Shadowrun Returns Review
Shadowrun Returns Box Art
System: PC
Dev: Harebrained Schemes
Pub: Harebrained Schemes
Release: July 25, 2013
Players: 1
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.

Shadowrun Returns Screenshot

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.

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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.

By
Becky Cunningham
Contributing Writer
Date: August 1, 2013

RATING OUT OF 5
RATING DESCRIPTION
3.5
Graphics
Nice tilesets and character portraits, but models and animations feel somewhat archaic.
3.5
Control
Combat is fun, but a few poor design decisions drag the overall experience down a bit.
3.4
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There's a good but sparse soundtrack, and the voice acting won't make you retch.
4.0
Play Value
The well-written story and the character development system provide strong value for the game's price.
3.8
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
Review Rating Legend
0.1 - 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 3.5 - 3.9 = Good 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair 4.0 - 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Gripping Tactical Combat: When you’re running the shadows, every turn matters. Choose your actions wisely - move to better cover, charge into melee, or lob a fireball into a crowd of enemies. With the variety of weapons and spells at your disposal, every turn is filled with meaningful choices. A successful run requires commanding a team of runners with the right balance of combat, tech, and magical abilities.
  • Skill-Based Character Progression: Choose a starting character archetype and build from there! Street Samurai and Physical Adepts use advanced combat skills to dominate the battlefield, Shamans and Mages summon powerful allies and cast deadly spells, while Riggers and Deckers provide critical technological support, projecting their consciousness directly into drones and computer systems. Shadowrun Returns’ classless skill system allows you to grow your character in any direction you choose. Want to start summoning spirits as an ork Shaman and evolve into a cybered-up weapon specialist? Do it!
  • Engaging 2D/3D Art Style: Shadowrun Returns mixes dynamic 3D characters and lighting with a vibrant, hand-painted environment. Illustrated character portraits bring every conversation to life. Explore a world filled with detail, from the slums of the Redmond Barrens to the extravagant offices of powerful corporations.

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