Naturally, after playing the game I went on to read the Gibson books – all of them, good and bad – and I branched out into reading anything even remotely cyberpunk that I could find. My favorite of the time was Sir Walter Jon Williams’ Hardwired, which I really wish someone would do a proper game set in that universe. Later, I’d also get into Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash was another instant hit for me), but I’m always looking for more good cyberpunk stories, so if you know of any please post a comment.
Graphics are nowhere near state of the art, but they’re good enough and you get an interesting combination of 2D and 3D that should run well even on low-end laptops. Combat foregoes the real-time trend that has become so popular and instead goes with grid-based turns, and you know what? It works, and I love it. Yup, I’m old school that way.
First, there’s the save system, which basically has you restarting each level. It’s okay but I’d have liked a “save anywhere” option – it’s never good to run out of time half-way through a level and have to go elsewhere. Thankfully, most of the levels take less than 30 minutes, so you’re usually never more than a half hour away from your next checkpoint/save. The worst is really towards the end of the game where some larger battles may take longer – the final battle for instance can last a good two hours. Either way, I don’t think the save system is the end of the world.
Here’s the good news, though: Shadowrun Returns was released with a full editor and content creation support, and already there are many people hard at work generating new missions and content. Some have added random missions to the main story (or at least they’re working to do so?), others have completely new stories and worlds to explore, and there are new weapons, skills, spells, etc. available. As with any game that supports user generated content, what will come out is only limited by the imagination and skill of the creators, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Shadowrun.
Short verdict: for a cyberpunk fanboy like myself, this is a no-brainer. Buy the game, and flawed or not you’ll find something to enjoy right now, with more goodness to come. It’s not a triple-A title with a gigantic budget, but in some ways I prefer a game like Shadowrun Returns to Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s sort of like the difference between reading a good book where your mind can fill in the blanks and your imagination gets to run wild versus a highly detailed game world where most of the creativity is done for you. Both options have their pros and cons, but for $20 you can do far worse in terms of digital entertainment.
The other thing I want to briefly mention is how great Kickstarter is proving to be for the indie gaming scene. Back in the 80s, it was possible for a single person to create and release a “cutting edge” game. As games and graphics have become more complex, such an undertaking requires far more money, more people, more time…and the bean counters don’t like risk. Everything is becoming more mainstream, because the idea is you can appeal to “everyone” rather than a small niche and therefore make more money – never mind the numerous failed “mass appeal” games that have come and gone over the years.
With Kickstarter, a developer can get funding up front to make a game, rather than having to create something on their own dime and hope it works out, and the people footing the bill are the same ones that want the game in the first place. Community feedback is improved, there’s food on the table, content gets created that would otherwise not exist, and just about everybody benefits. I missed the initial Shadowrun Kickstarter, but I’ve backed a couple others that I’m eager to play: Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera. Such games likely couldn’t be achieved without Kickstarter; now we just need to get someone to do a Neuromancer Kickstarter.