by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
If you’re someone that likes Shadowrun, I can understand why you might be a little confused or overwhelmed lately- there’s been a whole lot of titles floating around the last few years that look and sound pretty similar to each other. First was Shadowrun Returns, which brought the fantasy cyberpunk world of Shadowrun back to it's tactical, narrative driven roots. Shortly after that was Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall, an unrelated campaign that was released as DLC, followed by a director's cut released as a stand alone title last fall. All this time, going to back before Returns even released, another project was looming, titled Shadowrun Online, a game that looked and played very closely to Returns, but in an online setting. After numerous delays the game is releasing under the name Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown, which is what we’re looking at today.
For those that aren’t familiar with the lore of the Shadowrun universe or the gameplay the newer games have implemented, it’s really pretty straight forward. In the near future humanity enters a new age, and previously-thought-to-be-fictional creatures start appearing. People start to be born not only as humans, but also Orks, Trolls, Dwarves, and Elves. Magic comes back to the world, and along with it all sorts of nice and nasty beings. Fantasy mixes with cyberpunk and sci fi to present a depressing, exciting, metropolitan dystopia where mega corporations are more powerful than governments. You come in as a Shadowrunner, someone who makes their living one job at a time performing hits, heists, transports, or any other less-than-legal job someone might be willing to pay for. While the universe started as a pen-and-paper RPG, the last few games have taken it to the world of the turn based isometric RPG thriving on great atmosphere, detailed storytelling, and open strategic options.
A Mixed Presentation
One of the first things that struck me when booting up the game, is that it still just doesn't seem done from a presentation perspective. I know the game had troubles getting into beta and launch, but now that it’s out there aren't any excuses. A lot of things still seem placeholder quality, and while they don’t make gameplay actively worse, they ruin immersion and storytelling. Both of which are traditionally Shadowrun strong points. While some of the city scenes are nicely done with vibrant colors and interesting architecture, character models are poor on almost every front. Animations are almost universally awkward, models are very low-detail, and conversations consist of models staring at each other without moving their mouths and waving their hands around. It’s stuff I’d expect 15 years ago, but not now after two related games have recently come out that did it better. The audio isn't much better, as voice actors are frequently jumping in and out of their Boston accents, and sometimes the audio isn’t playing for me at all in conversations where it should be.
Obviously the big selling point of Boston Lockdown is the online element. Before the Kickstarter a lot of fans, including myself, weren’t really sure how “online” the game would be. Would it just be Returns with Co-op? Would it be a whole MMO-style game allowing you to explore cyberpunk cities and launch missions raid-style? It ended up being somewhere in between, and the result definitely feels like a first try. On one hand the community so far is really cool. There’s a good amount of people online, and the chat is almost always full of people willing to help or looking to team up for missions. Teaming up with people, both randoms and friends, is also easy and so far reliable. It’s obviously best with friends, and when the game is clicking is really clicks well. While nowhere as deep, it reminds of my time spent in the dining room with friends talking strategy and boasting after victories with the pen-and-paper game. I sincerely hope the game able to keep its community invested and keep the game improving so that these positive moments can grow to outshine the negative ones.
Good community of players, fun teamwork opportunities, lots different playstyle options.
Very poor audio and visual presentation, disappointing story, smaller places to explore