Shadowrun Returns

Back To The Future

Shadowrun Returns brings the wayward cyberpunk universe back to its roots.

By Drew Toal • July 31, 2013

Most of what I know about Seattle comes from Frasier. His is a pleasant, mildly overcast world of French restaurants, operas, and snooty wine clubs. It’s undoubtedly the most civilized place in the world. The cyberpunk future Seattle of Shadowrun Returns, on the other hand, is a dark, violent place that can barely be characterized as civilization at all. In Frasier’s world, knowing the right people can get you a corner table at Chez Henri. In Shadowrun Returns, it will get you the latest weapons, bionic implants, and access to the Matrix—a virtual reality rendering of the internet.

Shadowrun began as a tabletop role-playing game in 1989. Inspired by the likes of William Gibson and Ridley Scott, it’s a world of corporate savagery taken to the nth degree, where “shadowrunners” wage covert warfare on behalf of private capitalist nation states. Magic and metahumans—elves and trolls—are also thrown into the mix. In 1993, a Super Nintendo adaptation was released. In it, you played the role of Jake Armitage, a grizzled amnesiac fighting for answers and survival. That game is incredible, making the let down of the 2007 Xbox 360 version—which turned the role-playing game into a shooter without any story at all—all the more painful.

Shadowrun Returns

Perhaps haunted by that failure, Shadowrun creator Jordan Weisman and his studio, Harebrained Schemes, ran a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for Shadowrun Returns in an effort to get back to the game’s roots and update the experience for a new generation.

It takes a mere glance to appreciate the familiar aesthetics of Shadowrun Returns. You view the action from a near-overhead perspective (isometric, just like the Super NES version), and in the first few minutes you’re reintroduced to both Armitage and a gang from the 1994 Sega Genesis iteration of the game. There are a number of notable updates, though, like the option to create your own character, rather than having a single dedicated protagonist (like Armitage) or a few archetypes. For my first run at the story, which has to do with a dead friend’s last request, a Scientology-like cult, and unkillable glowing bugs, I played as a dwarven street-samurai named D Money.

Shadowrun Returns

Your base of operations is a seedy local hangout called the Seamstress’s Union. Here you can find just about anything you need, from armor and weapons to “decking” (aka hacking) hardware. No matter how well-armed you might be, though, most of your runs can’t be accomplished alone. So here, you can also hire other mercenaries to help take on your missions.

Shadowrun Returns feels confining at times. There is no large world to traverse, just mission-specific levels full of stuff to hide behind in the likely event of a gunfight. The combat is turn-based, not unlike that of last year’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It’s similar, but the environment isn’t quite as dynamic as in that game. Your cover won’t break as it’s being grenaded, so if you find a good spot behind a desk or crate, it’s best to just hang tight.

Shadowrun Returns

This Seattle is noir-ish and gritty, except the parts of the game played in cyberspace, which is not so much a Keanu Reeves kung-fu circus as it is Tron. Defense programs and other deckers might try to stop your digitized avatar from hacking different nodes, but you have a variety of countermeasures to employ, including attack programs, firewalls, and your very own pixilated fireball. Your actions inside the Matrix often have direct effects on the “meat world”—security cameras and gun turrets can all be commandeered for use from within the digiscape, for example.

It’s a shame no one at Harebrained could hack a better save function into the game. Although Shadowrun Returns automatically records your progress between missions, any failure during an operation results in starting back at the beginning. On shorter missions, this isn’t a big deal. But on D Money’s longer, more difficult runs, it was incredibly frustrating. This one time, D Money rolled into a corporate office with an elven decker named Dodger, his shotgun-wielding buddy, Coyote, and an enormous technomage troll with a penchant for wearing Hawaiian shirts and socks with his sandals named Matthew. (With his hulking frame and heavily-armed drones, I doubt he catches much flack for his sartorial shortcomings.) I had been at it for awhile, and then my decker went and got his brain fried in the Matrix, again, effectively ending the mission. Again. I had to start from scratch. Again. The next character I create is going to be named Phil Connors.

Shadowrun Returns

Save issues aside, there’s a lot to like about Shadowrun Returns. The dialogue is great, in an unabashedly silly way. It had me as soon as one of my conversation options was to say, “Yeah, we’re really gonna shake the pillars of heaven, buddy.” It’s unclear how much the different dialogue choices affect the outcome of encounters, but the hard-boiled banter is always entertaining. One punk named Stevie J took exception to my handiwork. “You really think you can come in here and shoot up my place?” he asks. “Do you know who I am?” It was difficult to choose between “I know who you are. You’re the guy I’m gonna kill” and “You’re the guy who needs to shut up.”

Still, the most exciting part of Shadowrun Returns is what hasn’t been included. The game has a mission editor, which allows for the custom creations of levels and even entire storylines. In the transition from tabletop gaming to video games, by far the hardest aspect to transfer is the structure for players to create their own worlds and stories. Harebrained Schemes is attempting to solve that dilemma by giving players the tools to create their own runs. That process didn’t feel immediately obvious—at least not for someone without game-design training. Once the internet figures out how to do it, though, and can show me in a five-minute YouTube tutorial, the Dystopian Frasier Crane Meat World Hellscape will be in full effect, chummers.

Shadowrun Returns
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Publisher: Harebrained Schemes
Platforms: Mac, PC
Reviewed on: Mac
Price: $20
Rating: No rating

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63 Responses to “Back To The Future”

  1. Cloks says:

    I found this in the game, it’s clearly a Gameological shout-out and not just a logical nickname. Clearly.

    • djsubversive says:

      Even better, one of the runners you can hire is named Johnny-Boy. I don’t remember seeing him during Dead Man’s Switch, but he popped up in the list when I was playing around with the editor. I’ll get a picture next time. :)

  2. beema says:

    I really have zero tolerance for games without on-demand saving anymore. That shit may have flown generations ago or when I was a kid with oodles of time to waste, but jesus christ developers, make anytime saving a feature in EVERYTHING you make. People don’t have time or will to replay something over and over from the beginning when they have a busy life full of time demands. If you want to have it as some sort of challenge, then make it a mode that you have the option to select. 

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      I agree, but two things save me from getting ticked about it here – the checkpoints are generally 15 to 30 minutes apart, and since the game is turn-based, I can just walk away from the PC for a bit if I need to and come back later.

    • Enkidum says:

      I agree with some games not allowing saves during (relatively brief) combat. But other than that, yeah.

    • Fluka says:

      This ruined Mirror’s Edge for me.  (Worse, when I quit and restarted the game, it took me back to the beginning of a chapter.)

    • MintBerry_Crunch says:

      Tell me about it! After having the game crack its knuckles at me in the final encounter, having beaten it on Easy for this final battle (finally!), what should so then happen? A scripting error for the final dialogue option!—to which there had been no save prior to the *entire battle*. 

      Would have ground my teeth to the gums if I could.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      UPDATE – I am now firmly in the “Goddamn it, let me save anywhere!” camp after getting to the end of the frigging bug fight and having it bug out so I can’t decide what to do with the killer.  And of course restarting the level puts me an hour back.

    • dreadguacamole says:

       I love this game, but the horrible save mechanic has nearly broken it for me. Not just the having to redo the whole level, with dialogues and everything, if you get unlucky/do something stupid in combat – I’d love to be able to see different outcomes without having to do the whole damn level again, thank you very much.

       I’ve got some other (very minor) complaints with it – like the way you can’t bunch your characters together in the tactical view (the way detection boxes are handled, you often can’t select the ground just behind where another character is positioned, or how tactical combat drags on even after you kill everything in sight. Mostly trivial stuff. But the save system has made me enjoy the game a lot less than I would have otherwise.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      UPDATE – The game was patched today, fixing most of the major bugs.  Just finished the campaign finally!  Really looking forward to what others can do with it.

      • John Public says:

        but doing nothing about the save system, the single most prominent – and serious – issue

        the game is going nowhere until they do; but maybe they dont care, they have their payday

        the DLC wont sell for crap though if they ignore playerbase like this

  3. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    I watched a buddy play this for a bit during a previously mentioned cancelled Pathfinder session and it does a great job of feeling like a spiritual successor to the SNES game.
       Magic, at least at low levels, seems really anemic in this game.  Between the reedy sound effects and way a spell looks to just dissipate like smoke on contact with a target, it appears really ineffectual.
       Compare that to a Street Samurai getting in a meaty-sounding thwack with a machete, rewarded with a massive pool of blood and it seems like the old ways are still the best ways in this game.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Yeah, magic is pretty crappy in its current form.  Especially adepts – what is the point of Killing Hands if your to-hit chance is still less than 60%?

      My Street Sam with his trust rifle had about a 99% to-hit chance within 15 squares for about 2/3rds of the game.  Three shots with 1.5 to 2x crit damage = lots of dead enemies.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        I’ve found the most useful spells to be area of effect ones, so that you essentially have infinitely replenishable grenades and buffs. There’s a dwarf adept for hire whose magic is mostly buffs (he also can put a -2 armor on an enemy and set up a wall of fire). He was super helpful doing the mission that Drew’s talking about.

        That said, I also had a rifle street sam, so that made it really easy.

        • djsubversive says:

          Are you talking about the dwarf support mage from the Nephilim Network? Because he’s a pretty good hire. I took him with me for about 3 or 4 missions, and had him do something just about every turn, even if it was just extending a spell he’d already cast on someone. Haste is great.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @djsubversive:disqus Yes, that might be him. Mage, not adept. I get the classes confused. 

      • djsubversive says:

        “Especially adepts – what is the point of Killing Hands if your to-hit chance is still less than 60%?”

        You’re using the wrong phys-ads, then. Bends-the-Willow is the only one I would bother with, because she actually has the Unarmed skill. I normally have an 80%+ chance to hit with her. Knife-hand choppin’ dudes all day long.

    • Enkidum says:

      I kind of like the idea of highly underpowered magic. Makes a difference from… well, every RPG ever.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        Perhaps, but in a system where you’re allowed to create your own character, those who choose to go with magic may be sorely disappointed.

        • Enkidum says:

          Still seems kind of cool in a way. Why should games be fair and balanced? Maybe we’re in a low-Mana world or whatever, and so if you go as a mage you just have to suck it up and play a different, more defensive game, or whatever.

        • djsubversive says:

          @Enkidum:disqus Except that Shadowrun is explicitly a high-magic world. One of the more common street sayings is “watch your back, conserve ammo, and never make a deal with a dragon.”

          Offensive magic is a little weaker than just shooting everything with bullets, but the strength of magic is in the supplementary spells – buffs, debuffs, and battlefield control. And as @HobbesMkii:disqus says above, the best offensive spells are the area-effect ones.

          I haven’t played a “pure” mage or shaman in SRR yet, just hired some runners with magic, but with some smart karma-spending and Aljernon’s selection of spells and fetishes, you should be able to build a pretty solid spell-slinger.

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

           Actually, no, Shadowrun is not explicitly a high-magic world.  In the universe of Shadowrun,  the original developers (FASA) tied the existence of fantastical and mythological creatures and abilities to the current level of magic power in the world.

          They have it set up that the world passes through “Ages”, which alternate between periods of high magic and periods of low magic.  Those ages that end with magic reaching a critical mass are invaded by monstrous creatures from the Astral Plane and wiped clean, during a time called “The Scourging” before magic subsides enough that it forces these space-demons back to wherever they come from.

          This is explained in the premise for Earthdawn, a FASA fantasy game that is set two Ages prior to that of Shadowrun.  IIRC, Shadowrun is set in the “Fourth Age”, Earthdawn in the “Second Age”, while our no-magic world of bankers and bad television is the “Third Age”.

          Magic has only recently returned to the world of Shadowrun, so its presence is viewed as extremely unnatural and unusual, and feats of high magic, like the things you would read out of a fantasy book, are either not possible or are only possible by people with extreme levels of talent and power, often backed by the Dragons that have slumbered since the end of the Third Age.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          @The_Juggernaut_Bitch:disqus  – Okay, so technically changing that statement to “Shadowrun is explicitly a high-magic SETTING” fixes the problem.  Pretty sure that’s what djsubversive meant anyway.

          Earthdawn is Fourth Age, Shadowrun is Sixth, with Fifth in between, each about 5,200 years long based on the Mayan calendar.

        • KidvanDanzig says:

          The “surprise! Your build sucks.” Aspect of the game is the most 90’s CRPG aspect in a game full of them. It’s not a very well designed or balanced system. The stun-locking “kneecap” ability plus the cone spread at distance make shotguns easily outclass anything else in the game.

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

           Eh, no, it’s not high-magic anything.  It’s “magic above the normal level that it was last week” which allows the various things that make the game different from R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk to function.  It’s why, even in the RPG, the magic system is either not as effective as an automatic weapon at close range, or really, really, really hard to pull off major feats.

        • John Public says:

          I made a dwarf mage and he tears everything up – a combo of fireball one turn, ball lightning another, then blindness and mind wipe? 

          Yes please. get a shaman to haste for extra awesome
          the sound effects etc are a little lackluster though

      • BuddhaBox says:

        I dunno, Unknown Armies’ magic(k) is fairly underpowered, at least in terms of cost-benefit. First, you have to be literally insane to use it. Second, in order to get it, you have to do specific, weird rituals like never ever missing your favorite TV show or buying expensive rare books or smashing your hand with a hammer. Third, you have taboos which you can’t break, like backing down from a fight, using non-clockwork technology, or letting someone cut your hair. Also, if you wake the sleeping tiger (i.e. muggles find out about you), your shit gets wrecked in short order. In most cases, mundane stuff is the easier/saner option.

        I’m just going to sit here and fantasize about a UA game, if that’s cool.

        • dreadguacamole says:

           Oh, god, Unknown Armies. I love that game – it’s basically Tim Power’s Last Call, on steroids.
           With Pornomancers.

  4. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    This game has reminded me how much I used to love the Shadowrun universe.  The SNES and Genesis games were great, but I always wanted to find a good tabletop group to play with.

    Sadly, my only experience with the tabletop game involved a GM who was notorious for two things – being a total powergamer as a player, and completely refusing to do any pre-game planning as a GM.  So the few game sessions of Shadowrun I experienced were of the “you’re at a bar, you get a job, you do the job” variety.

    Back to the actual game here.

    The story in Dead Man’s Switch is fun.  I like the conversation options provided, though – sorry Drew – they make zero difference in the outcome of the main missions.  A couple of the surprises along the way were well done, and from the bits I remember of the story from sourcebooks and novels, the main storyline is a big event that affects the future of the world pretty strongly.

    I’m a big fan of turn-based combat, especially when you’re supposed to control more than one character.  The combat in SR is pretty great, though in my experience I’ve found that sticking to guns and drones works far better than trying to use melee or magic.  (My main character is a rifle-specialized Street Samurai, and every time I’ve tried to hire a melee runner, they’ve had horrendously bad to-hit ratios.  I’ll take two gun shots at 80% and an overwatch over a couple 50% melee attempts any day.)

    Amusingly, I didn’t realize until halfway through the game that my avatar and my summoned programs in the Matrix sections have default attacks, not just the special ones.  That made them much easier to complete.

    I had only one restart-inducing bug come up so far – when a summoned elemental broke free of control and was killed, leaving me unable to select any other characters or perform any actions.

    I’m really excited to check out some of the user-created material after I finish the main story, as well as creating my own.

    • djsubversive says:

      Conversations aren’t entirely consequence-free. Apparently Gino (the BTL-junkie that you rescue with Coyote and Paco) doesn’t have to die. I don’t imagine it had any long-term effects, since I was still able to hire Coyote for a bunch of runs.

      After finishing Dead Man’s Switch (that final assault is a pain, mostly because the vendor beforehand doesn’t sell any medical supplies), I started looking at the editor and the SRR wiki because Hobbes and a couple other people are interested in making a Lovecraftian Shadowrun adventure in Providence. Actually making the maps seem like it’s going to be the biggest time-sink.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        Yeah, I saved Gino.  I was passing on info from others who have completed multiple playthroughs that most conversation options don’t affect the main storyline at all.

        I’m interested/involved in the Providence adventure group also.

  5. MintBerry_Crunch says:

    *Obnoxious comment section stretch marks incoming*. 

    Nostalgia works in mysterious ways—I’ve no experience with the Shadowrun universe or have any particular affection for the franchise either—all the better to be a jerk about it then! 
    Well, the writing did not leave me comatose or reaching for a ‘fast text’ option. I think that’s a win-win whichever way you look at it, in fact, it’s pretty darn refreshing playing a game with *real* text and occasionally considerable dialogue options that don’t always come in the “burn orphans” and “save orphans”-kind of flavouring (There are no orphans in the game.) 

    There are some delightful characters in fact, like the hulking Ork bouncer you meet early in the game.

    Combat is fun but ends up revealing the campaign’s primary iffy-ness: It’s *not very succulent*. It’s undercooked in fact. You can tell the game was made in a little over a year (impressively I might add).

    My elf shaman who was impossibly versed in dealing with all kinds of unsavory types, never got to use her high charisma for much. Some “etiquette’s” never manifested more than once, and two or three not at all. There were also no arbitrary enemy encounters with the combat; the game is very tailored in this fashion, but that also means you get a very old school difficulty spike near the end, where enemies appear off camera and through busted walls. 

    I had the pleasure of encountering three game-breaking bugs and lost 10 hour progress at some point, so, there’s *that* for undercooked. Animations were skimped on very much outside of combat as a last note. 

    I’m not sure how much of jerk I feel comfortable being about the game, considering the price tag and tools for the community. Guess I’ll wait.


    • HobbesMkii says:

      Did you like playing as the Shaman? The shaman that’s part of the flashback mission at the start lost control of her spirit almost immediately when I was playing and it kind of turned me off the idea of it.

      • MintBerry_Crunch says:

        It was fun! My first choice and never regretted it. 

        The spirits were life savers plenty of times, some of them very powerful and with varying abilities. You can even spawn them directly from the environment around you if you’re allowed. Weirdly enough, they would dissipate or idle around whenever I lost control; I never payed for gambling too much with the odds.

        The Shaman spells themselves are very contextual, allowing you to conduct the battle on your own terms through barriers, offensive and defensive AP modifiers, and my favourite: Shadow—which can be used to block line of sight and enshroud your team. (This one can be exploited heavily if you find a safe room or corner.) 

    • djsubversive says:

      Mr. Kluwe is great. “Go get ’em, sir.”

  6. HobbesMkii says:

    As discussed in last week’s comment cat, the Steam GS Group is considering making our own campaign. I’ve proposed a tentative idea that loops in the Cthulhu Mythos for shits and giggles, but I’d love more eyes and more input:

  7. DrFlimFlam says:

    It feels dirty to say this, but can’t wait until it’s $5 on Steam. Looks like fun but not necessary.

  8. rvb1023 says:

    I want to play this a ton but I heard the main campaign was short and you couldn’t save anywhere. I think I will wait for a discount and fan made campaigns so this title actually has some meat behind it.

    • Labrat85 says:

       Campaign is pretty short, only really noticed the save issue at that one mission Drew Toal also mentioned, otherwise the game is very easy, on normal at least. Only realized there were other difficulties as game was completed, so used to diff being a choice at game start i never checked options.

    • djsubversive says:

      “can’t save anywhere” is misleading. The game auto-saves at certain points (when you enter a new map, it seems like), and most of the time, you’re only in each map for 10-15 minutes, so it’s not like you lose a lot of time.

      It IS annoying when those 10-15 minutes are a lengthy combat, and it’s not until the last few enemies that you start taking some nasty hits and just want to reload that mini-fight. Can’t do it. Gotta do the whole level over.

      The last mission is particularly annoying, since it’s a bunch of fights with enemies that fully heal if you don’t dispatch them quickly enough. One bad turn can be fatal.

      I’m going to look into when auto-saves occur, and if I can trigger them more often through the editor – maybe have one after each small combat or after conversations (like Alpha Protocol did, so that you can’t just reload and make different choices).

  9. HobbesMkii says:

    I wonder if it’s fair to judge this game on what it “shipped” (digitally, I mean) with? As some of the other commenters have mentioned, it was a fairly anemic release. Some of that isn’t liable to change–as @stakkalee:disqus mentioned over in our GS Steam thread, items and spells aren’t editable, so combat is likely to remain the same.

    But I’ve also heard that the next campaign that Harebrained will release will be far more sprawling and open (and include Berlin content). Moreover, the fostering of a healthy modding community suggests that users will help create the most compelling stories–as might occur in a proper tabletop RPG.

    Almost all modern games support mods, so user content isn’t exactly unique to this game or new. But some games thrive on mods. My first thoughts fall, of course, to Paradox and Crusader Kings 2 (I’m biased–I briefly worked on the A Game of Thrones mod), but also to games like Close Combat V, where modding has taken the base framework of a fairly old game (13 years) and built versions that are just amazing, sometimes surpassing the game’s creators themselves (compare an “Ardennes Offensive” mod for CCV to the series own Close Combat IV, which focuses on the same battle. The mod is the hands down winner). 

    Having opened this can of worms, I also wonder where the lines could possibly be drawn. Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas are both hugely popular platforms for user content, but they also shipped as fully-realized (albeit, sometimes buggier) ideas. 

    In fact, all the games I’ve mentioned have, with the exception of Shadowrun. For some reason, though, I’m willing to cut it a ton of slack. It’s not a building–it’s a foundation with a frame and some plywood walls–but the potential for grandeur is there.

    • MintBerry_Crunch says:

      A definite yes on cutting it some slack, with the not-so-fully realized campaign being a bit of a bummer nevertheless. 
      I hope the Shadowrun allure runs deep though, because there are going to be a lot of games and Kickstarter projects to be distracted by in the coming months! 

      Still, I’d be a chump to assume anything less of some dedicated work from the community, eventually.

    • stakkalee says:

      That’s the thing – despite all of the problems with the game I’m happy to be charitable towards it.  Yes, saving sucks.  And yes, the editor is currently buggy and limited (I mean, no custom weapons because of ‘Shadowrun lore’?  Please.)  Sometimes combat doesn’t end, so you have to do the rest of the mission a turn at a time.  Magic is anemic, decking seems underutilized and a bit tacked on, and the main quest is a tad predictable.  But dammit, this was a fun game – it’s tactical, it’s complex; it eschews voice-overs for the simple pleasures of text.  Like any good RPG, this is a game that makes you engage your imagination.  I’m happy with it, but honestly, unless you’re planning on making some mods just wait for the next Steam sale.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Yeah, I used the profits of selling my Steam trading cards to knock 7 bucks off the preorder cost to bring it down to $11. Worth it.

      • djsubversive says:

        Combat doesn’t end until all enemies in the map are defeated, I think. Unless it bugged out for you, which is certainly possible.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          Yeah, I got stuck in combat several times without any more enemies to fight, including after finishing the Matrix run with Johnny Clean and exiting back out into the Union.  It was never a big deal since traveling to the next area reset it.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      Almost all modern games support mods

      What beautiful world are you from and how do I get there.

      2 things I try to keep in mind when considering this game – 1) this is by some measure the most high-profile, least typically “indie” game of the 2012 Kickstarter boom to debut, and it’s pretty substantial given its budget, and 2) It’s at least 10x better than Neverwinter Nights was, and they’re similar games in a lot of ways.

  10. Labrat85 says:

    Not familiar with the tabletop game, is the combat similar in “feel” to what is in there? Because to me it felt like the creators had played X-COM and got heavily inspired there. Combat had a distinctive style in X-COM and elements of that style seem to be directly lifted from there (Gun icons and movement in particular)

    Not a bad thing just surprised. Was expecting every hit to be randomly distributed to a specific part of the body and things like that, might have been thinking of SLA Industries or another cyberpunk rpg.

    • djsubversive says:

      I think if SRR had used the Silent Storm engine, it would be one of my favorite games ever. We’d have destructible environments and limb-targeting, at least.

      I just want another game to use the Silent Storm engine. I don’t really care what it is.

      • Labrat85 says:

        Would love to see something like silent storms engine on a stronger game. Destructible environments are fun!

        Hell it’d be perfect for a superhero RPG of some sort, hitting people through buildings, bringing buildings down on their heads.

  11. The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

    Damn, how did you get Dodger killed?  He’s actually one of the “flavor characters” in the Shadowrun rulebooks, making side-bar comments against the text detailing the game mechanics from an in-universe perspective.

    • djsubversive says:

      He’s kind of a chump-ass in this game. I built an elf decker pistolero, and when I had Dodger available, I just laughed and brought somebody who would be useful in a fight. Dodger’s only real asset is that he’s a cheap decker, and you need a decker for that mission. You also get saddled with Harlequin for a mission, and he’s kind of sucktastic (but at least he has commentary – I guess Dodger’s just shoved in and you don’t even get to hear any of his flowery speech).

      • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

         Harlequin? Sucktastic?

        Unless they have some punkass using the name, Harlequin was never provided with stats, with the creator’s notes stating something along the lines of “If we give it stats, they can kill it.  Harlequin cannot die and, in fact, cannot be directly defeated.”

        … that’s kind of a shitty thing to do to an NPC who was presented as this hot-shit Elf who just got his own crazy-ass plots done.

        • djsubversive says:

          It’s the same immortal clown-painted elf. If he “dies” during the mission, he still shows up afterwards for some conversation, so technically he’s not dead.

          In addition, he’s got a big sword and a gun that only works on certain enemies, and only at certain times (and you can’t replace either weapon with more useful ones). His magic is kind of lackluster, and he’s got a couple of adept powers to make his sword better, but I would have much rather brought just about anybody else with me for that mission.

          It’s kind of sad how lore characters get treated in this game, especially for those of us who know about Harlequin and Dodger. I think those are the two big ones (unless you count the Universal Brotherhood, which shows up just to make all the old-school SR players go “oh, I know how this will end” and it ends exactly how you expect it to. There’s even a terminal mentioning Chicago).

          Oh, and Harlequin straight-up admits he’s manipulating you into doing what you’re doing. And Lofwyr shows up. I forgot about that.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          I can confirm Harlequin is terrible in the Seattle campaign. He boasts about his sword to the player character, but misses often enough (and takes so much damage–enemies seem to prioritize him) that putting him into close combat isn’t worth it. His spells are woefully unpowered considering he’s required for the hardest mission in the campaign, and his only other use, that he wields a special shotgun used to defeat the regenerating enemies that DJ’s talking about (but only those enemies), means he has to constantly have his aim buffed, or you’ll be forever fighting the same monsters you just killed.


    as much I love Fallout 3 and New Vegas, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a new Fallout with that same graphical engine to tide us over till Fallout 4? 

  13. jellybone says:

    No Linux version is disappointing.  The companies site says a linux release will be in a “Reasonable Timframe”. Read: the 34th of Nevuary. 


  14. John Public says:

    overrated; the save system is archaic and the whole thing feels dumbed down for iPads ; if HBS fixes the save system, it might be passable in time; right now, its not worth your money.

  15. SketchyTK says:

    “Phil!? Phil Connors!”


  16. nick056 says:

    I just finished the main campaign.  This was a “whole greater than the sum of of its parts” experience for me.  When I consider that the combat felt like X-Com-lite, that the story was entirely linear and relatively short, that certain plot points were foreshadowed too heavily, and that my Decker didn’t get to do much decking, I should be disappointed.  But this game was un-put-downable for me. 

    I really enjoyed the quality and style of the writing, and in fact I found the length to be an asset.  Several RPGs in the same turn-based, plot-driven  genre as SRR — I’m thinking specifically about Bioware’s KoTOR, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect — pad the story by introducing a long, repetitive middle section where the main plot doesn’t really move.  For example, in Dragon Age, you go to solve elf problems, then dwarf problems, and then mage problems.  In Mass Effect (and KoTOR) you follow the villain to worlds he’s recently visited to understand his designs.  Information is meted out to you by the spoonful.  And the Obsidian/Bethesda efforts exist to deliver a setting where the plot has no particularly urgency at all unless you want it to.  You’re Dragonborn?  Okay, but what about these random ruins?

    But Shadowrun just moved in the classic style.  You had a murder to solve, you had to save the world.  You didn’t have time to care about much else but you did make friends along the way.  And I liked each and every character — they all left impressions on me.  Sam is a great, sparse little creation.  Jessica feels doomed, not cliched.  Coyote and the Seamstress Union gang felt more real than plenty of voice-acted characters with five times the dialogue.  And sweet Jesus I was pleased that the game did not expect me to run through some pat dialogue with anybody to achieve a romance.  RPGs really show their limits when, through six or seven obvious and clumsy conversations with a broken-souled girl refugee, you can turn around her entire life of trauma and sweet-talk her into falling for you at once.  All by saying things like, “But maybe you’re not really to blame.  You need to have faith in yourself.” This was refreshing.

    PLus, the combat was X-Com lite, but it was fun.  I liked that instead of having a party or crew I dragged with me, some of whom might never see action, I hired mercenaries.

    So: I liked it for not doing anything that CRPGS have made conventional in the last decade.  Did I mention the story was great and didn’t outlive its interest?     


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