Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
Imagine a world in the not-so-distant future where magic and machine were commonplace among the race of men. However, we are no longer alone. After the Awakening, Dwarves, Elves, Orks, and Trolls walk the Earth again, but instead of swords, bows, and war axes, they’re armed with assault rifles and mystical charms that channel a great primal power not seen for thousands of years. With the downfall of modern society, only corporations are left to keep order among the chaos and in a dangerous world, there’s always a demand for mercenaries: Shadowrunners. The few souls that are determined to remain independent and free among those who’ve given up their lives to the megacorporations.
Welcome to Shadowrun Returns, the latest entry in the decades-old franchise by Harebrained Schemes. A turn-based tactical RPG, Shadowrun Returns pays homage to the game’s table-top roots, complete with a built-in editor that allows players to create their own stories and campaigns within the rich Shadowrun universe. With addictive gameplay akin to the likes of Fallout, XCOM, and Dungeons & Dragons, this summer title will please any RPG and strategy fan.
As far as the main campaign goes, the player takes on the role of a Shadowrunner who’s contacted after his friend is brutally murdered in Seattle. Here’s the twist: it’s the murdered friend who calls you. You see, your friend had a “dead man’s switch” installed in his body, meaning when he died, an implant would send signals out to various places, alerting you (his vengeful insurance package) to find the killer and rake in a buttload of inheritance money after the job is completed. Whatever your motivation—whether for money or honoring your friend’s memory—you’re off on your way to clean the mean streets of Seattle.
There’s plenty of classes, skills, and equipment to choose from, offering different ways to tackle both combat and non-combat situations. Deckers, for example, can hack terminals and other electronics as well as enter the Matrix, the digital realm that connects everything in the world of Shadowrun. If magic is more your style, a Shaman can summon magical creatures to fight for your party or a mage can hurl elemental spells at your enemies.
As someone who is new to the series, Shadowrun makes for a great setting by marrying the fantasy and cyberpunk genres. Though I’ve never played a Shadowrun game prior to this title, I must say that it’s rather refreshing to see how magical creatures would interact with our world in the not-so distant future. The art style also lends to the visual aesthetic, blending 2D and 3D art. The world is a vibrant canvas waiting to be explored, from dank drug dens to mental hospitals to swanky bars. And almost every character has a portrait during conversations (which I was always a fan of knowing the appearance of who I’m talking to).
The base game seems to act as a canvas of its own with its story editor, allowing players to create their own content and host it on the Steam Workshop to share it with others. As time goes on, it’ll definitely be interest to see what people come up with, especially given the dedicated following of the Shadowrun series. Being a D&D nerd myself, I can appreciate the passion some of these people have for their game. Most notably, there’s even a remake of the very first Shadowrun game from the SNES being developed, though it’s still in alpha at the time of writing.
The one thing that irked me—and I guess that’s just that I’m a newb—is that Shadowrun Returns offers little insight to the backstory of the universe, making the game and story a little overwhelming at first. I wasn’t expecting for my hand to be held, but to have some sort of introduction explaining how my character got to where he’s at would have been beneficial. It wasn’t until after I examined my buddy’s corpse in the morgue that I didn’t start carrying about characters or understood what “chummer” even meant.
One thing that disappointed me was that I couldn’t loot people after killing them. The karma system takes a little while to get used to rather than the use of experience points like most RPGs. It isn’t a bad system, just different and seemingly random. Moreover, the lack of items in the base game makes it feel like Shadowrun Returns was meant to be a working template for modders with a stock campaign to show what they can create, rather than a full game on its own. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just not what I initially expected.
Rest assured, Shadowrun Returns is an awesome game that’s fun and refreshing to the tactical RPG genre. Depending on if I can figure out the built-in editor, I might be working on my own stories, so stay tuned for that.