Shadowrun Returns manages to be a worthy follow up to the original titles, with a breath of fresh air for gaming
After spending an hour with Shadowrun Returns, two distinct emotions washed over me.
The first, was relief. I was nervous that, as great as the game sounded, and as much as the developers had promised to channel the feeling of the original titles, they would not be able to produce a worthy successor 15 years later and on a different platform. My fears were immedately washed away as Shadowrun returns, looks, sounds, and plays like a Shadowrun game should, down to the very core.
The second emotion I felt was a slight wave of dissapointment. The engine that hairbraned schemes has managed to construct for ShadowRun returns is clunky. Don't get me wrong, it works, and it looks pretty enough for a modern title, but it doesn't control as smoothly as something like Baldur's Gate did, in it's heyday. The game feels like a well polished beta version of a game that, given more time to to cook, would have been 5 stars, easily.
By the time I closed in on the ending of the game, I was left with one overall impression. Shadowrun is a phenomenal title. Specifically, the game manages to tell one of the best stories in all of gaming, and does so without any of the modern cliche's of what constitutes "storytelling". That is to say, the title features absolutely no voice overs. No cinematics. No cutscenes. No motion comics. What it does feature is a moody, atmospheric and phenomenal soundtrack, beautiful and lavishly done character portraits for all major characters and text. Lots of text. Text informs you, the player, about how NPCs are behaving, what you percieve they might be thinking, the way an alleyway smells or what your character might think of new plot developments. This system of prose manages to give Shadowrun Returns a certain something that has been missing from videogames for a very long time. Where games like Bioshock or Mass Effect really only allow you to see and hear their game worlds (I always remind myself that Rapture looks beautiful even when decaying, but I probably couldn't stand the smell for even a second.), Shadowrun allows you to smell, taste, and feel the game world through elaborately written text. It is easily one of gaming's biggest accomplishments this year.
In the end, I think everyone should play Shadowrun Returns. The truth of the matter is, though, it is missing a great number of things. The game does not feature a loot system of any kind. Combat only exists as story beats, for all intents and purposes, and the final bodycount of the game is about what most games feature in a single level. The game also features very little challenge in terms of gameplay. What it does, however, is feature the closest simulation of a tabletop gaming session I have ever had while sitting at a computer.