Thursday, January 1, 2015

Shadowrun Returns

I had not realized Shadowrun Returns was a tablet port until I got into the game and noticed the barely existent interface. Touch controls fit this kind of an "isometric" RPG superbly, though -- way better than, let us say, a first person shooter. Thus it being designed for tablets did not really lessen the experience too much. Still, more hotkeys, tooltips, and a more expansive GUI in general would have been nice to have on the PC version.

Shadowrun Returns was funded via Kickstarter. Quite successfully, too, as almost two million USD was thrown at it. The money was not enough to hire voice actors, though, or maybe it was a deliberate choice. In my opinion, having at least partially voice-acted dialogue, like in the old Black Isle games, would have made the game more immersive.

The game is very linear. Expecting a Baldur's Gate 2 -like adventure leads only to disappointment. There are many areas you can see but cannot access. I suppose the goal was to make it feel as if the game world was larger than what you are visiting but only succeeded in the opposite. The limited inventory interaction does not help either.

Apart from the linearity, I suppose the story is written well enough. There are hooks to keep your character motivated, and she never forgets the reason she is involved in the first place. The game does yet another mistake in not having a permanent party, though. You often experience a CRPG by talking to the NPCs, especially the party members, and in Shadowrun Returns you sadly get to do that too little. Usually you just hire a bunch of bodies without personalities to aid you in a mission. Their fate is hardly your concern.

As already mentioned, the game controls fine. The combats are turn-based and fairly tactical, sometimes even interesting. At times I felt the AI was maybe slightly too keen on prioritizing on ganking up on the main character (whose death ends the game). After one particular warehouse mission took about five reloads, I started placing my shaman so that getting to her would be risky for the enemies. The game seemed to get a bit easier after that.

I guess getting better at using my shaman's summons helped as well. I do not really like the chance roll to loose the control of the summon, though. How much do the related skills help? And where does the game even pull the percentages from? I have played one session's worth of some edition of P&P Shadowrun, and I recall the game using solely six-sided dice. No way to roll percentages with those.

My goal with playing an elf shaman was to be able to talk out of every situation. Or at least get some extra benefit. Most often it worked but with etiquettes I had the worst luck. With high charisma you get a whole lot of them but I happened to pick them in the wrong order, which resulted in me missing many dialogue options.

Maxing any one skill takes a stupid amount of karma points and you are better off spreading them. Having a properly leveled weapon skills would have really helped my shaman as being able to put character on overwatch is really useful. Also, picking the cat shaman totem was not the smartest decision now that I know better. Even if the +1 Dodge bonus actually does anything worthwhile (really hard to tell), you only make enemy grenades and other AoE extremely effective when you group everyone around the shaman to benefit from the buff. The bear totem for the heal spell is a much better option.

All in all, the ruleset and Shadowrun Returns did not leave a strong impression on me. The game was not bad enough to not finish it but it definitely could have been better. Harebrained Schemes made another attempt later and since I bought that DLC (now a standalone) from GOG, too, I guess I will give it a bash. I hear they listened to the feedback from Shadowrun Returns and learned from it.

No comments:

Post a Comment