For decades, fans of the cyberpunk role playing game 'Shadowrun' have been divided on what is the best Shadowrun video game. It was a battle of two classics, each with their positive qualities—the SNES game had a great soundtrack, fun game play, but disregarded the source material’s rules and stats; the Sega Genesis game had a great soundtrack, was extremely accurate, had an open world (a rarity in that generation), and a very engaging computer hacking (known as decking in Shadowrun) system, yet had an inferior combat system and story. And as this battle raged between fans, the franchise languished in obscurity. Harebrain Schemes has brought Shadowrun back with 'Shadowrun Returns', mixing the best parts of both games with a contemporary tactical RPG combat system somewhat similar to 'X-COM: Enemy Unknown'. For old school fans, this was what they were waiting for all along. However, is this game just a great Shadowrun game, or a great game in general?
What exceeded my expectations:
Combat system: Diverse, layered, and at times difficult, Shadowrun Returns’ combat system combines the pen and paper rules of the Shadowrun universe with modern game play with fantastic results. Just when you think the system has nothing else to offer, you run into something brand new. The decking system in particular was a surprise. I did not expect it to be such an expansion on the already fun combat, but fighting on two planes of existence is a really fun experience.
Character creation: Another thing I did not expect was the ability to create my own protagonist. Essentially, the two most important choices you must make are your race and class, as they both affect what will ultimately be the strengths and weaknesses of your character. What makes it so great is that even within those limitations, you can have your character dabble in more than one class, much like the mercenaries you’ll hire later on in the game. So if you want a hacker who can defend himself in a gunfight, or a shaman with a penchant for hand-to-hand combat, you can do it.
Steam workshop support: Feel like the main story is too short or disappointing? Well make your own using Workshop. Then share it with the rest of the world. This extends the game’s replay value exponentially, as it has for “Mount and Blade” and other PC games.
What met my expectations:
The storyline: It was fun, but in the end, it was kind of short and unimpressive. However, the callbacks to the classic Shadowrun games and even the novels were really entertaining, but from a casual perspective, it’s not going to turn heads. Thankfully, the community has already gotten started in making their own campaigns.
The soundtrack: Once again, this is more of a treat for old school Shadowrun fans. Many of the tracks are remade versions of music from the previous Shadowrun games. Do they withstand the test of time? Mileage may vary.
What failed to meet my expectations:
The save system: This flaw is going to have to be changed, It may be fine for some hardcore players who don’t want to be able to save during missions (unless going to another area), but for everyone else, it is an outdated inconvenience. An indie game mistake.
Overall, “Shadowrun Returns” is perfect for fans of the universe. And soon when the community creates more content in workshop, it will be a fantastic game for casuals as well. For now, those on the fence should wait a while before buying this game. However, if you know what “chummer” means without googling it, buy this game.