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 This game was originally made for the PC and graphically it translates well to cell phones.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