Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
“The following is a contributor post by the Midnight Mystic Mage.”
Today I have the pleasure of reviewing a game that I spent over 30 glorious hours with and enjoyed every bit. This was the first game that I have played in the long Shadowrun series and I feel like I couldn’t have started with a better one. When I mentioned the game to my cousin he told me that Shadowrun is actually his favorite tabletop game series as well, so there is a plethora of lore and options on how to play with this series.
My knowledge of Shadowrun as a whole is certainly very limited, but I hope to explain what made this specific game so incredible and let you in on why it can be such a blast if you are into games of this genre. The type of game as you may well know is a sort of heavily story-driven tactical RPG. That is about as right up my alley as a game can get, and if you are anything like me then that mere description is probably like music to your ears.
Well if it is, then settle in and prepare for plenty of backstories, choices to be made that affect many aspects of the game, and total customization of your own character and which characters you would prefer to allow into your circle. I went with an elf who was strong with melee and allowed many of the monster-ish creatures into my group such as the ghoul who is also a former red samurai and the vampire queen. It is funny to see how the different characters in your group and NPC’s react to your decisions to having certain other characters as a part of your squad. There was one dinner party mission where I remember the NPC’s were especially shocked to see me traveling with a ghoul.
So your character and another one who is with you from the beginning named Duncan were raised in the rough street life and had previously gone separate ways. This changes when the estranged foster father that raised the two of you goes missing under some shady circumstances. Some people who are high up on the food chain do not like that you are meddling in their business however and the two of you quickly have to revert back to your old ways of Shadowrunning, or taking on jobs that would not be considered strictly legal, while staying under the radar and trying to figure out what has become of the man who had raised you.
The battles can be very challenging and will have you logging off to consider better strategies and coming back with a fresh mind, at times. Many times you are able to just run right through the missions, but depending on the situation it can really test your wit. There are two different realms that you will usually operate between, the normal world and the matrix world that the more tech-savvy players are able to tap into. I left all of this up to Is0bel, the “Decker” character that becomes part of the crew early one, although you could surely make your own character more proficient in this skill as well.
So the deckers are basically like hackers, except they are able to physically put themselves into this matrix world and accomplish goals while defeating enemies inside of it. If the decker perishes in the matrix they will also no longer be in your party, but there are many missions where having a decker is completely essential and you will not be able to finish without one. Let’s say there are some alarms that need to be shut off, doors that need to be opened, etc. You are more than likely going to have to get your decker to hack into the matrix and find their way to the area where they can destroy the enemies blocking the way and achieve the goal. While inside they are able to fight much like a shaman in the sense that they summon allies to fight alongside them like the shamans can summon spirits, more on that in just a moment.
One skill that I really wish I would have invested more time into with the hindsight of one full playthrough under my belt is the drones that you are able to control during battle. Racter is a character whom you meet when you find your way into the houseboat that becomes your home base, he is a skilled drone operator or “rigger”, as it is called. This turns out to be a very powerful and valuable asset to have with you on the battlefield. The rigger is able to hide in the distance while maybe firing off a shot or two and his heavy-duty drone takes the fight to the competition and is able to be a threat while either up close or from a distance with ranged weapons.
Another role that comes in rather handy is the aforementioned shaman, which can be filled by the rat-carrying Gobbet (yes, she always has a rat on her shoulder), or of course yourself if you so choose. The shaman is able to summon spirits into the playing field that disappear after some period of time or after they are defeated. The spirits may not be as powerful as the other characters in your group but the more allies on the battlefield the better, there is always strength in numbers.
I felt like the mix of investigation, storytelling, and battling was just right, at least for my tastes. I have heard about some games that have so much story that it feels like you never even get to get into the tactical side of it. Luckily that was not the case here and you are left with plenty of strategical battles so that you never feel like you are getting out of the groove of it and a deep and rich story that is truly a joy to follow along and find yourself fully immersed in as you run through the streets of Hong Kong in search of your lost father figure.
If there is a character that really interests you, there is no lack of depth to how much you can get to know about them. I love how you can really dig into the characters that you want to find out more about and see what makes them tick, but you are not forced to sit through a ton of unwanted information about characters that you do not feel as strongly about. The best place to do this is when you are back at the boat and everyone is in their own individual rooms. I actually found out much more about how Is0bel became a decker and built her own huge computer from the scraps that she found over time. You are able to go through extra missions to help these characters with certain things that could be completely overlooked if you really just had no interest.
I could go on and how much of a stellar gameplay experience they were able to achieve, but I think the best way to do that might be to dive into my 8-bit Review and break down what it was that actually made the game so great.
The 8-bit Review
Perfect scores in any area can be hard to defend, but there was just no area of the gameplay that I felt was lacking enough to deserve a gripe. The strategy of the tactical battles just comes naturally and flows so well even when you are first getting into it and trying to figure everything out. Traveling around in between battles also has a terrific open world type feel where you can go and discover side missions and advance your main missions all at the pace of your choosing. The depth of story really helps you to be much more invested in the battles and the turn-based tactics are just so perfectly laid out and work so well with the skill tree where you decide the fighting style for each character. It is obvious that there was tons of love and forethought put into every aspect of how the tactical aspect of this game would play out from virtually countless different angles and I personally did not run into any problems that felt like a major hang up in this area at all.
Beautiful and robust scenes as well as what I considered to be very well done artistry for the character faces during dialogue. It has a very cyberpunk feel to it as a whole and although I do not personally seek out entertainment that is done in that style I felt that it was incredibly suiting and executed in a memorable and unique way. The graphics aren’t exactly on the cutting edge or pushing your graphics card to the limit in the way that a new AAA blockbuster game might, but they were done very tastefully and there is a certain aura that it achieves and maintains throughout the game that is quite intriguing and leaves a lasting impression.
This story is just what I have been waiting for in a game. I haven’t been as satisfied with the narrative in a game since either The Witcher (I have so far only played the first) or the Dragon Age series. That is good company, as many of you are aware, and fans of the Shadowrun universe will have no hard time believing or agreeing with this sentiment.
It is a deep and rich lore that you can dig into as deep as you want or just skim through on your way to the amazing tactical goodness that awaits in the battles. I admit that if you are not a fan of quite a bit of reading and storytelling in your games you might find this part a bit monotonous and feel that it drags on and on. I personally really love a game that can suck you in as well as a good book can and really gets your head into the game and makes you feel a part of the story. Shadowrun: Hong Kong nails this and then some. It is right up there with the best in that area.
There are some solid morals being portrayed that we can all identify with, such as being willing to go to any length for your friends or family, and persevering through trials and hardships when your back is against the wall. There are many different stories that you can dive into as I mentioned earlier and I felt that each of them has a very specific and often quite moving theme behind it. You can also at many times choose your own themes or message because of the story being so malleable to your own personal tastes.
This is a hard category to judge for this game. I personally felt it was incredibly intuitive and easy to jump right into. This type of game can be hard for many to grasp in general, though, and I could see how some could try to start playing and be as lost as could be just trying to make their way through a battle. So let’s just say that it is very accessible for fans of the strategic or turn-based tactical genres, but if you are new to the style of gameplay it may take you just a bit to catch on to how everything plays out and get a hold of how to correctly move your team about the map in an effective fashion.
I was truly pushed to my limits at different times throughout this game. I would fear that I was going to be stuck and have to load a previous save so that I could get through to the next area only to come back with a fresh mind and new strategy able to push through with my current situation. As I just mentioned though, I would like to point out that I always do multiple saves in games like this just in case. There is nothing worse than getting stuck with not enough supplies and not enough health but no previous save to go back to which can save you from the impossible situation. Luckily my previous saves went largely unused and I was able to maneuver my way through the perilous battles while pushing my wits to their very ends in order to decide how to approach the enemies and come out victorious.
There are so many different ways that this story could play out and so many different classes that you can play with and utilize that I certainly could not rule out another playthrough one day in the future. Unfortunately, the fact that it will be largely the same overall plot would make it probably something I wouldn’t do for quite some time. I would be more likely to check out one of the other Shadowrun games before going back to this one. They did many things that will make this game replayable compared to if it was much more linear and did not have all of the different possibilities for your own main character. There is also a huge variety of choices for who you can choose to bring on or not bring on into your crew, each character having their own backstory that you can either dive all the way into or ignore completely. All that being said, there is most definitely no way that you could take in everything this game has to offer with just one playthrough.
My Personal Grade: 9/10
I haven’t been so passionate about a game in a while and it is refreshing to have one that you can really just get all the way into like this and get that sense of what really makes gaming so great for you personally. It is not just any game that can stimulate you on so many levels and really stand out as a masterwork that just leaves you thinking that these developers really did something here.
So much care and attention to detail were observed that it is hard to not just be completely taken in by it and I really got lost in the world as I drained the hours into it. I will be happy to hear the opinions of those of you who have already completed or put some time into this game and hopefully my high praise will lead some of you who are partial to the tactical genre into your first playthrough so I can hear what you think once you are done. It is a very special game and I believe it deserves every bit of appreciation that I have shown in my description of it, I can only hope that I have portrayed it in a manner that is fitting of a game of such great caliber.
Aggregated Score: 8.5
The Midnight Mystic Mage is the resident writer of sublimereviews.wordpress.com, a reviewer of games, books, and film, and a fan of all things horror and spooky. Follow the link… if you dare!
Did you enjoy this post? Consider becoming a Warrior of Light and join us in restoring integrity and quality to games writing. We specialize in long-form, analytical reviews and we aim to expand into a community of authors with paid contributors, a fairer and happier alternative to mainstream games writing! See our Patreon page for more info!