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Monday, 10 March 2014

Rik's Reaction to SHADOWRUN RETURNS (PC)

I thought Shadowrun Returns was great, from start to finish. Excellent. It is difficult to know what else to say... I just thought this was great. Perhaps the right game at the right time for me? Or perhaps it is something you'll enjoy? I'll just ramble as follows.

The game is based on the world of Shadowrun which is best summarised via its Wikipedia entry..

"a science fantasy tabletop role-playing game set in a near-future fictional universe in which cybernetics, magic and fantasy creatures co-exist"

I couldn't have said it better myself, although I would add that we are talking modern cities, corporations, neon signs and an obvious lack of equality here. This is were slimy corporate types, automatic weapons, street thugs and computer hackers mix with ghosts, wizards, demons and fireballs.

Imagine Blade Runner meets Harry Potter. Suffice to say this isn't Middle Earth, Dragons and mead.

The artwork is lovely, just love those hand drawn back drops

So.. Shadowrun Returns is the latest PC and Tablet (Android & iOS) game based on this world, and I thoroughly enjoyed it earlier in the year.

A lot of Role Playing Games (RPGs) can be intimating to the casual player, creating your character, choosing his or her skills, dialogue choices, quests, experience points, party management...  and even for me as a seasoned gamer some of these kinds of games can be just too complex to really enjoy. Some people love this of course and fair enough, it certainly isn't a bad thing, but that level of involvement isn't what I play games for.

So that said, Shadowrun Returns, is an absolute perfect amount of complexity for me, deep enough so the choices you make affect the way you play, but easy to understand without worrying you're missing something. It is this excellent balance which I believe lets everything else shine, specifically the games narrative. I wasn't agonising over upgrading one skill over another for fear of hamstringing my character and I was thankful for that as it kept things flowing.

Picking your skills is important, but not complicated or hard to pick up

The story centres around you, a mercenary known as a Shadow Runner. You specialise in completing paid missions which can be easily denied with no trace to your employer however at the start of the game you're somewhat down on your luck with barely a credit to your name. One night, you receive a recorded message from a friend, who surprisingly is calling to let you know he has been killed... and he wants you to look into his murder and find out why he is dead. Is this standard for someone in your line of work?! Nevertheless.. this is where your story begins.

The entire game is very well written in my opinion, the characters come to life through the text and written dialogue. Everything leaps from the screen and I honestly felt like I was enjoying an interactive book, which is a great feeling and one I only tend to get when I am fully engaged and engrossed.

The locations, the people, the narrative.. all of it is vivid and believable, not so much due to the on screen action, as animations are limited but more through the filter of my imagination as scenes described in words played out in my minds eye.  Everything I read, such as the interchange between characters, or just digesting the description of the place I'd just arrived at... the smells, the sounds it all seemed alive to me which is a testament to way it is told.

That said, it is worth mentioning that there is no voice acting here, it is all written text, but as you've probably already gathered, for me this only enriched the experience.

The narrative is solid, and makes sense (within the world) and pans out well. I thought the pacing was excellent.

Some might dislike the linear nature of the game, I personally love it. Side missions that don't drive the plot are available, but they are in direct relevance to the main storyline at all times and therefore aren't always available for you to come back to tidy up, so bear that in mind. I am a fan of a well told story, and a free form roaming game is never as good of an narrative experience for me. I always prefer just being told a well crafted tale so I'm probably biased, however I think Shadowrun Returns nails this.

Between dialogue choices and drinking up the atmosphere, you'll also find yourself in quite a bit of combat. Fights play out in a turn based way, like playing a board game you take your turn with each of your characters getting two moves each, a move and an attack for example, and then the turn passes over to the bad guys to do the same.

Battles feel tight and tactical, you can use cover, flank enemies and activate abilities or cast spells to buff your allies or hinder your opponents. The artificial intelligence controlling your foes is capable and for the most part entertaining to overcome. I wouldn't say this aspect of the game is a highlight but it is enjoyable.

How you talk to people and the actions you take can have repercussions on how you can approach a problem

I really enjoyed this game, it took me 17 hours to complete but it felt like a lot less purely because I was enjoying every minute of it. I was just waiting to turn the next page of this curious tale and learn what was going to happen next. Like a good book, it was tough to put down.

It has it's flaws here and there, like checkpoint saves, some sections keeping you in turn based combat mode when there aren't any enemies about and on some of the longer battles the combat music can get a little tiring, but those are small complaints.

I certainly recommend Shadowrun Returns and now with the release of the add on Dragonfall, with a whole new story to explore and I understand some changes such as the ability to save your game at any time, you have even more reason to get stuck in.

Good game, good times.

See the trailers to both titles below, thanks for reading. Rik. :)

Shadowrun Returns Launch Trailer

Shadowrun Returns - Dragonfall

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