Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Shadowrun: Hong Kong

Shadowrun: Hong Kong was included in a Humble Bundle and I thought might as well buy it and play the third game too. It pretty much matched my expectations -- it is very much just more of the same.

Not the highpoint of the series

The lack of innovation and new stuff started to get even tiresome. Some map areas for instance seemed identical to what I had seen in the previous two titles. Sound effects are the same as well. It is hard to say if the music was too for I have not found it memorable in any of the games.

The version I played was the Extended Edition that includes a new mission after you have beaten the campaign. I started on it but my first impression was so bad that I decided that I was done with the game. There is also developer commentary, which I found uninteresting as it appeared to be mostly about writing. And as I felt the story was not to be particularly engaging, I stopped listening to the commentary tracks.

Barely holds interest

I skipped a whole lot of dialogue too. Instead of reading what the NPCs were saying, I just read my response options instead. Maybe that is why I failed to complete couple of companion story arcs. One user review on Steam said that instead of being the vertical little box on the side, the dialogue text area could be spread horizontally, like it is in other isometric RPGs. I think that could make it easier to read a lot of text.

I have yet to play quite a few of these newer isometric RPGs but I am getting a feeling many of them tend to have text just for the sake of having it. Like Pillars of Eternity apparently has these weird storybook sections. I probably would not have included something like that. And a lot of the stuff feels somehow pointless. In Hong Kong, and in Tyranny as well, I got the feeling that NPC dialogue was often not actually going anywhere. As if it was there merely as filler.

Also, giving your character a Chinese name, like I did, does not seem advisable, because according to the story you are not Chinese yourself. At least Chinese (Cantonese) is not your first language. If I understood correctly, that is.

Melee approach

Having played Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall both as caster characters, and because Glory was such an effective tool of destruction in the previous game, I wanted to try melee in Hong Kong. I still shied away from cyberware, though, and found melee without it to be a bit lacking in number of abilities and things to do. And so I started leveling Charisma to get etiquettes again. Elves have the highest Charisma potential after all.

About halfway through the game I discovered Chi Casting under Willpower actually offers melee abilities. Thus I had to play catch-up for the rest of the game. I think that by the end I had caught up to the potential power level I would have had the whole time, had I been leveling Chi Casting earlier. The game was never too difficult regardless.

Matrix reworked

There are couple new things in Hong Kong. The first, a minor thing, is being able to unsheathe your weapons to engage an unaware enemy. I think I wanted this feature previously but it did not seem to make a meaningful difference, at least not in Hong Kong.

The other change is the matrix being in real-time. Your matrix visit can be over in a shorter time relative to the real world if you can avoid patrols in the matrix. Being spotted puts you into standard turn-based combat and you will have to destroy all hostile... whatever they are. Hacking nodes also happen via another real-time mini-game. Or maybe it is two games in one. I am not completely sure how it works.

I did not really like the hacking part but I think the stealth made the matrix a bit more interesting. It was always a chore and having the possibility to make the parts shorter is good.

Engine issues?

Shadowrun: Hong Kong runs on the same engine (though maybe a newer version?) but I sure do not remember loading times being so terribly long previously. What is it with Unity and loading times anyway? This is not the first Unity game with this kind of issue. Hong Kong's menu is unresponsive as well.

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