Shadowrun Returns Review  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Shadowrun Returns Review  RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Shadowrun Returns: Doing Diversity Right Thu, 01 Aug 2013 02:50:09 -0400 Catrana

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!

Shadowrun Returns: An Ode to Cyberpunk and Fantasy Mon, 29 Jul 2013 11:35:12 -0400 Vrothgarr

The title is the truth. Shadowrun is back, and in the best way that anyone could have hoped for. Whether you’re a fan of the books, the video games, the tabletop RPG or just the deep, dark world of subversive cyberpunk & science fantasy, Shadowrun Returns is a huge RPG and much more than most. Bringing more than just a highly enjoyable and replayable delve into one of cyberpunk’s most beloved worlds, Shadowrun Returns heralds the arrival of a million new worlds with not only the game itself, but the expansive and easy-to-use campaign editor as well.

What a Wonderful World... sort of

There is man, magic and machine. The Mayans weren’t wrong. The world would indeed end in the year 2012. They failed to predict, however, that a new one would rise. A world of magic, long subdued by human progress and skepticism, has returned to bring out the dormant genes hidden in mankind. Genetics of species long forgotten, such as elves and dwarves, orcs and trolls. Welcome to Seattle, 2054.

There is such texture to this world. You can smell the grime, like burning plastic, or hair (or both). The most dedicated fans of the franchise will see many elements return, not only from the previous video games in the series, but from the novels and RPG books as well. A great sum of everything the Shadowrun universe has built up thus far, Shadowrun Returns is a sort of be-all and end-all by virtue of its limitless potential. The plot isn’t even the main attraction here. It’s a fantastic story, brilliantly built to bring out a great array of decision-making, action and drama. But, what is most exciting is the future of the modding community.

The Future is Coming

Already, there are a great many mods around for Shadowrun Returns, not to mention the astounding amount of content already integrated through Steam Workshop. In addition to the many tile sets, character models and portraits available to the player/designer immediately in the campaign editor, there are many more assets just waiting to be used via the Steam Workshop. Already, there is an alpha version of the original SNES Shadowrun. It’s as great as it sounds, even for those who never had the pleasure. New mechanics are introduced, GM resources, craftings, and a thousand new stories ready to be told. While its a mighty fine offering right off the bat, in a year or two there will be more stories and assets of superb quality than one player could possibly digest.

Though the RPG elements of the game are just about exactly drawn from the tabletop RPG and the original games, there’s enough versatility and capacity for any player to flesh out their class as they see fit. Classes themselves are relatively fluid, as what skills the player elects over the course of their play will result in vastly different characters by the end of the campaign. While the length and depth of the game and RPG elements, respectively, could certainly be longer and deeper, there’s enough here to present a high quality initial offering, with the promise of so much more to come.

Neon, Acid Rain, and Implants (of every lurid variety)

This is an astoundingly perfect offering to Shadowrun players, who haven’t seen the game this franchise deserves since the first 16-bit offerings. Mitch Gitelman has absolutely atoned for any perceived sins from years past. His work on 2007’s Shadowrun didn’t garner the best reception. Despite crafting a very fine game, he himself has stated that it was a poor reintroduction of the Shadowrun franchise. But his work here, alongside the project lead and original creator of Shadowrun, Jordan Weisman, shows that someone was surely listening to our pleas for a better Shadowrun.

Mitch, we forgive you!

Mitch, we forgive you! And thank you!

Return to Shadowrun, Never to Leave Again!

This is exactly what I was hoping for. In fact, I haven’t been this pleased with the result of a highly anticipated title in recent memory. Though surely not perfect, Shadowrun Returns is a great RPG with a timeless feel that honorably delivers the cyberpunk magic we’ve wanted for so damn long.