Drakkarium Reviews: Shadowrun Returns

Having a bit of time off from work enabled me to get to gaming a bit. I was in the throes of Dragon Age: Inquisition side quest tedium when I got to browsing Steam due to the Winter Sale and checking to see if Final Fantasy Dimensions on Android was down to a reasonable price. In this browsing, I happened upon a title for $0.99 entitled Shadowrun Returns. I have a couple friends that play Shadowrun and I've rolled a character for it though I haven't had the chance to play the pencil and paper RPG yet. Our good friend Benjamin has a near spotless record for quality so I figured, "Eh, what the hell? It's only a buck and PSN is down right now so let's give it a shot."

4 hours later my wife and child got home and I had to stop playing. There's a good indicator as to how I feel about this game.

You are a shadowrunner, a sort of mercenary for hire that's down on your luck in your shitty apartment when an old colleague rings you up on your vid-phone.

Sam Watts is calling to let you know that he is dead and this has triggered the dead man's switch he had implanted and that he has arranged a run for you that will result in a hefty sum of money if you can find and take down his killer. It is an odd proposition from a man who is now dead but whether out of the goodness of your heart as a favor to an old friend or for 100,000 nuyen you take the job. What else do you have going on right now? Then it's off to Seattle to start the investigation.

Graphically the game is quite impressive. Mobile games seem to have come a long way in their presentation. This game was originally made for the PC and graphically it translates well to cell phones. The backgrounds are very well detailed and look to be hand-painted. You really get the sense that you are in run-down dingy parts of Seattle when you walk the streets and the futuristic buildings look fantastic!

The character sprites are fully 3D rendered and move around well in the isometric fixed environment. They're reminiscent of PlayStation 1 or 2 grade sprites and look great! The sprites even change their look in the world as you buy new armor and cyber upgrades as the game progresses.

The gameplay and combat take place in fixed 3D isometric environments. Movement and such isn't too difficult but the touch controls on a mobile phone can get to be a bit dodgy in combat. More than once I found myself clicking on a character I hadn't intended to when I wanted to have the one character take cover next to another one.

At the very beginning of your adventure you roll a shadowrunner from one of 6 playable races and 6 archetypes. You don't have standard character classes due to Shadowrun's loose nature but you can pick a good start point from the archetypes or elect to build a character from ground up. You can go in varying directions of firearms combat, melee combat, tech/hacking abilities, drone control or even magic and shamanism. It all fits and it's all up to you!

Aside from the small problem I had with the touch controls for combat movement I found the strategic combat very fun and engaging. It is turn based much like it's pencil and paper counterpart. Using yourself and the three other runners you hire to go with you on runs, you and the enemy will take turns shooting at each other until one side has no more people. Simple yet fun!

Your abilities and learned etiquettes that you get from the start can also play a hand into the interactive conversation options as well as being able to access certain rooms or chests or flat just making some things easier. For example, someone with high tech skill might be able to just crack a wall safe with a hack whereas someone who doesn't posses the tech savvy may have to search rooms to find the safe's code to get it open. It may seem like a minor thing but for me at least it added a level of immersion I wasn't expecting from a mobile game.

Speaking of immersion, you knew when you saw my name at the top of this article that I was going to bring up story didn't you? The story has the feel of a grand scale as it moves along. From just looking to ice the guy that killed your old friend to tumbling down the rabbit hole when multinational companies and religious cults get involved, the story doesn't cease to amaze. The characters you meet along the way also add a level of immersion as you go from the new runner in town to a friend of everyone at your base of operations. The interactive dialogue choices also help you to feel like you are a part of that world. Harebrained Schemes did excellent crafting a story from the toolbox of Shadowrun.

Oh, and did I mention that's just the story that the game ships with? "Dead Man's Switch" is the campaign that comes with the game upon purchase. On the PC version of the game you have the option to download player-made campaigns just like it was the actual Shadowrun RPG itself!

Since the cool thing to do these days is to do away with numbered scores for games, I'm going to be introducing a new rating scale for any games I review for the site. The scale will be:

  • MUST BUY! A day one full retail purchase is warranted to reward the developers of this title and to support them so they can bring out more quality products!
  • Price Drop. Wait for the price to drop $10 or $20 to pick this one up. It's a good game but a bit rough around the edges.
  • Bargain Bin. $20 or less. Pick this up on Steam or in a bin around Christmas if you've got a non-refundable gift-card or something. Not great quality but not enough to get you to...
  • Skip This One. This game is shit. Don't waste your money.

This outing from Harebrained Schemes definitely gets a MUST BUY! rating from me. Even just the main campaign alone tore me away from Dragon Age: Inquistion for 15 hours to complete the campaign that the game comes with. Being that I got the game on the Google Play Store I only have that one for now but from what I read Harebrained Schemes wants to bring new campaigns to the title for mobile devices as they do not have the player made campaigns available to them. Even still, I picked up the PC version of the game on Steam as well as it's DLC turned stand alone successor Shadowrun Dragonfall. Once I get Dragon Age finished you can bet your ass I'm jumping right in to Dragonfall!

 

Game – Shadowrun Returns

System – PC, Android [reviewed on Sony Xperia Z3], iOS

Developer – Harebrained Schemes

Publisher – Harebrained Schemes

My Date With Destiny; Impressions of the Destiny Beta

I honestly wasn't much into Destiny. I wanted a PlayStation 4 and figured that I would wait until they had a bundle that was worth my time. I heard at E3 that Sony was releasing a white PS4 and I was sold already but then they sweetened the deal by including the upcoming title from Bungie, Destiny. I'd always been a fan of Halo even after Bungie left the IP behind and I stuck with it until after Halo: Reach. Even still, white PS4! I love white color schemes (if my attire on the podcasts/vlog are any indication) so I went and plopped a bill down for the PS4/Destiny bundle and my local GameStop associate (whom I've dealt with since I was 14 so he knows not to do any of that "shill all the pre-orders" crap on me) pointed out my Destiny beta code on the receipt. I asked if it was a PS4 beta code and he told me that you would get to choose your system on the Bungie website. Beyond that, I didn't think much of it and went home.

In the days leading up to July 17th, I kept seeing more and more news about "Hey, the Destiny beta is live in [X amount of time]! Are you ready!?" and thought, "Eh, what the hell." and signed myself up for the PS3 beta.

So I put the kiddo to bed and jumped in pretty much blind to the story and just figured I'd screw around with it for a bit.

What I found pleasantly surprised me.

I watched the opening cinematic of the Guardians on the Cosmodrome of Old Russia on Earth. It was pretty quick and to the point and they gave a brief telling of the 5 W's. I was then met with the class selection screen.

I thought it was strange that a first-person shooter game would have classes akin to a warrior/mage/rouge layout of an RPG but I remembered hearing on the Videogamer UK Podcast that Bungie was calling the game a "shared-world shooter" and trying to shy away from the term "MMO". I went ahead with a Titan class Guardian. This was the equivalent to my standard warrior class. You also can choose a Warlock (mage) or Hunter (rogue).

You then get to choose from three races. The humans (duh), the Awoken (which looked like humans but blue) and the Exo (robots). Against what I normally do in trying to make a human character look just like me I went ahead with the Exo since they reminded me of Cyborgs from Phantasy Star. Ultimately it doesn't really matter because the whole time I played I didn't see my create-a-head that much. Maybe twice.

Once I completed my character, I'm taken to another cutscene establishing an entity called The Traveler and how he helped humanity bring about a Golden Age by confronting something called "The Darkness". Mmmkay. That sounds pretty standard.

Then I'm revived by something called a Ghost. Think if GLADoS from Portal and Haro from Mobile Suit Gundam had a baby. The Ghost then tells me that I'd been dead for some time and that there were baddies in the area that I needed to hide from and thus began the tutorial level.

Something I immediately noticed was now much more uncomfortable the PlayStation's DualShock 3 was compared to the Xbox 360 in terms of playing an FPS. As stated earlier, Halo was pretty much my go-to when it came to FPS games and there wasn't a button layout that mimicked that of Halo. Initially, the iron sight and fire buttons are bound to L1 and R1 respectively and that isn't even close to what I'm personally comfortable with. Luckily, the iron sight/fire combination and the grenade/melee combination (initially bound to L2 and R2) are swappable separately from the control scheme at large and this helped ease me in a bit more.

As I progressed through the initial tutorial and acquired a drop-ship to get off the Cosmodrome and transported myself to the central hub, The Tower, I found myself getting into the game as I went. Upon landing in The Tower, I instantly thought, "This is totally an MMO!"

See, when you're in The Tower, the game switches to third-person view. You can see other players milling about, pointing and waving at each other, going to the mailbox, buying shit from the local merchants (who restock wares on intervals, much like the vending machines of Borderlands) and above all else...dancing with each other.

It was here that I fiddled with the inventory screen a little bit more and I'm not real fond of it. It is a cursor based mouse-type menu and while that would work for a PC player of this game, it's kinda a pain in the ass for a console tard like myself. You get used to it but it's a bit jarring at first. I hope they add in an option to just scroll through the list like you can in most normal RPGs.

Another small annoyance was that the "BETA BUILD" logo in the top right 2/3 of the screen doesn't go away. I understand that they don't want people to think that what they're playing will be reflective of the final product (the shadows on the walls are terribly pixelated) but we get it. We signed up for the beta test guys. We know it's the beta.

After a bit of fumbling around in The Tower I headed back down to the Old Russia Cosmodrome and noticed that on your map screen that there are story missions and explore missions. I wasn't the recommended level for the explore at the time, so I went back in for a story mission.

As I neared the end of the story mission, a gray cloud surrounded the screen and a skull in the upper middle of the screen with blood spatter coming out of it's head warned me that my respawn was restricted. I had entered a part of The Darkness I'd heard about earlier. Instanced sections that only you and your party can access in the shared portion of the open world. I also found out if you die in a Darkness solo, you go back to the beginning of the Darkness and have to start it over. With no ammo replenishment. Thanks for that, I'll log that away.

Once I did get to the explore part of the Cosmodrome I found that, unlike most MMOs, even the side quests involve exploring the open world. You find little beacons that give you the quests. Even if said quest is "kill 10 asshats, collect the hats" you get to skip the "return to the quest giver" part. Once the mission is complete, you can go into navigation mode and find another beacon near you to start another quest. This is a HELL of an improvement on the standard MMO formula and having to run out to the cave, run back, then run back out to the cave again. It keeps the pace much faster.

Through my advnetures I acquired a couple of pieces of uncommon level equipment. Normally it would just be an upgrade above a standard piece but this is also changed from the standard MMO formula. Uncommon items and above level up the more you use them, so even your weapons grow stronger as you do! What!? I can't recall ever having played a game where your gear levels up and gets perks just like you!

Beyond this, I then ventured into The Crucible as it was the next place marked on my interstellar map. I wasn't a fan and I imagine that this is where most Destiny players will be spending their time, as this is the PvP zone. I only played one game and it was a territories style game that made it very evident how out of practice with FPS games I am. Maybe once the game goes live I'll give it another shot.

The final stop on my tour was back in the Old Russia Cosmodrome and it was on something called a Strike Mission. This is the Destiny equivalent to an instance. This was where I had the most fun with the beta, as it requires you to work in very close quarters with your team because if you don't you will get fragged, no joke.  This is the good thing about being a new MMO is that since everyone is still learning, it encourages people to stick together to learn the dungeon and work together rather than the tank just running off because her is gunning to just get the shit over with so he can run the next one to get more experience.

I can tell you for sure, I'm a hell of a lot more excited to get my PlayStation 4 now. Destiny is an MMO that I feel like I can hop on for an hour and actually accomplish something and not have to set aside at least an uninterrupted 2 hour block. I'm much more excited now than I was before I tried it out. It's basically like Halo had sex with Borderlands and brought in the marital aid of World of Warcraft (pre-Pandaland).

Plus the money is called Glimmer. That's just awesome.

Game - Destiny (Beta Build)

Systems - PlayStation 3 [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC (March release date)

Developer - Bungie

Publisher - Activision