The long awaited return of Shadowrun is finally upon us so the question on everyone’s mind is was it worth the wait?
For those of you who don’t know what Shadowrun is (or was), it’s a RPG game released back in the early 90's for both the Sega genesis and the Super Nintendo. It followed the story of Jake Armitage, a man suffering from amnesia who begins a quest to uncover his identity and complete his mission. The game was a critical success and won many gaming awards obviously due to the fun game play and great musical score, but probably even more in part to its uniqueness and originality. The game was truly ahead of its time and still remains a fan favorite for many. But still it was a commercial failure as its greatest asset (being its originality) became its "Achilles heel" as too few were willing to step out of their comfort zone and try something completely unique (a story that repeats itself a lot!). However now a sequel has been released so we can take the story to its ultimate conclusion! So on with the review!
For those of you who don’t know this game has been developed by Harebrained Schemes, a game development company run by Jordan Weisman who is famous for the creation of the original Shadowrun as well as Crimson Skies, Mech Warrior and Battletech .This ensures the validity of the game as a sequel as well as inspires confidence in the games quality. Because after all who wants to invest their money into a game created by a novice! So by now you might be asking if this is just a remastered in HD remake. Well, I’m glad to report NO (not saying I didn’t like the original, but I’ve already played that one!) In fact this game is entirely different from the first.
In this game the year is 2054 and magic has graced the world once again and with it powerful new creatures have emerged born of myth and legend. Technology has merged with flesh and consciousness. Elves trolls and other mythical beings walk among us as equals in society whilst the corporations that run our world bleed us dry. You are a "shadow runner", a mercenary for hire living on the fringes of society fighting to survive not only against people that wish you harm, but also to pay the rent on your apartment. That’s how the story really begins...
The start of something special! The story begins in your apartment. You are pondering over ways to see it through till the end of the month whilst rummaging through the collection of goods in your apartment when the video phone rings. You of course answer only to find Jake Armitage, another shadow runner who is calling from beyond the grave via a dead man’s switch which was set to activate upon his mortality. He offers you 100,000 nuyen to find and apprehend the killer that claimed his life. You of course accept and begin your adventure into the dark underbelly of society in order to catch the killer and claim your money prize. An adventure lavish with twists and turns that become more and more intricate the deeper you dig and the nearer you come to unlocking the mystery (I won’t go deeper than that to avoid spoilers!) but know that the story is very intriguing and very cool to follow.
In terms of gameplay, Shadowrun Returns resembles that of the original. It plays like a point and click adventure or like an old school RPG games which is kinda cool and rare this days. You'll move to cover, select a weapon or spell and see a bunch of percentage chances on your opponents, something like XCOM: Enemy Unknown. You earn cash for you troubles and you can spend it over weapons, upgrades, spells etc. The level of customization is limitless. Or you can use the nuyen to hire other mercenaries to help you during the missions or "runs". It feels good and works well, most of the times, but there are also some bugs and glitches that might annoy the hell out of you. But I think the devs will hammer out these problems with upcoming updates. Shadowrun Returns has another cool thing that we don't really see these days in games, a level editor. We hear the word DLC so much these days that things like free level editors sound almost magical. Using it, you can create you own world, characters, "runs" and I cannot wait to see what the community comes up.
Good RPGs aren’t exactly hard to come by whereas good point and click adventure games are few and far between (I challenge you to name five...without Sam and Max in the title!) This, in my opinion, makes the game unique and gives it extra appeal. But that doesn't mean that it's unique in every aspect of the RPG elements. Leveling up, turn based battles etc. are all thing we have seen and played before in other RPGs. But I still believe the fact that the game combining a point and click system with RPG elements has enough to satisfy even the most experienced gamer let alone the non-so hardcore gamers. It has to offer something to pretty much everyone.
As I previously stated, you play as a shadow runner, meaning that you get to create your own character. The original game had Jake as its main protagonist, but for the sequel, I think, the devs wanted to make the experience kinda unique for everyone. This game was made possible through Kickstarter, so people made this game happen. Sure they could have "locked" the game with a character with a backstory or something like that and made it the same experience for everyone, but I really liked the way they choose and I think that is a great way to thank all of the backers and fans.
So it's entirely up to you. You can customize everything about your character from your species to your attributes and everything else in-between including your physical appearance, class etc. This is an excellent addition to the game and is one of little details (which must have taken a s**t load of effort) that really highlight the excessive effort the developers must have put in to create the game. Making it go above and beyond the class of most games built on the backs of a small development team this aside from making the game more enjoyable also puts itself ahead of many other games I have played recently and really makes itself stand out from the crowd. This game is a testament to the impact that a good quality script can have on a game. The writing Shadowrun Returns is amazing, a well versed script and a mesmerising storyline which manages to suck you into the universe the devs have created and expanded upon. Apart from the main storyline, there is a ton of things that happen in the world, a ton. Exploration or just wandering around talking to random people is highly advised since, again, a ton of cool things happen, you just need to be at the right place at the right moment. I could talk more about the classes, how the experience differs from one another, what cool things you might find, but I don't wanna really spoil all of the fun for you.
Nowadays many of the top notch RPG games require beast rigs that cost as much as a car, but you can play Shadowrun Returns easily in a budget laptop. The word that springs to mind when playing the game is simplicity. It casts itself out of the shackles of an overly complicated control system or an incomprehensible storyline and by doing so it manages to avoid the pitfalls of many other modern games. After all being too ambitious without the time or budget to back it up can be many potentially great games downfall. So although it will not blow you away with fantastic next-gen 3D graphics, Shadowrun Returns looks fantastic with its unique 2D art-style. It's unique and it gives the game extra flair, so complaining about the graphics doesn't really make any sense.
The soundtrack on the game is perfect as it never gets tiring ( I don't know how they managed that!). The quality is top class and it seems obvious that the musical score for every chapter of the game has been developed to best accompany the scenario in which it takes place, from the first scene in your apartment, to the music in morgue etc.
Being a PC game or to better say it, being a point and click RPG, the game doesn't support a controller. This was not really a problem for me, but I can imagine some people being turned off by this aspect. Who knows, maybe in the near future we can get a console release and have controller support added (it worked for Diablo). Another thing I hope they fix is the save or checkpoint system. They need to be more frequent. We have come to a time that when a videogame doesn't hold our hand and help us, we get irked and we bash the sh*t out of it on forums and whatnot.
And now answering to the first question in the review: Yes Shadowrun Returns is a true sequel that pays tribute to the original while building upon it and Yes, it was worth the wait!
Shadowrun Returns was reviewed on a PC using a Steam code provided by Harebrained Schemes. Shadowrun Returns is now available for Mac and PC.