Shadowrun Returns review
So before the Weekends Harebrained Schemes finally released their long awaited kickstarter backed Shadowrun game. I never backed it on kickstarter, partly because I found about it to late, and partly because I don't really agree with this type of scheme, but this is one I probably would have backed cause I love Shadowrun.
To start with, the game is a basic isometric old style RPG. I'm going to be honest and say I loved the SNES game. It was my first taste of Shadowrun, after that I did get the Pen and paper books and read a lot of the story and created characters and such, but I never really got to play it, small town and all. For it's faults in not following the rules of Shadowrun the SNES game still had great style and was a great game with a great story. And I still remember the moody music. The isometric view s the games probably greatest strength and weakness. I love me some old fashioned isometric views, but I wish the game had been done in proper 3D isometric so I could rotate the camera and see the other side of buildings, and least rotate in 90 degree increments. The way they did it though is the only way they could afford to do the game and be able to finish it, and the engine is very powerful and allows you to set up lighting and all kinds of effect on the 2.5D tiles.
Interface & Control:
The interface is very basic and straight forward. For the most part it works, but you feel like you're missing certain elements a lot of the time. It does also have some problem with the click to target and click to move. Sometimes you targets can be very small, especially when hidden behind someone or someone, this can sometimes result in you moving instead of attacking. At this point it's important to point out this is a turn based game, and moving costs you the ability to attack one or twice or even three times that round, this could be if not fatal, very bad.
The interface is also missing information about a lot of items in the game. For people familiar with Shadowrun, they know what a smartlink gun is. The game however does not explain it in any place and it doesn't say what advantages a smartlink gun offers. Making it hard for me to decide if my troll shadowrunner should use the 16 damage Colt M23 Smartlink AR, or the 18 damage Ares Alpha AR. This problem extends into a few other areas to like cyberware, more on that later.
Another problem that popped up for me in what I assume is the last level, has to do with bot control. Since all the mages I could hire only had the crap level 1 healing spell. I decided to try the rigged that came with a Robo-Doc drone. Either how to use this is very well hidden in the game, or the designers never tried it and never found the bug. The bot basically has a grenade launcher that fires "healing shrapnel"(?!), however the game doesn't allow you do blind fire weapons at the ground and you can't fir on friendlies. Basically as far as I can see, Robo-Doc is useless.
The game is fairly true to the shadowrun style. It's dark and somber, with some humor elements here and there. Strangely in the early parts of the game on the NTSB lot, you'll see parts for old Cessna planes which seems a bit out of place, thought he things would pronbably be around forever, some of the level design there don't make sense though, like the level with the mockup of a crashed plane that's been set up after the crash, and there's a Cessna plane front in the midst there… Overall though the style feels quite Shadowrun.
There's a few problems here and there of course, now so far I've only made a troll character(for non shadowrun people Orcs aren't quite the fantasy Orcs of other games, they're not really green, they're just bigger humans with thicker skin and Orc like faces. Trolls. They're Orcs only much bigger ). Character generation is pretty straight forward, and in the style of old CRPG's it lets you chose a character portraits, this gets a bit complicated with the fact the characters are 3D models you can "customize". The character portraits look mostly great and are very Shadowrun, the head models you can chose between for Trolls however don't match any of the portraits, and all of them have to many and to huge horns, the only with a decent set of normal horns has one of them broken. And for some reason when I put on a armor with a top hat, not only did I not get the hat visible, I also lost all the horns…
Some of the armors and such is also quite over the top compared to what shadowrun has(no this is not WoW)
Shadowrun lore & rules:
This is of course a Shadowrun game, and as such, you would expect it to follow the rules and lore of Shadowrun. Now it's been a LONG time since I read the shadowrun rules books so I don't remember everything and they were complicated back then for some parts of it as well. I can say that for the most parts, it does seem to follow Shadowrun fairly well. And it is a skill based and not a archetype/class based game, and for the most part it follows the Shadowrun rules here in that you can build your character just as you want, no classes to lock you into.
The area that seems to break most from the rules as I can remember them is cyberware. It seems the game only gives you 3 essence not the 6 I seem to remember you had in the PnP. The cyberware is also very limited in that they used traditional CRPG body slots for it, meaning you can only have one body slot type of cyberware, despite them not being incompatible in the traditional rules. Like dermal plating and bone lacing, or dermal plating and wired reflexes. You should be able to have both of those, but you can't.
This brings us to another problem, the Essence. For those that are new to shadowrun, Essence is basically your humanity. A normal pure flesh human has 6 essence. Cyberware will "cost" at minimum 0.5 essence, and you can never have under 1(theirs is a special case exception in the PnP game, but it wouldn't be practical for the CRPG anyway since you would have to roleplay a human that is no longer human so to speak). I'm not entirely sure if you could get essence back in the PnP game when you removed cyberware, at any rate you can't get essence back in this game, and it doesn't include bioware so you can't remove cyberware like arms either, only replace cyberware with other cyberware. This causes a potential problem down the road for your character, as the decision you make at the start, which you are only partly warned about, will haunt you throughout the game. And if you put in a cyberarm, well then you always have to have a cyberarm, you can't remove it to use that essence for something else. And as I said you can't get essence back, so when you replace your basic 2 essence bone lacing with alpha grade 1 essence bone lacing, you won't get that essence back. You can "cheat " the system by installing another piece of cyberware at the same time as you replace it. But that's the only way, other than that's it's lost forever.
The story is in general very good, however I miss side mission. I don't mind the story being very linear. And I don't mind so much that there are no videos or voice acting, though it would be nice, but I understand the budget. However, the story seems very short, unless it's a lot longer than I believe. And I would as I said wish there was a lot more basic low level basic shadowrunning missions I could do between doing the story mission. This ties in with their low essence and the fact you can max you equipment and such very fast in this game, it's not designed to be a long game from the basics. Hopefully the community will have some skilled storytellers and such to build a long story arch with side quests and such to do as you want, it just feels a bit to constrained, There has in fact only been ONE true side quest in the game as it is, there's some small bonus things you can do while on the main quest but that doesn't really count.
And while the main story is very good, it has another problem that probably resonates with Shadowrun fans. From here on I have to warn there might be spoiler to where the main story leads. So if you don't want to read, don't read the rest of this section. As I recall, with the PnP game, the insect spirits of Seattle was some of the hardest and highest level stories/quests a GM could put his runners through. It was something you wouldn't know about much less face until you were among Seattle's top crew of runners. This game, in its short campaign will take you directly from bottom of the barrel poor shadowrunner in a few quick steps to having meetings with the great dragon Lofwyr's personal aide and the leadership of Tir to take out the insect threat of Seattle…
I don't mind this as much as I mind that the campaign is MUCH MUCH to short from the start to the point you get there.
It's a great game, possibly the greatest computer Shadowrun game to date. It's not perfect, a CRPG can never be, but it could get a little bit closers, I would have liked a fully 3D isometric world, but I do like that I can play it on my laptop at great graphics without problem as well. IT could have been a little bit more gritty and dirty, the story could have been longer the UI could use a bit more work and cyberware should be more close to the PnP game. But overall I's a great game that you will enjoy playing and talented storytellers from the Shadowrun community WILL provide excellent story arcs for years to come.
As a score I would give it a 4/5 easily.
What I could like to see:
In the future I would like to see a few expansion to the game as it stands right now.
- Coop ability would be great
- GM controlled multiplayer would also be great. i.e. one GM controls the game, runs the story changes and modifies the story as it fits during the campaign and each runners is controlled by an actual player.
- A full 3D isometric sequel would also be nice, but then this game needs to do very well I suppose for that to happen.