Shadowrun Returns Review (2013)

Shadowrun Returns Review (2013)

Those of you who have followed us for a while am likely aware that I am the Traditional Role Playing Game guy for BAYOG. One of my favorites being the cyberpunk realm of Shadowrun. Taking place approximately 60 years in the future, we have a world with mixes of magic and technology. You are as likely to see a Adam Jensen style cybered out street samurai roll out as you are to see a troll shaman summoning fire spirits. It’s truly a cool and fascinating world, with a number of nuances that my gaming group still only know the surface of even after years of playing. A terrible way to get into Shadowrun was the 2007 FPS by FASA studios for the Xbox 360 and PC. An amazing way to get into Shadowrun is the 2013 isometric RPG, Shadowrun Returns by Harebrained Schemes.

Shadowrun 2007 Fasa

Shadowrun Returns kicks off with a watered down but still enjoyable character creation set up, akin to the proper game. You choose your meta-type of human, troll, ork, dwarf, or elf; as well as your “class” which typically isn’t a thing in Shadowrun, but you still can mix and match like you can in the proper game. Afterwards you choose your background and in a way similar to many western RPGs like Mass Effect, KOTOR, and Dragon Age, you forge your backstory along, affecting options later in the game. This allows a good amount of replayability as playing the melee physical adept (imagine a super magical martial artist monk) is radically different from playing a rigger (the best role in the game who controls combat drones and vehicles with computers in their minds like super RC cars). Even changing your background enables a good bit of variety, especially considering the multiple campaigns available in the Steam Workshop.

Shadowrun Returns Seamstresses Union

Focusing mainly on the stock campaign, we have the story “Dead Man’s Switch” that enables anyone to self-insert whether it be a brand new character or a runner you’ve been rocking for years. You get an alert from your old shadowrunner chummer, Sam Watts, with a pre-recorded message stating that he’s dead and his biomonitor sent this out to your character in exchange for ¥100,000 (That’s Nuyen the generic money of Shadowrun and is about a ¥1:$1 ratio.)  You then proceed in an investigation to track down the cause of Sam’s death to get that sweet cash reward. Over time you find and interact with and recruit a number of other Runners until you finally find yourself dealing with Jessica Watts, Sam’s twin sister and member of the Universal Brotherhood. This is important as in-universe, these are some pretty bad people.

Shadowrun Shadowrunner

“How bad are they, Rokutsu?” you may ask. Well these people seemed to profess collective effort to obtain utopia in the name of all metahumanity being part of a “universal brotherhood.” In reality, they were all being possessed and converted by insect spirits, essentially the 3rd worst type of spirit out there, only behind ones made of literal toxicity/death, and blood magic, the single worst type of magic. They eventually culminate in the destruction of a large chunk of Chicago when they release a massive hive of bug spirits, which is essentially what you imagine it is. Think of an ant hive, only the ants are the size of a husky, can phase through walls, want to eat your insides, and are very resistant and even immune to conventional weaponry.

Shadowrun Bug Spirit.jpg

During the course of the game you find yourself in possession of Aegis, which is a precursor to the Fluorescing Astral Bacteria or FAB, the genetically engineered awakened bacteria akin to magical Anthrax. This stuff is also used in-universe to destroy and weaken many bug spirits in the Chicago Containment Zone or CZ. Your character then proceeds to either arrest or kill Jessica, and find in true Shadowrun fashion that when you go to collect your reward from Sam’s escrow account, there is in fact no money. This sort of turn is very common for the Shadowrun universe and kind of helps set the backdrop fairly well.

Shadowrun Logo

Many games of Shadowrun can be sorted into one of three categories. Pink Mohawk is the loud and shooty version, typically dissuaded in the course of games and in-universe punished severely. Example being that if you screw with a Big 10 corporation they will level your apartment, just to be certain you will cost them no more money in the future. The other side of the spectrum is Black Trenchcoat, which encompasses James Bond style planning and execution with consummate professionalism defining you. The final category representing a safe mix between the two, typically represented by an initial Black Trenchcoat approach followed by the dakka filled Pink Mohawk contingency plan. Overall these themes are translated well (albeit no where near perfectly) in the games and Steam Workshop campaigns, but I highly recommend trying these out whenever you can. Have you tried these games out or even played it on the Table Top? Lemme know what you think and if you too enjoy the occasional running in the shadows, as well as some funny stories!


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