Okay, so I’m gonna be totally honest here. My (before-now) experience with Shadowrun began and ended with the SNES game. And by that I mean it ended about five minutes in because I was, like, nine the last time I played it. However, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this ever since it hit its Kickstarter goals, because I’ve since become a huge sucker for urban fantasy and cyberpunk. So, it’s finally here! Was it worth the wait, though? Let’s find out.
The first thing you’ll notice about the game is how crazily stylized it is. The graphics, the sounds, the writing; everything really makes you feel like you’re in this urban fantasy/cyberpunk mash-up world. The graphics look nice and work well, although the animations (particularly troll and orc) could use some work. The music has a great electronic-yet-industrial feel to it, with lots of deep beats mixed with the occasional electronic blip. The writing is probably my favorite thing in this game aesthetics-wise
Everyone from SNES protagonist Jake Armitage casually hopping out of the corpse locker in the opening morgue scene or former ork soldier T.B. Gruberman having the exact day, year, and minute when he left the military immediately available when asked about it. All of the characters are memorable in some way and it really helps to make you genuinely care about these characters, as well as getting to the bottom of the murders (and more) plaguing Seattle.
Alright, so it’s a nice sounding, well written, pretty game. How’s it play? If you’ve ever played one of the Black Isle Studios computer RPGs, then you’ve got the non-combat stuff in mind. Isometric viewpoint, click-to-do-everything interface, the usual ’90s CRPG stuff is present here, but without a lot of the clunkiness that early CRPGs had. Combat, on the other hand, seems like a watered down (or perhaps ‘tweaked’ is a better word) version of X-COM: Enemy Unknown (and presumably the original X-COM, but I’ve never played it). The moment combat happens, everyone gets their own turn. You can move, attack, use spells, heal, whatever you need to do. Most things use up one action point, with certain spells, long-distance running, and grenades being the exception to the rule. Once you run out of action points, turn’s over. Repeat until everyone’s dead.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is the sole focus of my problems with Shadowrun Returns. The saving system, likely setup to prevent saving and reloading until you get the optimal outcome, is a pain in the ass to deal with. It’s all autosaves, and having to reload can set you back a good twenty minutes to an hour, depending on the length of the mission you just messed up. Considering that some missions require you to set up a team of runners, and you can’t go back, there’s a really good chance to bork your save.
Another problem I’ve noticed is that some classes either are/seem totally useless, or I’m just bad at using them. I’ve never found a good reason to take along an Adept (Eastern monk-styled melee characters) or a Decker (hackers). In the case of the Adepts I’ve used, they either have laughable accuracy or terrible damage. Deckers have the issue of being too specialized. Their main gimmick is being able to go into cyberspace and get info, reprogram turrets, the usual hacker stuff. Unfortunately, only a handful of missions I’ve found have any real Decking presence. Hopefully mapmakers can fix this lil’ problem.
So what’s the verdict, then? It’s definitely enjoyable, potentially-borked save aside. If you liked what Black Isle brought us back in the ’90s, I’d recommend checking it out. If you’re a fan of the universe… Well, you’ve probably already bought it and don’t need me to tell you it’s good. Anyway, I feel like the biggest thing holding this game back is the save system and how downright useless some classes feel, at least in the main campaign. Anyway, that’s me done for now, so… I’m probably gonna go roll a Street Samurai and try again. Thanks for reading and have a good’un.