Shadowrun Returns: Doing Diversity Right
A friend instructed me to pickup Shadowrun Returns on the weekend, and that was the best gaming decision I've made in the last few months.
Elves, Orcs - oh, sorry - Orks, humans and trolls, all co-existing in a cyberpunk inspired sci-fi/fantasy universe where racial diversity is made into a non-issue and the whole thing looks like a beautifully illustrated painting? Sold.
This game seems to have been constructed to ping on every single one of my great loves. It's an RPG, I can use anything from a baseball bat to an AK-97 to mow my way through enemies, and the obvious homages to William Gibson throughout the gritty investigative narrative make my inner literature student shiver with delight.
Let's take a look at the character creation screen for Shadowrun Returns, shall we?
What's the first thing I noticed, upon toggling between male and female? There's very little in the way of gender dimorphism. A female troll doesn't look like she'd be snapped in half, should she attempt to get jiggy with her male counterpart.
A+ right there.
But wait, there's more! Observe the outfits - they aren't sexualized. They're practical, badass, and fit perfectly with the setting. I was already in love, but then I started to explore the portraits.
How many times have I played a game only to lament the lack of diversity in the character portraits or facial models? Too many to count. This is not an issue that Shadowrun suffers from. You can be as conventionally - or unconventionally - pretty as you like, whether you're male or female, and several models of each face are on offer to select from. Here's a small selection of some of my favourites.
Oh my gaming gods, it's time for me to head out and buy the ring, because by this point I didn't care about the game's narrative, the art had completely sold me on it.
That was until I entered the actual game and the opening scene took my breath away. Shadowrun Returns perfectly captures the hardboiled detective vibe in its descriptions, and some downright beautiful phrasing had me swooning more than once. It was like taking a bite of a tempting looking chocolate and finding out it had a delectable fondant centre.
Someone you used to trust has died, and they've put you in charge of tracking down their killer. What follows is an intriguing trip into a dystopian murder mystery that gets deeper with every moment. I have my theories on the plot, but I'll keep them to myself for now.
Shadowrun Returns lets you be who you want to be.
Are you a jaded drug addict looking to hire your fists out to get your next fix? Sure, go for it. Or perhaps you're the last ray of hope in a world where the smog has clouded all the lamps. Whatever you are, you'll get the chance to roll with it.
Combat is fluid and entertaining, and reminds me more than a little of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Attribute customisation is intriguingly deep, and there's the potential to build your character in any way you see fit. I'm a human Decker who's weapon of choice, my beloved baseball bat, is completely incompatible with my class, but I'm gradually building her into a kind-hearted thug who loves getting her hands dirty, with a knife-sharp intellect and a passion for hacking the matrix.
I'm giving this game a tentative nine out of ten, with a single point caveat in case the narrative takes a turn to the cheesy in later chapters. Expect an updated review once I've finished slinking my way through the shadows!