Shadowrun Returns is fantastic. I could end my review right there, but that wouldn’t do the game proper justice. Shadowrun Returns is a story driven, turn based role playing game set in the futuristic, cyberpunk and gritty alternate reality of year 2054 Seattle.
The game’s story plays out like a murder mystery novel, its visuals and sound design help to cultivate an environment where you feel yourself engaged in the story and its characters. Instead of having ultra-realistic visuals, the game’s art design goes for a more hand drawn environment and characters.
This helps sell the idea of a dystopian cyberpunk universe to the player. In the beginning of the game, you’re given quite the amount of choices in regards to play style. Are you a gun or sword-wielding street samurai, a spell-binding mage or a drone-operating hacker? The game leaves a lot of room for the player to decide exactly how they want to approach the game and each class has an even wider variety of play by use of a skill and trait system.
In Shadowrun, you are a Shadowrunner, which is essentially a gun-for-hire (or mage/hacker for hire) that is tasked with performing a wide variety of tasks which are affectionately named “Runs.”
Character creation is limited, but still gives you plenty to choose from and is just enough to make you satisfied with your character to start the game. Shadowrun Returns’ story is very linear, however it is apparent that your actions give you some feeling of agency and makes you feel like you’re having an impact on the story.
Despite being so linear, the game truly shines in its writing and its ability to tell a story. There is no voiced dialogue in the game and conversations with other characters are done via text screens with clickable responses, staying true to the older style of role-playing games. It’s almost like reading a well written choose-your-own-adventure novel and this works well within the context of Shadowrun’s universe and game play.
The environments are very well drawn out and each setting really comes to life. However, when characters are speaking to each other they just stare blankly at each other while the exciting text scrolls on. My point is, the characters don’t really reflect the emotion that’s being read in the text.
Also, the combat sections of the game don’t offer much variety in animations either; characters will usually preform the same 2-3 routine actions throughout the course of the game. There’s only so many ways you can shoot a gun, but in regards to the melee combat and magic portions of the game are fairly lacking animation-wise.
The developers could have added some more visual flair, effects and new animations to each set of attacks. Most spells are just a conjuration of an elemental ball that is thrown at enemies and melee combat is just a few measly weak swings.
The game also lacks interesting squad mates who help you in battle. You are given a few men who stay loyal to you as you help them in the game, however you can fill in the blank spots with other Shadowrunners for hire. You don’t really develop any sort of connection with these men other than “Hey, I paid you thousands of dollars to help me shoot at things and given the amount of enemies there are I really need you to keep helping me shooting at things.”
For the most part, you really don’t care for these men at all — they just sort of are there and do what you pay them to do. The only motivation to keep them alive is because you paid them money!
Overall, Shadowrun Returns is not a game to be rushed through; it’s one to be taken slowly and it is worth reading into the lore and back story of the game. It’s a thinking person’s game and one that really allows you to get into the grit.
It engages you with micromanaging and fun puzzles as you begin to piece together a complex murder case. Shadowrun paints a very grim and dark future that is a refreshing break from the modern formula of role-playing games and shooters. I would highly recommend this game to anyone interested in a good story and a fantastic setting.
Collegian Entertainment Reporter Diego Carrera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.