A View From the Summit: Chapter 2 – Shadowrun Returns
In the last chapter I played through the indescribable oddity that is Zeno Clash, which left me more than a little confused, and I was able to take a step closer to the top of Backlog Mountain.
At the end of my last review, I said I was going to be reviewing Europa Universalis III, but as you can see by the title I’m instead reviewing Shadowrun Returns. Let me shed a little light on this turn of events, which has subsequently led to a new rule in the reviewing process, which is that if a game is broken to the point of unplayability I move on to another game.
In this instance, Europa Universalis III refuses to run on my system, for reasons I have yet to discover. The game seems to install fine, but any time it needs to change screens when not in the main menu, it force-quits to the desktop. Obviously I’d prefer to give the game a fair shake, so if I can solve the issue before I’ve finished the rest of my Backlog, I’ll do a proper review on it.
The aptly named Shadowrun Returns is, for all intents and purposes, the successor to the 1993 DataEast Shadowrun game for the Super Nintendo. By this I mean that the game has a similar look and feel, using the same 3/4ths overhead camera angle, but with a fresh updated feel. It borrows heavily from this game, as the camera never deviates from this position, allowing neither rotation nor angle adjustment. You can zoom in and out to a certain degree but will always be looking at the world from the same spot.
Movement is now handled with point-and-click, as opposed to the direct movement controlls of its SNES counterpart, and they lifted the combat system from X-Com Enemy Unknown almost in its entirety. None of this is bad, for those of us who played the Super Nintendo version remember the touchy targeting reticle used to control Jake’s gun in the ’93 game. Combat is now turn-based, with a cover system, and as your character progresses in skill with a given weapon type they can unlock combat skills.
Having played both the Super Nintendo installment, and the Second Edition Shadowrun RPG (pen and paper), this game feels like the best of both worlds. The main campaign, Dead Man’s Switch, starts out with having you create your own character. You can select from pre-made templates such as the ever-popular Street Samurai (a combat specialist focusing on guns, swords, and cybertechnology), Mages or Shaman (two of the magic-using archetypes), or Decker among others, or if you’re feeling confident you can dive right in and create your own character from scratch.
You also have the ability to choose your race, which they’ve included all of the defaults, and take whatever strengths and weaknesses that come with each (such as the Troll’s higher maximum Body and Strength scores but below-human scores on everything else). Additionally, you can customize your character’s look, though ultimately once you start putting on the various types of armor available in the game, there’s little difference between different characters of the same race.
The game’s interactions are done via multiple-choice dialog options. In my limited play-time, I didn’t notice any significant changes in story progression based upon the options I was choosing, so I don’t know if the system works similar to the options you would get in a game like Mass Effect. It appears to me, though, to just be flavor text set up so that you can portray your character how you see him or her reacting to each situation.
The storyline is very engaging, if a bit linear, but still drew me in and made me want to play through the whole game. This is definitely something I’ll be going back to after I’ve cleared my backlog. Additionally, with the use of Steam Workshop integration and an entire Developer’s Toolkit packaged with the game, there will be new content for months if not much longer.
This wasn’t a game purchase I ended up with accidently, like much of my Humble Bundle fodder, but instead something I picked up for myself entirely on purpose. That said, I’ve made similar purchases in the past and have been horribly disappointed, but luckily not in this case. This is a definite must-have for Shadowrun fans, people who enjoy RPGs or turn-based strategy, or anyone who loves a good dystopian future. It’s certainly leagues ahead of the last Shadowrun title, the disastrous mess released on home console, which was more of a re-dressed Team Fortress 2 than a Shadowrun game. If you’ve made it this far, stop reading now, go get this game and see for yourself.
Next time I’ll be taking a look at the stylistic puzzle platformer NightSky.