Growing up in the 90s with a nerdy older brother was fantastic. I was introduced to a much larger variety of video games than my young and very impressionable mind could have ever imagined on its own.

One such game was Shadowrun, found on both the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis video game consoles. I fondly recall watching my brother run around as the legendary badass – Jake Armitage, or his equally revered Sega bro Joshua. (Poor, poor Mikey.)

Both versions of the game had you running around blasting people with guns and/or magic with the support of a team of other mercenaries-for-hire such as trolls, dwarves, elves and orks — all while doing a multitude of jobs for unknown clients set up by equally nameless people known as fixers or “Mr. Johnsons.” I’m man enough to admit that this gave me a nerd chub at the very “virile” age of eight.

So drop your Mountain Dew, cast aside your dice (for the time being), gear up and come with me Chummer – as we take a trip to Seattle circa 2054 to check out Harebrained Schemes’ Shadowrun Returns.

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Shadowrun has its roots firmly entrenched in nerd-lore as an amazingly dark and gritty tabletop RPG. Created in 1989 by Jordan Weisman, Shadowrun combines a somewhat futuristic world mixing cyberpunk with high fantasy – further damning the future generations of young males to remain forever socially awkward.

The SNES version was released in 1993 and the Sega Genesis the following year; fast forward to 2007 when Weisman reacquired the rights to Shadowrun from Microsoft (who published a FPS version of Shadowrun that wasn’t that bad… just another run-of-the-mill, generic shooter in my book) and looked to generate some funding for his idea of a “truer” version of Shadowrun.

Weisman turned to Kickstarter in March of 2012 and within 28 hours Shadowrun Returns had reached its pledge goal of $400k. (With a considerable bonus pledge coming in from none other than Chris Kluwe himself – you’re the man!) In a little over a month’s time Shadowrun Returns had generated a little under $1.9 million in pledges; easily catapulting the game into development with some nice bonus additions for reaching the Kickstarter goals set by Harebrained Schemes.

Kluwe

Upon launching the game I was immediately wrapped in an audible blanket of pure synth-infused nostalgia. The score of the title screen instantly had me amped up and ready to dive into the game.

If soundtracks alone were a reason to play a game, you should at least check out the SNES and Genesis versions — as well as my favorite score from the soundtrack of Shadowrun Returns. The music easily reminds me of the “so awful they’re awesome” late 80s/early 90s action films that we love to quote on a daily basis here at AiPT.

After a short introductory period showcasing movement and interaction with the various environments you’ll encounter in the game, you’re then thrust into a showdown with some local lawdogs. These guys are the typical shoot-first ask questions later kind of cops you’d find in the archetypal Police State (How do you like Washington now Hippies?!).

Fortunately for you, these pussified, wanna-be versions of Judge Dredd take hits about as well as… well, me. In no time you’ll find yourself quickly climbing the ranks of the underground and working various odd-jobs for fixers in order to accrue the almighty Nuyen (Shadowrun‘s version of scrilla, fat stacks, greenbacks, dolla dolla bills yo).

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Along the way you’ll encounter several types of mercs that you can hire for the various tasks at hand, such as:

1. Deckers for hacking into terminals to steal valued information or shutdown automated systems.

2. Street Samurais to generally whip ass with either a melee weapon (manmode) or one of numerous havoc-wreaking guns (my mode).

3. Mages to heal, support, and deal damage via spells.

4. Physical Adepts (the Chuck Norrises, Norrisi? of the game) who use magic to enhance their physical prowess and give the bad guys proverbial beat-downs the likes of which would make Ed Norton proud.

5. Shamans who are in tune with the spiritual world and can summon minions of the elemental types to do their bidding.

6. And last but not least the Riggers who deploy and then control deadly and/or supportive machina to level the playing field.

You as a player get to create your own Shadowrunner and follow whatever path you choose while earning Karma to spend into your various traits and skills (Shadowrun‘s version of experience points/skill points).

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Much like other styles of RPGs you’ll have the ability to choose your own race along with the class you pick.

There is, of course, the baseline average Joe race of Humans. (How average are we really? We’re the ones making all of this stuff up.) They’re the jack-of-all trades and masters-of-none as usual.

The Orks, who are permanently enshrined for perfect attendance at Zoolander’s Center for Kids Who Can’t Magic Good.

The charismatic Elves, who are all things agile and magic-y.

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Dwarves, who gave up mining a long time ago in order to tinker and build immigrant-worker bots to do their work for them.

Trolls are about the only race I can think of who have been switched up from game to game depending on the lore. In Shadowrun, Trolls are actually hulking behemoths of pure manliness and win (IMO, they should be wearing flannel). Try and get through picking out a character portrait for a Troll without finding yourself saying, “You are one… ugly… motherfucker.”

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Throughout the game’s many missions you will acquire and equip different styles of armor and other equipment like weapons, cybernetics, spells etc. Each style of weapon has different characteristics and special abilities linked to them such as “burst fire” for a sub-machine gun, “full-auto” for a rifle, and the fan favorite “kneecap” for the shotgun.

You can equip different types of armor depending on your play style and class selection all-the-while enhancing your piss-poor and out-of-shape physical body with terminator-style cybernetic enhancements. Just to name a few that are currently available: accuracy imbued terminator eyes, metal legs that would make JP from Grandma’s Boy envious, and even Kevlar coating for your skin to increase your durability in combat.

Beware though Shadowrunner; if you so choose to undergo these numerous, life-altering operations like some 9 year old beauty queen — there’s no turning back.

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The gameplay at its core is a 2D isometric viewed landscape where you move your characters around on a grid — similar to tactical role-playing games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, and The Shining Force series to name a few. There are numerous interactive objects found within the battlefields to either use to your advantage or to find some hidden secret – such as loot.

One interesting aspect of the Decker class is that they can jack-in to the matrix (whoa…) and hack away by fighting sentient programs deployed to rid their code-based world of your syntax error ridden existence.

Have a little bit of the plague!
Have a little bit of the plague!

8.0

  • Captures the Shadowrun setting nicely in both tone and visuals
  • Mission editor available to the community
  • Bitchin’ synth-solid soundtrack
  • Campaign not long enough.
  • No multiplayer

I’m a huge fan of SRPGs and TRPGs. I enjoy playing the countless number of them that have come out over the years and will hopefully continue to enjoy them for many years to come. Shadowrun Returns launched with a packaged Mission Editor that allows for users to generate their own custom content and missions — which should keep the amount of content and community thriving for years to come. If you haven’t tried it yet and like a good tactical challenge – support HBS, Jordan Weisman, and head on over to Steam to check it out.