Indie Gems: Shadowrun Merges Magic and Technology
Indie Gems is an ongoing feature in which we highlight indie games that are worth your time and attention. Think of this as your weekly Indie Game Playlist.
In a cyberpunk world full of guns, hackers and megacorporations, nothing is stranger to the natural order than magic.
This is the concept behind Shadowrun Returns, an old-school RPG based on the Shadowrun fantasy-cyberpunk role-playing game. Magic and technology have grown unbidden alongside each other, and both are taken to absurd degrees. Hacking into computers using brain implants, summoning ancient nature spirits, and engaging in mega-corporate espionage are just some of the actions an agent of this brave new world can take.
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
These agents are the titular shadowrunners, and you are one of them. In Shadowrun Returns, you are thrust into the gritty, disheveled underbelly of a cyberpunk Seattle in order to find justice for a murdered friend. This initial campaign is not insubstantial — it’s at least 12 hours, on first play through — and introduces you to many of Shadowrun Returns’ mechanics.
Story progress is done through text-only dialogue and environment interaction; no voice acting here, just like older RPGs. Combat is more modern, adhering to the XCOM: Enemy Unknown formula of two action points and simple character skills (kneecapping guys with shotguns, healing spells, and so on).
If you want a great, classic-style RPG, Shadowrun Returns is the closest that has been released in a long time. It’s also brilliantly written: there are several notable characters, from the kind-yet-stern human bar owner to the corrupt troll cop looking for a promotion through any means necessary, and the overall plot winds around with plenty of red herrings.
As a bonus, when you’re done with the main campaign, there’s always the editor. Shadowrun Returns comes with the same editor that the developers used to produce the campaign, and it’s a great one. Simple tile-based environment creation, easy trigger customization (for events such as dialogue or spawning new enemies), and connection to the Steam Workshop make it a great way to create and upload your own dystopic cyberpunk vision of the future. There are already a number of user campaigns available, and Harebrained Schemes is working on a second campaign that takes place in Berlin.
Shadowrun Returns can be purchased from Steam.