Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shadowrun Returns [GAMES]

For one of the planned breaks from our on-going Forgotten Realms campaigns, one of our players offered to run a Shadowrun one-shot.  The game setting sounded reasonably interesting (a mash-up of cyberpunk and fantasy), but otherwise I didn't really have a good feel for what the world was like.  As a happy coincidence, I was fishing around for a new computer game to download and saw Shadowrun Returns offered for $ 15 on Good Old Games.  A turn-based RPG is right up my alley, so I went for it.

There's a lot I liked about the game and a little I didn't, but I think what stands out for me the most is the gorgeous backgrounds.  Admittedly, I don't play a lot of modern games, but I was blown away by the quality of the artwork and how it perfectly established the feel of a gritty, slightly futuristic urban landscape for noir storytelling.  It instantly gave me an understanding of what stories in the Shadowrun universe could be like.  Speaking of stories, the one in Shadowrun Returns is pretty solid.  It starts with a classic hook, as an old runner ally is found dead and your character gets the Dead Man's Call: a pre-recorded video offering 100,000 Nuyen (currency) if you find his killer.  The trail leads to a serial killer and interdimensional invasions in an organic way, and the writing supports the gritty cyberpunk world well.

In terms of mechanics, the turn-based combat system works quite well.  I like how many options there are for customizing a character, as you can be sorta good at a lot of things or really good at one or two things.  The character I created, Big-C, was a troll who only fought hand-to-hand but (against type) was a pretty good decker.  A bruiser with a deep, deep, heart of gold, he was fond of terse replies and sticking to business.

There were a few drawbacks.  The backgrounds, although beautiful, are not particularly interactive, and a lot of cool-looking things really are just scenery.  The gameplay is very linear--apart from an occasional side-encounter, the story is on rails and there's no skipping from point A to point C without stopping at B first.  Despite that, I had a great time with the game and I'm looking forward to downloading the other official campaign created for it, set in Berlin named Dragonfall.

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