Shadowrun Returns is a Turn-based Strategy game on PC. The game is developed by Harebrained Schemes who previously developed Crimson: Steam Pirates and Strikefleet Omega.
For anyone unfamiliar with Shadowrun, it is a pen and paper RPG in a cyberpunk setting with some elements of magic. Due to the elements of magic, humans started splitting into other races and thus was born Orcs, Trolls, Elves and Dwarves. Animals have turned to monsters and the world is run by corporations. As a Shadowrunner, you have no System Identification Number (SIN) and can fly under the radar. Due to this, corps hire shadowrunners to fight other corps.
The story of Shadowrun Returns follows you, A Shadowrunner out on a revenge mission for your lost friend. In the default campaign, the story will last for a good 12+ hours and takes you through many environments. Interestingly, the default campaign isn’t where Shadowrun Returns ends. Worked into the game – and attempting to be one with its pen and paper roots – Shadowrun allows players to create their own campaigns, essentially giving the game more value than it was sold at. There are already many large campaigns in the process of creation. With enough community backing, Shadowrun Returns could continue to thrive and expand.
An especially important part of playing pen and paper RPGs is the role-playing. Obviously, being a video-game, Shadowrun Returns can’t adapt to every choice you want to make like in the pen and paper version, but it does give you plenty of choice. Interestingly, you only get one chance at most decisions. After encountering the decision, even if you say you’ll talk to them later, the chance is gone. This is a good way to combat players finding out what skills they need to open certain dialogue options. To make up for the lack of choice compared to its origin, Shadowrun Returns has, for the most part, an absolutely enthralling script which I enjoyed every minute of. Though there are some minor spelling and grammatical errors, these can be mostly overlooked and don’t cause any confusion – though I do hope they’re fixed.
Shadowrun Returns uses an Action-Point-based Turn-based combat system. Each shadowrunner has a number of action points which they can spend on moving, shooting, using skills, using items or going into over-watch mode. During your turn, you can perform actions in any order so long as you have enough points to spend on them, save for over-watch which will end your turn so should be used last. Turns switch back and forth between the shadowrunner team – the player – and the enemy teams – the AI. During my time playing, the game felt relatively balanced with only a few stand-out occurrences. The main occurrence being the combined range and power of the shotgun. Beyond this, the combat is a joy to work with.
The art styling in Shadowrun Returns looks great. Almost painting-like. While this is true of the backgrounds, I felt the characters didn’t quite match up to it. Both styles alone work well, but together they clashed a bit. This detracted from it a bit for me, but it can be overlooked easily when you’re immersed in the dialogue or combat. It’s just a small touch, but I love the fact cybernetics make an actual visual change.
After starting the game, the first thing I noticed was the quality of the music, which is a good thing, because you’re going to be listening to it for a while. I haven’t tested this on any other system since I only own one which can run it, but the initial load for the game takes a long time to load. I’ve waited for up to 5 minutes for the initial load to complete and I don’t really understand why it takes so long.
While the game is mostly great, there are some places to pick at, like the previously mentioned load time. The options menu lacks the regular settings you’d expect from a PC game, with the only real visual settings being HD Textures and Anti-aliasing. The game also lacks part-saving. The campaign will save at pre-determined spots (usually after load screens) and that seems to be the only way to save. Annoying if you have to quickly get up and go somewhere. While it’s not a massive problem, I didn’t like the fact that combat in the Matrix was just re-skinned combat. It would’ve been interesting if it took its own form.
For the solid, enjoyable game with good dialogue it is at a base and its expandability through community campaigns and perhaps even official DLC campaigns, Shadowrun Returns is a lot for the money you pay. Although it would’ve been nice to see multi-player, I can’t really fault the game for not having it. Anyone who wants a solid turn-based RPG or to experience the pen and paper RPG and can’t find a group would be a fool to pass up on this game.