Everyone loves one back story, but no one wants to hit rock bottom. The same goes for our beloved franchises. It’s painful when your favorite series takes a bad turn on a bad idea, but feels so sweet when it recovers. Looking back, you can see the background for what it is and appreciate the context it provides. What does an in-game background look like?
15 years ago, shadow run been released for the Xbox 360. Developing it as a multiplayer-only FPS game was a hugely unpopular move at the time, especially for a franchise that started out as an engrossing cyberpunk RPG. Reviews were average at best, and fans of tabletop source material were discouraged. So where do you go when you’re down? Back to your roots.
shadow run began life as a pen and paper RPG in 1989. It became a hit with its careful approach to sci-fi and fantasy, blending the two elements into a cyberpunk dystopia full of orcs, trolls, shamans and even dragons. The title refers to shadowrunners, the colorful mercenaries players create to assemble their crews. The series was, and is, about world-building and character development in a world ruled by murderous gangs, brutal corporations, and rogue cops.
Quick success in the tabletop scene didn’t translate so easily to video games. A SNES adaptation was released in 1993, then a completely different Sega Genesis game hit store shelves with the same name a year later. Both games had their strengths, but neither had enough to merit a sequel. The next entry wasn’t until 2007, and it was the aforementioned FPS multiplayer title on Xbox 360.
All the while, a strong community of tabletop fans kept their spirits alive, but wondered if a worthwhile adaptation would ever happen. And it was the fans who led the charge on Kickstarter to get out Return of Shadowrun in 2015. Harebrained Schemes LLC launched the project with the goal of winning $400,000. Fans erased that goal, pouring nearly $2 million into development – and it was well worth it.
Return of Shadowrun remains a reminder of the immense potential of cyberpunk RPGs. The stories are engaging, with deep black vibes. There’s a lot of character customization and replayability. The game had some rough edges, but it did something its predecessors couldn’t.
It spawned sequels.
Shadowrun: Dragonfall and Shadowrun: Hong Kong capitalized on the momentum created by the series’ successful reboot. Shadowrun: Hong Kong is arguably the best of the bunch, with crisp tactical gameplay elements and a super cool environment. The interpretation of Hong Kong in the near future is the perfect setting for a gritty and gripping story. The writing is superb and there is also a hell of a soundtrack. The vibrations are there.
I can’t stress enough how cool the world of Shadowrun is. The XCOM-style combat mechanics are solid, but the real fun is inhabiting this world that is part-blade runnerpart-the Lord of the Rings. The way technology and magic are seamlessly blended, with deep lore behind it, feels natural.
You have several paths to choose from. Whether you want to be a half-man, half-machine samurai, an expert hacker with an army of dangerous robots, a spell-casting powerhouse capable of inflicting insane damage, or a shaman capable of summoning terrifying allies from the world of minds, there’s something for every playstyle and personality, except multiplayer FPS.
The Shadowrun Trilogy is out now on PC and is set to release on PlayStation, Xbox and Switch June 21, 2022.