Shadowrun Returns Review
Enter the Matrix.
Video game Kickstarters could use some good press, after a couple of mis-steps by other projects, but Harebrained Schemes are here with the latest crowd-funded effort, hoping to save the day. Their new game, Shadowrun Returns marks the first true Shadowrun game since the 16-bit era and it is one that I couldn’t be happier to see again. Resurrecting an old property doesn’t always pay off, but Harebrained Schemes think they can please old fans of the series, and bring in new players with Shadowrun Returns. Did they succeed? Let’s find out.
Shadowrun Returns will take players directly back into the world that they may remember from the pen and paper RPG of the same name, or that of the early video games. For those of you who are new to the series, the Shadowrun setting is one that mixes a cyberpunk world of hackers and cybernetics with a fantasy world of magic, elves, and orks. This type of setting allows for comic book style humor to mix perfectly with serious, suspenseful story lines and that is why I’ve always been a big fan of the world of Shadowrun.
When you jump into Shadowrun returns for the first time, you’ll create your character from a number of different archetypes. There is the Street Samurai for those that like to deal heavy damage, the Decker for those who want to use cyberspace to their advantage, or maybe you prefer a magic user and in that case you can roll a Mage or Shaman, among a few other choices. The great part about the Shadowrun Returns progression system is that it doesn’t matter which class you start as, you can always build up skills in another area later on.
Once you have your character figured out, and enter the world of Shadowrun Returns, you’ll be greeted with a familiar view and very simple interface. The view is the angled top-down perspective that is favored by many hack-and-slash games and you’ll move around with a click of the mouse. Each area is considered a level, and you’ll only be able to save when the game does it automatically between levels. This can lead to having to repeat mission prep, if you have to reload your game, so I wish you were able to save anywhere but I never ended up having to repeat too much of the game when I did die.
Combat is a different, yet still familiar, story. When you encounter enemies, you will switch seamlessly into a combat mode that plays like a turn-based strategy game. Players have a certain number of actions they can perform, and a certain number of spaces they can move. The cover system also made the whole thing feel a lot like XCOM, a game that knows exactly what it’s doing when it comes to turn-based strategy. The camera, however, does not always behave and during battle often needs to be manually nudged so you can see the enemies you want to be targeting. This is even if you have the camera set to follow you.
Combat also takes on a different form when you enter the Matrix, Shadowrun’s version of cyberspace. During some sections, and even in the middle of some battles, players can jack into the Matrix and fight off digital sentries to take over computer systems that can help out with battlefield conditions. The Matrix was always an important part of the Shadowrun universe and it is well represented in Shadowrun Returns.
It takes a while for things to get going, when you start the campaign, but once the story establishes itself and you start to get a feel for the different strategies that each class offers, Shadowrun Returns ends up being a lot of fun.
There are no co-op or multiplayer modes in Shadowrun Returns.
Shadowrun Returns is a win for the crowd funding model, as well as the revival of old intellectual properties. Harebrained Schemes have lovingly recreated the Shadowrun universe in the form of a fun and very reasonably priced game. Fans of PC RPG’s, cyberpunk, or turn-based strategy games shouldn’t miss Shadowrun Returns, a game that shows you can have broad appeal while staying true to your roots and your vision.
Release Date: July 25th, 2013
Available On: PC via Steam