arts, the physical adept is able to use the abilities ‘killer hands’, ‘distance strike’, and many more.
Choosing which archetype to pursue may seem like a difficult task to make, but players are able to create their own archetype from mixing a variety of skills, and the various enemies and allies in-game are made up of these archetypes too, so you are able to see the different situations in combat and on a run where they prove useful.
Shadowrun Returns is an interesting game to experience, as the entire main campaign of the game is able to be modded, which is an industry first. Not only are players able to create their own missions and campaigns from the supplied editor and base packs, but they are also able to download and enjoy different campaigns made by other players, as well as make various tweaks to the first story introduced to the game, which as it stands, is a well-written murder mystery unlike anything I’ve experienced in Shadowrun before.
The story begins with your character in their apartment. You are low on nuyen (Shadowrun’s currency) and jobs for people in your line of work are scarce. Your phone rings, and when you answer you are played an automated message, recorded by a friend from your past, Sam. He informs you that if you are listening to this, he has been murdered, and wants you to track down his killer and bring them to justice. Depending on your response, money and/or justice cannot wait another minute, and you’re then off to the morgue to gather whatever clues you can. If you read my reviews you will know I avoid going into depth with story details whenever possible, just know that I enjoy the story in ‘Dead Man’s Switch’ (the beginning campaign) as much as well-written AAA titles.
The game world is rich in detail and Shadowrun lore, and it won’t take players long to get a feel for the different races, characters and the little finite details that make Shadowrun an excellent example of Cyberpunk fiction.
The gameplay is immediately accessible, as almost all of it is controlled by the mouse. The game is presented from an isometric perspective, and players have a field of view which shows not only where the players is, but also adds to the feeling of exploration and discovery. Interacting with other characters in the game world often presents the player with multiple options of progression, from dialogue choices (often based on your class specialisation and stats), to unique options, such as hacking a door or rendering a guard unconscious with a well-placed uppercut.
In combat, all actions are determined by the use of action points. If a player chooses to move into cover, they can move a short distance by spending one action point or a great distance by spending two action points. Standard actions usually take one action point, such as a normal shot or strike, but there are also more powerful abilities which use two or more action points. What I really enjoy about Shadowrun Returns is how different the choices made in the story play out, and how different the classes feel, while still feeling relevant. It’s a refreshing change from some games, which have a few dud skills or classes, or whose story unfolds completely the same, regardless of the character you’ve worked so hard on creating and developing.
Lastly, it would be silly of me not to mention the game’s stellar soundtrack. There are grimy electronic tracks which perfectly capture the atmosphere of Shadowrun. Not only is there a plethora of great new tracks, but there’s also reworked and remixed versions of the classic Super Nintendo Shadowrun title’s tracks. A real treat for game music enthusiasts.
- Great value for money, there’s a ton of content and so much more on the way!
- Highly accessible and great replayability
- One of the best cyberpunk works out there.
- Some may find the isometric viewpoint and text-story (there’s no voice-acting for the story) dated and therefore, hard to enjoy.
- Turn-based combat may also rub some gamers the wrong way.
Shadowrun Returns is a brilliant return to form for the cyberpunk RPG, and I’m certain new and old players will look enjoy the game’s introductory story and upcoming content from Harebrained Schemes and the Shadowrun community. Players disappointed by multiplayer, do not fret, as Shadowrun Online is coming, and will allow you to waste drekkers and earn fat stacks of nuyen with a friend.
Score – 9/10