Shadowrun Returns Impressions

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Shadowrun is a franchise that I’m barely even familiar with though it has many fans around the world.  At the time, just coming out of the great tactical experience from XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I began to follow Harebrained Scheme’s kickstarter project for “Shadowrun Returns” as I noticed a similar level of tactical RPG combat. After a slight delay, the game finally hit and I was given my first proper introduction to the world of Shadowrun. I was immediately sucked in.

Full impressions after the jump.

Shadowrun Returns takes place in Seattle, Washington sometime in the future. You are a Shadowrunner whose kind of fallen on hard times after one of your partners turned up dead. His death triggers a message to you as his final contract is to find his killer, ultimately a serial killer known as the Emerald City Ripper. The Ripper kills and then harvests a certain organ from the victim. There is a reason behind it but I won’t get into that here. It’s up to you to bring the killer to justice…and get some cash for your trouble as well.

As any true RPG, the player is given a number of creation options upon first booting up a new game. The game features five races to pick from and six classes, Street Samurai, Shaman, Rigger, Decker, Mage, Physical Adept or in an interesting twist, you don’t have to play as any predetermined class. What’s nice is even if you do select a certain class, you’re not locked out of the other abilities so you can technically mix and match as you wish through the karma system.

Karma is awarded for completing objectives and progressing through the game. In turn, players spend this karma on new abilities and skills to outfit their character with.  As I mentioned above, you can use these points however you want as you’re not locked into only your class specific abilities. It’s a great system and one that gives the player a lot of freedom in how they want to outfit their character. This also lends to improving the replay value of the game as there’s a ton of combinations you can make.

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At its heart, Shadowrun Returns is similar to a game like Diablo or XCOM where you’re given an isometric view and click on the world to make your character move or interact. During combat, it becomes turned based allowing you time to set up and execute plans. You can position characters behind objects which provide cover and depending on your skill and equipment, there’s a percentage chance to hit your enemies. Just like a game like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you could indeed miss that critical shot which then throws a monkey wrench into your plans. I’ve had it happen many times and one could argue that’s part of the fun.

The game’s art style is very impressive even on lower settings for my less than impressive computer. Seattle has fallen on hard times even in this future version where the streets are a bit run down, street thugs occupy sections of the city, and cybernetics are advancing. That game is fairly linear even in these wonderfully crafted environments. I would have loved to have been able to explore certain sections a bit more as the art style really drives that feeling home.

The thing that is a bit of a let down for me is the lack of character customization outside of the Karma/Skill system. While you can really diversify and make your character unique through that, the game does not feature a loot system like a Borderlands or a Diablo style game. On rare occasions, a map may have a spot where you can interact getting you money or an item you can fence at your base, but outside of that, the only way to gain new weapons or armor is through vendors. The weapons and armor in this game are not randomized and vendors do not refresh their gear so essentially, if you can afford the best stuff, there’s really no reason to go back to look through their gear because it’s the same as it was. Even armed with that knowledge, I felt the need to check anyways each time I returned home perhaps out of some subconscious training done to me over the years from other RPG style games. I would have loved to have seen this element expanded upon. Shadowrun Returns really gives you that feeling of customization so to not have a loot system or at least more options to outfit your character is a bit disappointing.

A lot has been made about the autosave system that the game uses and while it can be problematic, I figured out its pattern early so I was able to work around it. Shadowrun Returns only saves your progress when moving to different areas. So when you hit a load screen going into a new zone, the game will autosave. Other than that, don’t quit because you’ll lose your progress. I do agree that the game would benefit from having a more user-friendly save system especially for those people who want to play for a little bit and not sit down for longer sessions. Right now, that’s not really feasible.

Overall, I’m very happy with Shadowrun Returns. It’s a fun RPG with an interesting world and great tactical combat. It does have a few weak spots including a harsh save system and a world that would benefit from more interaction, but ultimately, if you’re a fan of tactical RPGs in the vein of XCOM, you’ll be right at home with Shadowrun Returns.

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