|Dev: Harebrained Schemes|
|Pub: Harebrained Schemes|
|Release: July 25, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
More importantly, Shadowrun Returns lacks a save-anywhere feature. It has a somewhat opaque auto-save feature, and that's sufficient early in the game. As mission areas become longer and more difficult in the late game, however, the ability to save at will is sorely missed. It would be particularly useful during several missions in which a Decker character needs to run around in the digital Matrix while the rest of the party attempts to protect that character from waves of physical enemies. An unexpected enemy or stroke of bad luck can easily finish off the poor Decker, and with limited resources to work with, the player will generally need to reload the entire mission segment at that point. This is frustrating enough that it will turn some players off the entire game, which is a shame.
Although it's beyond the scope of this review to go in-depth with Shadowrun Returns' included editor, I'd be remiss not to mention it. There are already numerous mods and adventures available on the Steam Workshop, with the promise that talented community members will create interesting content that greatly expands on the game's play value. We likely won't see the best of what the community can do for months, however.
The game looks surprisingly good for something composed of modular tilesets built with the same editor that was released to the public. The lighting effects are particularly nice, lending a lot of atmosphere to the game's different areas. Character models and animations are a bit archaic looking, though. Character portraits fare a lot better, conveying a lot of personality. Many of these portraits are based on photos of Kickstarter backers, which means the characters represent people (and elves, dwarfs, trolls, and orks) of a variety of ages, races, and body types rather than the idealized artist-created images we usually see. It's rather refreshing, and most of the portraits work well with the game's setting.
The music is also appropriate to the setting, although more tracks would have been nice. The sound effects are noticeably low budget, but the voice acting sounds professional and isn't overly hammy. The game isn't fully voice acted, but that was probably a wise decision due to budget constraints and to allow for player-created mods and adventures to fit better into the overall game. There's nothing worse than a mod that contains horrible, amateur voice acting because the creator felt that adding voice was necessary.
Shadowrun Returns is an entertaining RPG that does a good job bringing the world of Shadowrun to life. Although its design weaknesses keep it from becoming an instant classic, the game as it is provides a great starting platform for future player-made content and official expansions. Hopefully Harebrained Schemes can find a way to smooth over some of the game's rough spots in future patches, giving it broader appeal. In the meantime, Shadowrun fans and RPG enthusiasts who loved the late-'90s isometric games from the likes of BioWare should definitely check it out.
Date: August 1, 2013