I fell in love with the visuals and themes of Shadowrun Returns the minute I entered the game as it is a genre that appeals to me far more than any Medieval or fantasy environment. It’s gritty and mean but has so much contrast with the mix of old, new and futuretech as well as having complex political themes that resonate with many of the issues in a current political and capitalistic climate. It takes on the logical extremes of our world and creates something mysterious but filled with intrigue.
Back in the land of schooling and such I used to play the cyberpunk PnP from time to time as well. That is an amazing rule system filled with abnormalities you might not expect but also very flexible to the chaos players add. It thrives off it in many ways and ends up create a remarkably unique experience. Now i never got into it much further than a few playthroughs but I still remember my time playing it fondly.
It hurts me to say with how much I enjoy cyberpunk that Shadowrun Returns just bores me. The pacing is pretty good, the characters are interesting and the story is both amusing yet utterly fantastical. But somewhere along the way it lost my interest and I didn’t go back and now that the laptop is back I have no intention of downloading it again in order to finish.
I will admit that a big part of this is the reliance on the auto save functionality. It’s a game where I feel like just playing once in awhile, picking it it up and continuing where you left off but what’s there is more of a frustration. It would be good if it saved with each load screen as this would save after a big room change which are rather frequent and well spaced but it only saves after the big mission points and at the end. Some of the sections in-between can be quite lengthy and I found myself having to push further than I wanted to get to these points.
I’m also the kind of person that after finishing a mission I like to talk to the NPC’s and hear the story relating to the mission I just completed but if I need to log out I’m having to replay that same conversation again. I know that’s not a big deal but it kind of reduces the appeal of the story after your having to do the same point to again. It also breaks up being able to control your own pacing within the game and for me that kind of ruins the experience.
The progression also feels very constrained. The game basically has a class system in many ways; there are many options to choose from but there really isn’t much point to spreading out skills as you only weaken your character. It seems always better to focus on certain key traits as you couldn’t possible maximise enough to make a diverse character.
Because of this the gameplay comes down to using one set of skills and a limited amount of weapons the entire time and you really don’t switch that much. Tactically you would think it would be better to switch to say a shotgun up close but because of the hit modifiers related to your skill gains, and the mitigation of the target it’s just better sticking with your main and keep shooting or flinging magic.
Going through as a Shaman there also didn’t seem to be many options available for alternative skills or the customisation of a deck. The skills available to purchase were rather limited and entirely situational at times and I usually had enough slots available to pick up all the things I wanted. Skills also lack the differentiation to make them unique; there were multiple terrain changing skill but they were functional the same with minor damage or modifiers. The familiars I spawned were just damage dealers when they could have provided a lot more strategy with the use of buffs, debuffs, terrain use and such.
I also feel the Ap limit restrained the combat and tactical gameplay that could have been there. With only a couple of moves it usually seems pretty obvious about where to move and what to shoot. A few key enemies would be the obvious choice due to their proximity or damage. I also felt the choice in your team make-up could have been used a bit more to create that risk reward sort of system; there was always enough money to flesh out a team and upgrade your items whereas it would have been more interesting if you were having to make critical choices about taking less people to buy that new weapon or saving up for it.
I enjoyed the experience enough to justify the purchase price, just being within a cyberpunk world again was enough for me but I don’t think it would be for everyone. I think a big issue is that I’m constantly comparing it to Xcom as many of these mechanics would have done wonders to the overall experience. But, they really are 2 entirely different beasts, each having their overwhelmingly positive points so it’s a bit of an unfair analysis. I have yet to try any of the steam workshop modules and some of them look really interesting so far…. Maybe they will reinvigorate my interest in the world.