Reviews: Shadowrun Returns

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Know What You're Getting Into
(comes after playing all of Dragonfall and ~50% of Hong Kong so far)

If you're looking for high-octane action, quick thinking needed and a modern AAA game experience... look elsewhere.

Shadowrun Returns, especially the Hong Kong campaign pack, is very, very heavy on the story. You'll meet a lot of fascinating people, hear a lot of intriguing stories and get exposed to this complex and detailed world that you'll only want to know more about.

Combat can be sparse, especially since a number of missions contain a minimum of combat if you try to talk your way through things. And there is a lot of talking. A lot. Get used to reading text.

But, if you can get past the fact that this is a game that's more about dialog and character and less about action and combat, then you'll have a blast. The writing is brilliant, the concepts are terrifying and well developed, the characters are wonderful and unpredictable, and the entire community in the home base feels alive and real, and taking the story to another continent, away from where most players are used to, was a brilliant choice.

So know what you're going into. This is an RPG that hits the RP a whole lot heavier than the G, and it is glorious.
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Dragonfall (Director's Cut)- a Blast from the Past
Gamers of a certain age (or access to Go G) will remember the old Infinity Engine RP Gs- Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, the Icewind Dale series. Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall is reminiscent of those titles in the best ways. The gameplay is solid- tactical combat obviously "inspired" (read: stolen) by the XCOM relaunch, which is reasonably challenging while generally allowing multiple approaches to shine.

The real star though is the role-playing aspect, abetted by some of the best genre writing I've ever had the pleasure to experience. The setting for Shadowrun is ridiculous, and having never played it on the tabletop I was initially reluctant to purchase the game. Cyberpunk Orks fighting mages is one of the dumber sci-fi concepts out there. And yet it works, at least in the context of this game. The writing sells you on the characters, who seem like real people; on the setting, which simply oozes cyberpunky menace; on your choices, which actually matter, and can take the story in some very unexpected directions. And man, there is no shortage of choices to make- many missions can be resolved in several ways using a variety of skills, meaning there's no "optimal" build to complete everything. The main quest has all of the twists and turns you'd hope.

Problems: the graphics are subpar. Anyone who plays the game for the visuals is dramatically missing the point, but you do have to be willing to deal with N64-quality graphics. The game is a little short, even with the new "Director's Cut" content. The fact that only the PC can talk with NP Cs means that most players will want to invest several "karma" points in upgrading Charisma, which is useless in combat for non-spell casters.

In all, it's a fantastic title. I heartily recommend it for anyone who misses old-school Western RP Gs. Hopefully further expansions will be forthcoming.
  comments: 2