Shadowrun Returns Review (PC)

very good
key review info
  • Game: Shadowrun Returns
  • Platform: PC
  • Gamepad support: No
  • Reviewed on:
  • Written by:
  • Show system requirements
A review of Shadowrun Returns on PC

The Shadowrun franchise is one of the oldest in the business, managing to trace its roots back to the tabletop role-playing game and featuring different older installments for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or the Sega Genesis.

After the rather unsuccessful Shadowrun first-person shooter from Microsoft, the franchise's creator, Jordan Weisman, reacquired the rights and organized a very successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that allowed his studio, Harebrained Schemes, to create a new entry called Shadowrun Returns.

Now, after quite some time, the game has become a reality and has just been released via Steam for the PC and Mac.

Can this new entry breathe fresh life into the franchise or does it deliver the goods only for veteran fans? Let's find out.
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Engage in dialogs ...
... and tough fights
Story

Shadowrun Returns ships with a single-story campaign set in Seattle, although another official one takes place in Berlin and is set to appear in the near future. However, fans are welcomed to create their own stories through the built-in editor, so more content should appear after the game's actual launch.

The first story is quite good and filled with all sorts of shady individuals, unsavory characters, but also great allies for the player, who needs to avenge the death of one of his former Shadowrunners.

What follows is a great mix between lengthy dialog sessions with various individuals, as well as quite a few different sequences of combat that flow quite nicely.

While some twists can be seen coming, others are pretty surprising and there are a few distractions along the way that net players extra rewards, such as karma points, which allow you to upgrade abilities, but also money, which can be used to buy weapons, supplies, or armor.



Gameplay

Gameplay in Shadowrun Returns is observed from an isometric point of view, although players can zoom in and out depending on how much detail they want. Things are shown depending on the line of sight of the player or the whole party, and enemies need to be seen in order to be targeted.

Combat is a turn-based affair, similar to the more recent XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Each character has a different number of action points and they can move, shoot, deploy gadgets or powers, or use different items against their enemies or on themselves.

When not in combat, you can explore the world and interact with various objects, while talking to select non-playable characters in order to learn more about different things, from the investigation you're on, to the happenings of Seattle and its nearby slums.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Shadowrun game if Returns didn't have a huge amount of choices in regards to the abilities and skills of the player, not to mention his inventory or his other attributes.

Players can choose between different races, like humans, elves, trolls, orks, or dwarfs, not to mention different specializations, from Street Samurais, to Mages, Deckers, Shamans, or Adepts. Of course, based on how you spend your karma points, you can create many different hybrids, so the game doesn't really force you to stick to one archetype.

The same variety extends to weapons, armor, items like grenades, medkits, or anything in between, not to mention other accessories such as Shaman Fetishes or cyberware implants.

Depending on their favorite play styles and weapons, players can invest their precious karma points in different skill categories and sections, which, in turn, can unlock different powers, depending on how developed they are.

All these options turn combat into a pretty tricky experience but it's not anything that will confuse those who have already completed XCOM or are familiar with turn-based encounters.

Another key area where the game impresses is the dialog as, while the title doesn't have any actual voice acting or animation, its descriptions of different gestures, appearances, and more is very impressive. Depending on your charisma and other key stats, you can unlock different options and your etiquette in different domains can also let you convince other characters of your point of view.

Enemies are quite varied and, depending on the difficulty level, pretty smart, although they'll sometimes be a bit too anxious to close the distance between them and the player, resulting in tight groups of enemies that can be taken out with grenades or area of effect attacks.

It's still a game of chance, however, meaning your characters or your enemies might miss even if their target is right in front of them, while longshots can actually hit things and even cause critical damage, thereby turning the tide of battle.

Shadowrun Returns isn't an easy to get into experience, as it doesn't hold the hands of players and you're forced to study the relatively simple help options offered by the rather confusing menu.

There's also no quick save option, so you must rely on the automatic checkpoints made by the game itself when you enter a new location.
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Hire your own Shadowrunners ...
... and fight in the Matrix
Visuals and Sound

Shadowrun Returns is a gorgeous-looking game that impresses thanks to its environments and the great character portraits for different NPCs. While there aren't that many visual effects, especially since most of the times you are looking from a distanced, isometric point of view, the game will delight you with gritty levels that manage to feature some stark colors here and there.

In terms of sound, the game also looks pretty good, as the soundtrack manages to evoke cyberpunk themes, not to mention a sci-fi vibe that works well with the whole story and aesthetic. The lack of voice acting and the relatively simple sound effects, however, do take away from the experience.



Conclusion

Shadowrun Returns is a great comeback for the old franchise and proves that there's a lot of life left in it. While it only features a single story at launch, the promise of more from developer Harebrained Schemes and the possibility of getting new campaigns from players themselves via the editor makes the game an investment over time.

The title is a tough experience for newcomers but, provided they keep at it and continue to explore the many complex mechanics, it's quite rewarding, especially for those who enjoyed the comebacks of other franchises like Fallout or XCOM in recent years.

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story 8
gameplay 9
concept 9
graphics 8
audio 7
multiplayer 0
final rating 8
Editor's review
very good
 

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