by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
You shouldn’t, of course. Careful planning of each of your team’s actions during battle is as important as choosing who to bring along for the fight. As with any good RPG, most classes work better in tandem with other classes, even if the game is quite forgiving should you forget to bring a particular specialist. Bringing a “Decker”, for instance, will give you easy access to many a locked room but you can get by without one in most cases. On the rare missions where a Decker is needed to be successful, the game will make that requirement abundantly clear beforehand.
While on the topic of Deckers, hacking really takes on a life of its own. Perhaps the best way to describe the hacking sessions is by asking you to imagine a virtual 3D blueprint of the game world, filled with robotic defenders as well as virtual representations of the occasional security specialist. You move through the map going from portal to portal, clearing rooms using special abilities such as creating digital henchmen of your own and laying down firewalls. Once you’ve found and activated the control for a door or elevator, the session ends and your Decker is back with the others who have been defending his position while he was hacking. It’s a great way to add some variety in the combat sessions, and a fun way to depict hacking to boot.
The game has a few bugs that can be worked around but are bothersome nonetheless. Several times I had to restart a level because I had not followed the order that the developers had expected me to. Talking to the thug first, instead of the worried father whose son he held captive, broke the conversation. At other times, the text on the answer buttons was invisible so I had no idea what my response was to the NPC’s question.
For some strange reason, the otherwise enjoyable minimalist interface has its End Turn button placed at the top-right of the screen. An unintuitive place when every other game places it on the bottom-right. I’m not saying old conventions should never be challenged, but in this case it simply does not work.
The million dollar answer
The Indie scene is innovating and growing up at a rapid pace. It produces one great game after another, sometimes with budgets that resemble a Saturday grocery store shopping list more than that of a game development studio. That said, it also churns out a lot of stuff not worth the bytes it occupies on your hard disk.
I’m glad to say that Shadowrun Returns is not part of the latter group, but with a budget of 2 million dollars, you expect more. I have enjoyed playing Shadowrun Returns but it looks and feels like it is the $400,000 game that Harebrained originally projected and I feel that the studio has missed an opportunity to make a truly fantastic game.
Some of the game’s shortcomings are made good by a really well written script that is worth taking time to read. There are some great plot twists and you are sure to have a few good chuckles along the way. Vivid descriptions of the setting and the people you are talking to help to liven up the game, but never enough to make you forget that there is no voice acting. It also lacks the depth you would expect from something set in so rich a universe and, as it stands, Shadowrun Returns does not surpass a classification that goes beyond “a fun little RPG”.
Great turn-based combat, well written story.
Unexciting environments and little in the way of depth.