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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » RPGWatch Feature: Shadowrun Returns Review

Default RPGWatch Feature: Shadowrun Returns Review

September 20th, 2013, 13:47
GhanBuriGhan decided to have a closer look at Shadowrun Returns and came back with a review of the game.

Combat is turn-based with a simple action point system - one AP allows you to move a certain distance, fire a weapon, or cast a simple spell. Other actions, such as some spells, throwing grenades, etc., may cost 2 or more AP. Since the Shadowrun universe mixes high-tech weaponry, melee-oriented street samurai and magic, there is a nice array of different attacks, buffs and debuffs available to the player between the different types of runners. Each individual runner may not have that many different options each round, but with a group of four that matters relatively little. Paying attention to positioning is encouraged by a simple cover system that grants you a directional defense bonus. Using single-use amulets, Shamans may conjure spirits to aid them in battle transferring some, or all of their AP to the spirit in the process. Spirits, of which there are various kinds, each have their own set of attacks and spells.

Interestingly spirits can escape control of the shaman (the more easily the longer you keep them or the more AP you give them), and turn against the group. The more technically inclined can instead control drones, which work in a similar way to spirits. In some scenarios you may need to jack into the matrix to reach your objective, and the game will switch back and forth between the real world fighting and the activity in the matrix. This all adds up to a pretty neat TB combat experience, when you finally encounter some challenging and interestingly designed fights in the late parts of the game. In the early stages, the encounters are generally rather easy, and as a result a bit boring. The difficulty curve may vary considerably based on your character choice and choice of companions. My own experience is based on playing a shaman, rather a weak class. Playing a Street Samurai will probably give you a far more powerful character in the late game, and therefore less of a challenge.
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September 20th, 2013, 13:48
Very good review I must say. I am still not decided about this one…. maybe after the new content / campaign is released.
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September 20th, 2013, 14:15
Another excellent review from GBG.

I would personally have scored it lower - but I appreciate his position.
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September 20th, 2013, 14:27
Too linear, no C&C, not so good inventory system, no free saving.

3/5 -> I agree with GhanBuriGhan once again

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September 20th, 2013, 14:30
Originally Posted by HiddenX View Post
no free saving.
Really? No buy.

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September 20th, 2013, 14:35
A very nice review indeed.

I agree with the general sentiment and I understand the leniency on the score too.
(Also giving it a 2 would have been a little too rough)

The setting, writing and well constructed atmosphere count favorably for old time Shadowrun Fans and will eventually make me stomach its overall blandness and get around to playing it. (and who knows: maybe they will improve the save situation some time in the future as they have said!)

What I found particularly interesting though was the promise of open world mods. I would definitely not mind a heads up (via some coverage or article from the watch ?) if one or more particularly good ones emerge (in a near final playable state at least)… Pretty please
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September 20th, 2013, 14:55
As I always say, stupid scores for stupid expectations (not directed to this review-it's just what I think about review scores in general). That said, should it come as a surprise that major site user reviews tend to be more forgiving than those of so-called RPG hardcore sites? Also, if linearity is really a problem, how can anybody stand today's AAA titles? In any case, if I were a dev, then, I'd avoid hardcore RPG fans as targets since they are tough to please, which put too many things at risk. Then, eventually, will it come down to the loop in the end, again since it's the same reason why AAA game makers began to avoid them? Considering the given scope of the game, which I turned out to have had much better idea than the most, I don't see SR is going to satisfy hardcore RPG fans in near future. So, should I wait till something like Wastelands 2 to see if Kickstarter really works for hardcore RPG fans?
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September 20th, 2013, 15:50
I have to disagree on two things:

- Art. The word cartoony is certainly appropriate for characters wobbling around with huge torsos on tiny legs. It might not be out of place for Shadowrun, but it can certainly rub people the wrong way (I think we can argue convincingly that such a style is directly opposed to grittiness).

- The writing. It's certainly ok if you like dime novels; but that's about what you can expect here. A game with a serious 50s film noir touch would be served well with it, but a dystopian setting, not so much.

The two points above may be seen in a different light by Shadowrun afficionados, but they aren't the only people in the target group. So that leaves us with the combat system and editor.

Combat is heavy on the popamole factor; micromanaging your AP is the way to win, rather than choosing from a wealth of options (which you don't have). This makes combat seem very gamey, and, as you said, it can be pretty boring, especially with a character built for combat. Even just running up and stomping on everyone's face as an Adept is often enough to win.

So, the editor. A powerful tool that may result in some awesome things. But that's in the future.

Considering all this I find 2/5 for the original game+campaign to be more appropriate, but that's close to GBG's verdict.

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September 20th, 2013, 16:03
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
Really? No buy.
It stopped me from finishing the game. I can't stand the current save game system. I mean even Dark Souls has a save-upon-exit system. That would be the least expected from a save game system if you ask me.

They said in a KS update that they are working on a new save game system though. Hopefully they'll launch that soon or at least when they release Berlin DLC.

Also: good review! I would have given it 2 stars though.
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September 20th, 2013, 16:07
I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I agree with 3 out of 5. GBG is perfectly correct in that they were scared to death to take any chances. Hopefully, Berlin will leave a better aftertaste than Dead Man Switch.
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September 20th, 2013, 16:23
I agree with the rating of 3 out of 5 and the one part of a sentence which explained the game best was
it often felt more like a point-and-click adventure with RPG elements than an actual RPG.
I think most of the major aspects were mentioned in the review, including the beautiful but "empty" and very linear world, the saving system and the strength of the story…and the short play time.

I did a let's play in German and spent 14 hours. I have read every text, I am not an especially fast reader. I think you can't beat the game below 12 hours if you read all the text but needing more than 16 hours (with this character choice) is also very, very unlikely.

The balance problem and lack of challenge was hinted in the review. Actually with a very weak main character it can be challenging.
In the review it was mentioned that it's almost like in Jagged Alliance and while the hiring process really is the way, the feeling of a group isn't.
What you need to know right from the beginning is: It's your main character which matters, everything else is optional. If you hire a character this character will get everything assigned automatically. Besides of playing the character in fights, you have absolutely no control over it in terms of skills, level ups and so on. All the dialogues are done by the main character, much like in NWN2.
My character was a specialist in rifles and just killed everything without any problem. It didn't really matter who I took into my team. I only failed in two fights on the first try: first one because I wanted to rescue some innocents. Second one because I did not understand the mechanics of the final battle immediately. The fight at the cemetery was also challenging.
But besides that the battles were not challenging at all. Technically I liked them more than the battles in XCom, but the balance was horrible. The class to class balance on one hand but also the skill balance. The headshot ability was basically completely useless. In most of my fights my main character was Rambo who killed everything and the others job was to buff him.
But if the fights were more challenging (which I would have liked) it would have backfired due to the bad saving system. It's no fun to click through wall of texts each time you fail in combat.

But back to the play time: Having only 15h of game time isn't good itself. But what was worse is that the game mechanics look like beeing for a game with 50h content, just pushed together to fit within 15h. So the character progress is insanely fast, you get tons of skillpoints thrown at you. You don't feel any sense of achieving progress because the single steps just didn't matter much. You just bought a new weapon or armor you will soon exchange again anyways.
In addition while the story wasn't bad, it didn't really tell you when to expect the end. Or actually I expected it two times before the actual ending. This makes it very hard to manage your credits. If you want you can spend all the credits by hiring temporary members for each mission. But you can also invest in items or save the money until the next item tier is unlocked. If you would have seen all items from the beginning you could have said "well, I will just save for the most expensive one", but the way it was, you had to decide when to spend all your money. And when you decided to buy all the Tier 3 items and thought it was the last tier, you wont be able to buy the Tier 4 armor after that because you already spend your money.
In addition some skills like the different Etiquette unlocks only could be used like 2 times in the whole game. Now if you are 50% through the game and unlock one of these, you have good chances that the options to use this unlock already passed.
The hacking skill sounds nice in the beginning but is completely useless on the main character. You only have very few opportunities for hacking. And at these opportunities you always get an additional NPC which can do the job, probably even better than your character if you had learnt it with him, which will frustrate any player who chose the hacker path. As there are also not very many fights in the whole game, the threw in some options in the level design. Maybe you played Dark Messiah of might and magic. Every time you saw spikes in the wall you thought "ok, now some enemies will come so that I can kick them into the spikes", and seconds later they came. In shadowrun returns it was almost the same, jsut with drone shafts which were artificially put into the level design and felt out of place.

So to keep it short:
-horrible balancing which might either result in unchallenging combat or frustration due to save point system
-bad party management which also wasn't communicated
-bad character progression
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September 20th, 2013, 16:42
I'd agree with the 3 of 5 the game has it's problems, i'd say for me personally it would not have been worth the money, except for one thing:
I definately got the shadowrun vibe from it and i really missed that
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September 20th, 2013, 16:42
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
Really? No buy.
Weird, it's almost like you have said this ten times or so for this game.

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September 20th, 2013, 18:07
Originally Posted by rune_74 View Post
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
Really? No buy.
Weird, it's almost like you have said this ten times or so for this game.
Joxer likes to respawn.
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September 20th, 2013, 18:31
Nice review, GBG. Feels like you settled into a nice groove on this one. Lik the format.

But enough reviews of reviews. I probably would have given the game 2.5 stars. I agree with pretty much everything GBG wrote, although he gave them a pass on what I consider to be shallow character development. And I agree they took no chances, though it seems to me much of the excessive simplicity is due to the fact it was clearly designed for touchscreens
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September 20th, 2013, 18:53
Nice review.

I enjoyed the game well enough that I'll happily buy the Berlin DLC as soon as it's available - and I very, very rarely spend more than five-ten bucks on a game.

Too little of a good thing is easily remedied by making more of that thing.
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September 20th, 2013, 19:10
Superb review, thanks a lot. It put the final nail in the coffin for this game for me. Initially I was very interested, but withdrew my support when my friends told me no multiplayer will be available. For a turn-based, editor-supported, episodic-adventure-structure game like this, coop would have been perfect. I also really dislike the cartoony art direction, does not sit well with Shadowrun for me (back in the day I loathed the more cartoony illustrations in the PnP books, too).

When the game hit, I was tempted to buy, but put it off till I read a review I can trust. That is, until now. However, it only convinced me this is not a kind of game I was looking for.
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September 20th, 2013, 19:21
While you can have any opinion of course, I think you cannot expect for an RPG to have multiplayer.

To implement multiplayer in an RPG requires lots of changes in Game Design decisions.
Of course you can implement multiplayer the "easy way" like in BG1. But of what use is that? One guy does all the talking while other has to wait or even applies pressure to hurry for the player doing the dialogues.

If an RPG should implement multiplayer it has to be designed from scratch to do so, like they are doing with Dvinity Original Sin. Or how they did it with SWTOR (though it's an MMO).

While I understand that you would have liked a MP mode, and I am a huge MP fan myself, I think for an RPG it is an extravagant feature where you can't blame anyone for not implementing it.
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September 20th, 2013, 19:22
I just finished the game last night. It took me about 19 hours, but some of that was probably just me leaving it running while I got distracted by shiny things; I suspect 16 hours of real playtime. The game systems seemed deeper than the campaign, if that makes sense. It felt like they tried to lay down a solid technical foundation and then discovered they didn't have the time or money to fully exploit it in the content. That's why the game is so linear. I can see multiple places where they could have put in mission branches, side-quests and the like, and they just aren't there, like limbs that got lopped off.

That said, I enjoyed my time with the game. It's a diversion, not a classic for the ages, but it's a good diversion. I would have been disappointed with it if I'd paid $60 or even $40 for it, but for $20 I got my money's worth of entertainment even without the possibility of user-created content.
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September 20th, 2013, 21:36
I'd have gone with 4/5, simply because of the fun factor. It wasn't as deep, systems wise, as many other rpgs. However, it is quite elegant, has a beautiful aesthetic, and a moving story backed up with good writing. I had several narrow escapes in combat along the way, so I found the level of challenge to be just about perfect. It definitely left me wanting more and looking forward to the Berlin DLC!
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