Running in Shadows

July 26, 2013 by Tim

Shadowrun Returns finally came out yesterday, and I jumped on for a few hours to check it out. Shadowrun was one of my favorite games on the SNES, and I’ve always really dug the whole fiction. The weak Shadowrun shooter that came out six years ago did nothing to scratch the itch for more decking and cybernetic elves, so I’ve been really hopeful about these new Shadowrun projects since I first saw the kickstarter.

I’ve spent some time with the game, and I can confindently say… it’s adequate. I feel like as a turn-based tactics game, it is passable. It does everything it needs to do to function, but honestly, it doesn’t “wow” in any way. It serves the purpose.

The same thing can be said about the graphics. They’re good. They aren’t great, but they’re good. Controls, UI, etc, all good. Not great.

But actually, that’s okay. At $20, the pricetag is right for the game get by with being good. I feel like the true strength of the game, and the justification for purchase lies in two areas. First, the module that you get with the game, ‘The Dead Man’s Switch’, is a good story. The dialogue is fun (if a bit problematic with typos), what starts as a simple murder whodunnit unfolds into something bigger, and while the game is really linear, it’s a fun tale to play through. It’s a little on the short side, but this is where the game’s second hook (and I think it’s biggest potential strength) lies.

User-generated content. The game ships with an editor that gives you all the tools to come up with your own missions and campaigns, and publish them to the Steam Workshop for everyone to access. This has the potential to be huge. Shadowrun’s biggest draw is its setting, and so even if mechanically the game is fairly standard, you find yourself just wanting to inhabit this world as much as possible.

So I feel like, while at launch the game is good enough, it’s really going to need some time to become all it can be. Once people begin to learn the editing tools and produce a lot of user-generated missions, we’ll really see what Shadowrun Returns can do.

However, as it stands, there are worse ways you can spend $20. For me it was worth it just to jump into an isometric tactical RPG that brought me right back to the days of Shadowrun (SNES) and the first two Fallouts.

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