Welcome to a world marked by flickering neon lights and chrome buildings, dominated by corrupt large corporations that are not opposed to any means in the pursuit of power; a world in which people replace their body parts with cybernetic extensions, but are increasingly falling victim to the dark side of immense progress. Welcome to the future, rough and relentless.
Sounds like an appealing premise for an exciting video game, doesn't it? In addition, one takes extensive character customization, several approaches in the various quests, hackers who can enter the matrix out of body and futuristic mercenaries, who are sent by fixers to dangerous and often violent orders. If you think we're talking about Cyberpunk 2077, you're wrong! Because even if the genre with the work of the Witcher makers CD Projekt Red should get a decent boost, the roots of cyberpunk video games and cyberpunk aesthetics go back much, much further. And Shadowrun played here in the fairway by Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell and Co. play a very important role.
Most of all known is Shadowrun as Pen & Paper, so as a classic tabletop role-playing game, the world and characters of which are created solely by the specified rules and the imagination of the game master and the players. Shadowrun celebrated its first publication in 1989, and the Pen & Paper now comprises six editions, as well as numerous paperbacks and novels by various authors. In 1993, a shadow run video game for the SNES finally appeared for the first time. This was loosely based on the first novel in this universe called "Never Deal with a Dragon", written by Robert N. Charrette, who is one of the co-creators of the cosmos. The player takes on the role of Jake Armitage, the much younger title Shadowrun: Returns (buy now) also shows up. Armitage lost his memories after an unknown offender tried to take him out. As a result, he goes in search of his (almost) murderer and tries to regain his lost memory. When talking to NPCs, Jake can snap up words that are unknown to him, which he can then question in the dialogues with other characters in order to get new information. This concept forms the core of storytelling.
However, the development of Shadowrun's video game debut was anything but smooth. The Shadowrun story begins at Beam Software, an Australian developer studio, today at Krome Studios Melbourne. Work on the SNES-Shadowrun started there in 1989, the same year that the underlying pen and paper was just making its debut. Adam Lanceman, at that time part of the company's management team, bought the license for the tabletop RPG from the then publisher FASA, and the development process was then directed by Gregg Barnett. The latter, however, left Beam Software in the midst of development and moved to Perfect Entertainment in the UK. Development came to a standstill until the studio hired a new lead designer to take on Barnett's role. Paul Kidd, himself a passionate role-playing fan and therefore familiar with Shadowrun, made sure to transfer the qualities of the tabletop and above all storytelling into a video game. He also worked with programmer Jeff Kamenek to change the series' somber and serious tone by adding some comedic elements to the dialogues. But time was short.
Source: PC games
Despite the project having been on hold for some time, the responsible publisher persisted Data East on compliance with the set deadline. Accordingly, the team around Kidd had to complete the game in just five and a half months. And that wasn't the only problem. Looking back, Kidd said, "Beam Software was a madhouse, a cesspool full of bad karma and bad vibrations. It was a real war on the team. Old school developers who just wanted to play good games were crushed by a bunch of management terror. It was no longer a 'creative partnership', it was just 'we against them'. People felt creatively and emotionally divorced from their project. " According to Kidd, everything was only completed in time, as many employees simply stopped attending company meetings and workshops and made every effort to keep management away from design decisions.
Despite all the turbulence, the SNES shadow run was not only finished, but also really good for the conditions at that time. At least from the ranks of numerous Critics received a lot of praise for the title contrary and also received some awards for his work. You could also win some loyal fans, who even spent many years in the Steam workshop on a reboot of the original worked in the look of the newer Shadowrun offshoots. Unfortunately, the SNES game was lost commercially. Fortunately, that wasn't the end of the story. The following year, BlueSky Software released another shadowrun game on the Sega Genesis. Shadowrun now has eight games, including an online game called Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown, whose servers went offline in 2018. But we want to take a closer look at the latest three titles by Harebrained Schemes, with regard to their gameplay and their appearance, they are much more timeless and can still be played very well today, even for less nostalgic gamers.
Anything is possible in this world
Source: PC games
Before we jump into the games, it is important to know what makes the Shadowrun universe so special. In the so-called "Sixth World", which began after the Mayan calendar, technology is very advanced, but in addition to this technical development, magic returned to the world as part of an event that is widely called "The Awakening". Some people were born or transformed into dwarfs, elves, orcs or trolls, which is also derogated in the world as "goblinization". Meanwhile, shamans learn to do magic by contacting their natural gods. For the corporations, especially in warfare, the magicians and shamans have become indispensable over time. Other fantasy creatures such as vampires, demons and dragons are also returning to the progressive world. The latter are not just extremely dangerous beasts that can erase entire regions, but also highly intelligent beings who have taken over the leadership of some corporations and even states because of their superiority. This includes Lofwyr from Essen, who is considered the richest being in the world.
What initially sounds like a very wild mix of genres is a real stroke of genius in practice. This mix allows the creators to tell any kind of story without them thematically feeling out of place in the context of this world or appearing unreliable. A fight against a demon from another dimension? OK. Spying on a corporation by virtually struggling through cyberspace and collecting data? Why not. Smashing a "drug ring" that sells simulation chips with the memories of murder victims to its customers? Yes, you can. From mystical fantasy stories to crazy sci-fi stories to classic gangster drama, Shadowrun has everything to offer. Even more, it cleverly combines these different influences in the course of every story and mission. You still have to get used to the sight of gangster orcs with robotic arms.
A limitless skill system
Source: PC games
Before we plunge into the history of Shadowrun Returns, the first part of the new trilogy, we first create a character, whereby we can choose freely between all humanoid races. Human, elf, dwarf, orc or troll are therefore available to choose from. Visually, we can also adjust our character, although this editor does not come across too extensively. We can also choose a class, such as the melee-savvy street samurai, the decker who starts with tools and skills for navigating and fighting in cyberspace, or shamans and magicians. However, this class system is more like a Dark Souls, meaning: our initial choice gives us a few bonus points on the core attributes of the respective class, but in the course of the game we can also upgrade and improve every other skill.
The attribute and skills system is quite extensive and even seems overwhelming at first. First of all, our character has core attributes such as speed, strength, charisma, intelligence, etc. These are each divided into different subgroups, speed is divided into the categories of ranged weapons and evasion. These subordinate skills split again, for example we find ranged weapons such as talent trees for dealing with shotguns, pistols and rifles. We can only level a subordinate attribute as far as our main attribute. That means that in order to be able to bring our rifle handling skills to level nine, speed must be leveled up to level nine in advance, as must the ranged weapon group.
Source: PC games
We need karma points to improve our attributes. A certain number of these are already available in character creation, later we get points for every successfully mastered situation. The price for the improvement is based on the level of the respective attribute, so to move ranged from level eight to level nine, we need nine karma points. This fairly complex system allows us to create our very own character in terms of skills. Whether it's a gun fool with shaman spells or a talented hacker with destructive magic skills, there are no limits to our character development. However, you should still think carefully about investing the points. If you try to invest in every talent, our character can do everything a little bit, but nothing really. This falls to our feet in the later battles.
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Shadowrun Returns: Tactical role-playing game for a short time free of charge
Shadowrun Returns: New Kickstarter project Shadow Run: Hong Kong unveiled – starting in January
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