Shadowrun is a good and satisfying tactical RPG for 2013. If you’re not aware, Shadowrun got its start as a tabletop role-playing game and the console versions followed. So even if you never played these versions, you’ll still be able to enjoy this game.
Set in mid-21st century Seattle, you play a shadowrunner, a mercenary hired to perform work in a world full of evil characters. The game’s campaign, “The Dead Man’s Switch,” opens with you receiving a message from a recently deceased friend, Sam Watts, who charges you with solving his murder. Throughout the next 10 hours, you’ll try solving a mystery that involves an organ harvesting serial killer, a religious cult, a giant corporation, and poison-spewing insects. Keep in mind that “The Dead Man’s Switch” is only the included campaign. From the start, Shadowrun Returns was not only built as an RPG adventure but a system for creating your own adventures. This is one of the truly exciting features of Shadowrun Returns.
Graphically the game is attractive and stays true to its source. What’s most impressive is the diversity of the classes in terms of gameplay. The matrix hacking element of the game flows naturally, offering a spin on the gameplay which is a welcome distraction and the turn based system works perfectly. Comparisons to X-Com are bound to happen and they are justified to an extent, but it isn’t a carbon copy of the game as it adds very definite “Shadowrun only” elements to it. Another definitive Shadowrun feature is the Karma system of development. For this game, the Karma system lends itself to the RPG aspects of the title, forcing you to do good deeds to gain rewards. While on paper this seems like a forced method of leveling, in practice it does well as it prevents the all-out turn based grind towards completion and compels you to explore the detailed world held together by a spellbinding steampunk inspired soundtrack.
Now onto the things I didn’t care for. Shadowrun Returns takes a while to get going. What I mean by that is you need to get through a couple missions before the story heats up. Second, if you’re not into reading a lot of text in games, this won’t be for you. It feels like they took the tabletop book version and placed it into the game as there is plenty of reading and talking points. There is also no “save anywhere” system. You can and will lose up to 30 minutes of progress as the game relies on wide-spread checkpoint systems. There is no save after a certain time either, its only on checkpoint, so if you have to do something, or are otherwise interrupted, you end up going back through a lot of dialogue and decisions you have already made, not just combat. The game is only 10hrs, which I think is too short, but it does have players content to look forward to.
Though it’s great and I love the series as well as tabletop games, this game is definitely not perfect by any means and might not be for some. I highly enjoyed it and can’t wait to see what comes next.