The Shadowrun Returns beta was released last week and has been a fulfilling adventure experience. Descriptions are long and in-depth, and with as much sophistication, the turn-based combat system compliment the isometric point-and-click exploration.
Harebrained Studios has kept old Shadowrun fans waiting for years for this moment, with the first adventure available, ”Dead Man’s Switch”. It is one of the many, many campaign scenarios that will be playable with the release of the game. This beta download also includes an editor that allows players to use the same apps and programming tools to create their own story scenarios to share online.
The subdued colors of 2054 cyber-punk Detroit are a wonder to gaze at. Exploring each area has its own feeling of mystery and caution. Although the game offer no map, it is usually unnecessary. Story objectives are often marked by a yellow blip on the upper left compass. Non-story missions often do not transcend the current area, so the need for tireless backtracking is yet to be an issue; Hence the lack of maps.
The game has six classes that can be chosen upon the beginning of the story mode: Mage, Adept, Rigger, Decker, Samurai, and Shaman. Each character is a mix of a few traits: class, race,gender, and name.Players will also be able to choose a form of etiquette; a type of social profile that will pay off during certain conversations depending n the choice.
Shadowrun’s controls are very easy to learn. While exploring the back alleys and dive bars of Detroit the game plays a lot like a point and click adventure. Sooner or later some gangers will cross your path; either looking for money or just pushing authority on you. Either way, the game will shift into a turn based battle. Placement, facing direction, and ammunition are some of the deciding factors in how well you fare in landing a hit. Each player on the battlefield uses action points to move, fire, reload, and cast magical spells. Activating drones as a Rigger will also consume AP. Shaman and Mage classes can cast spells without AP but for a cost in Hit points instead. Deckers have more advantages tapping into the Matrix to hack into computer terminal for information.
The Matrix is a second area outside of the common meatspace. It can just as easily become combat zone with enough exploration. Certain players can tap into the Matrix during battles in meatspace, and a second frontier of dangers harm the cherished Decker both physically, and meta-physically. While your Samurai and Riggers are holding down the fort, the Decker may be unlocking the door, or searching for encrypted information.
Descriptive language is a key factor throughout the game. During transitions to new areas and during many conversations a paragraph or two is offered to help describe the sights, smells, motions of the areas and peoples around the player. Offering far more an immersive connection that only a picture can offer, the enchanting language draws players in as much as the graphics or soundtrack. When talking to people, it is not uncommon that more words are used to explain how a character says something, than the sentence spoken and the three or four available choices combined. Harebrained wants to make sure you completely understand the situation. Albeit often unnecessary, it is a good practice to follow when trying to create such a unique experience.
“Dead Man’s Switch” is a classic mystery case that has the main character searching for, “The Ripper”, a notorious criminal that has killed the last friend of out protagonist, Sam Watts. Instantly upon the death of Watts the player is instantly informed of Sam’s fate, and the mission to avenge his death manifests. Soon after the player is bribing Lone Star, shredding gangers, and tapping into the matrix to uncover the true identity of, “The Ripper.” Whose trademark caper is to swiftly remove organs of their victims are drugging them. In Sam’s case, it was his liver.
Soon after the initial battle scene, the player is given a starting share of currency, nuygen, a few Karma points to spend on upgrades, and a weapon of their choice. After a few missions more the true identity of Sam’s killer will become clear, and so will the difficulty of encountered enemies. It will sometimes be necessary to hire other Shadowrunners from the local dive bar to continue the man hunt proper. This is where the game begins to shine as an RPG and less as a point and click adventure, that usually has the player go here; talk to him; fight these people; go back here; pick the right decisions; kill these people; and so forth. Now the player can fill in gaps in abilities by hiring the right classes of units. Careful though, they often do not come cheap, and are only good for one mission. It is crucial that the player chooses whom to hire wisely, and when to do so. Nuygen can be hard to come by in the bloody back allies. And what you don’t spend bribing LoneStar will almost definitely go towards personal development of armor and weaponry.
As mention before and in an earlier interview with the game’s lead designer, this game is all about customization and it does indeed come with the editor, and a limited amount of resources to allow anyone to jump hop into the developer’s shoes and make a story campaign that they can call their own and share with the rest of the community. This editor includes map creation, conversation creation, and event creation, everything a novice player or even and indie developer would need to create a full length scenario. Kickstarter backers have had access to this beta for some time now, and their labors can be seen online. Many of these projects are re-creations of classic missions from the older Shadowrun games. Plenty more mods is on the way, and by the game’s full release they’ll be enough custom campaigns to fulfill the most addicted gamer.
The dark streets of Detroit damned to murder and pollution is home to many highly eclectic characters;all either pierced or tattooed, and for criminals- a remarked use of slang. Each choice the player makes has at least a specific text response, no decision go without its even reaction. Karma points for upgrades appear quickly after each battle and narrative completion. This is only a beginning of an easy to learn PC game with a dismal, intricate overworld.