Shadowrun Returns is an upcoming cross platform tactical RPG from Harebrained Schemes. It is one of the recent success stories from the batch of aspiring projects made possible by Kickstarter funding that seeks to recreate the atmosphere of the excellent RPGs released in the early 90s for the Super Ninendo and Sega Genesis.
For you chummers not in the know Shadowrun began as a tabletop RPG published by the FASA Corporation (also the publishers of Battletech) in 1989. It was a drastic departure from the typical trope laden setting of most RPGs.
It was a drastic departure from the typical trope laden setting of most RPGs.
Shadowrun managed to seamlessly meld the concepts of dystopian cyberpunk, high fantasy and film noir styles into a believable and grim science fiction/fantasy world.
You can read a lengthy and fascinating introduction here but to sum it up briefly:
The year is 2054. The world is changed, some say Awakened.
A long lull in the mystical energies of the universe has subsided and magic has returned to the world.
Elves, dwarfs, orks and trolls have assumed their true forms, throwing off their human guises.
Megacorporations have become the new world super-powers, a law unto themselves.
The megacorps play a deadly game, paying pawns in the shadows to help them get an edge on the competition.
When the megacorps want a job done but don’t want to dirty their hands, they turn to the only people who can pull it off: the shadowrunners.– adapted from Shadowrun Primer
Man meets Magic meets Machine in a Megacorporation oppressed world. How could that not spark your curiosity?
What We Know
Shadowrun Returns will feature a grid based battle system which utilizes Action Points inspired by the original X-Com series.
Shadowrun Returns will feature a grid based battle system…inspired by the original X-Com series.
Players will be able to choose between a variety of metahumans including humans, elves, dwarfs, orcs and trolls and the game will also feature a selection of starting “Archtypes” which automatically allocate your skill points down several talent trees. This doesn’t mean you’ll be locked into a singular role however, as you will be able to develop other skills as the game progresses.
Archetypes include the magic wielding Mages, combat focused Street Samurais, the computer experts known as Deckers, mechanically inclined Riggers and the fighting monk-like Physical Adepts.
Each archetype will be capable of visualizing and interpreting the battlefield slightly differently. Mages will see ley lines crisscrossing the battlefield where their spell casting abilities are enhanced and Deckers will be able to tap into the global Matrix network (a term used in Shadowrun that predates the Wachowski’s franchise) embedded throughout the world to manipulate security systems and activate/deactive automated turrets and cameras.
Using a combination of each Archetype’s skills, a player will get the chance to employ many different tactics against enemies whether they be violent gangers, beasts of legend like vampires and shapeshifters or professional soldiers in a megacorporation’s employment.
Inspirations from the Past
The Super Nintendo title “Shadowrun” released in 1993 by Data East is easily one of my top 10 games of all time. It’s mechanics were years ahead of it’s time. A mature film noir style of storytelling, a distributable stat system, temporary mercenary party members and a unique keyword based conversation system.
Shadowrun Returns seems to be adapting many of the elements established in the SNES classic
Shadowrun Returns seems to be adapting many of the elements established in the SNES classic including a fixed isometric perspective, Karma based experience system and the return of the SNES game’s protagonist Jake Armitage as an in-game NPC.
They’ve even contracted the original composer of the music in the SNES version, Marshall Parker, to create updated tracks based on the sweet riffs from the 16-bit classic.
Unfortunately, I have never played the Sega Genesis version of Shadowrun, so I can’t comment on what inspiration is being drawn from that game, but I have heard that while it is quite different from it’s SNES counterpart it is still held in high regard. It’s composer, Sam Powell, has also been contracted to compose new music for Shadowrun Returns.
User Generated Content
Shadowrun Returns will include the same level editor the designers are using to design the game’s levels. This will allow modders to easily create and share their own content. Harebrained Schemes has even planned on implementing a ratings system to determine how “Shadowrun” a user created level is by determining how the overall look and feel, tone and style fit in with the existing Shadowrun lore.
The game is displayed in a fixed perspective where the in-game assets are sprite based but the characters are 3D models. Users will be able to mix and match tiles from a wide range of assets (over 1400, projected 2000+) provided by Harebrained Schemes so there will be ample opportunity to create your own unique Shadowrun Returns adventures. (twitter)
Get back to the Roots
If you and your friends want to try out the newest version of the tabletop RPG that has spawned a number of video games and novels you can download the Quick Start rules here.
As with most tabletop RPGs the rules can be very intimidating to the inexperienced, but roleplaying in a truly unique universe can be a rewarding experience if you and your friends are willing to undertake the initially daunting task.
The universe of Shadowrun has always been near and dear to my heart. The fusion of some of the best elements from vaunted properties such as as William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Bladerunner, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings and classic film noir detective fiction creates a rich landscape where anything can and often does happen. Cybernetically enhanced Orcs, Hacker Elves, Dwarven Mages, Ancient Dragons running multinational corporations, long suppressed Native American shamans wielding totemic magic and furious urban firefights are staples of the franchise.
I am very excited to see how this game evolves. This is the only property thus far that I have been excited enough about to donate to it’s Kickstarter campaign. Donations are now closed as the team reached and exceeded it’s goal in less than 28 hours! With nearly $2 million in capital, I expect great things from this game which seeks to not only create a spiritual successor to one of my favorite games of all time but also bring the Shadowrun universe into the 21st century where it’s spirit has always lived.
Shadowrun Returns is now accepting pre-orders, depending upon your price point you can also pick up some awesome game related swag. A metal dog tag with a 8 MB USB thumb drive? That’s just plain sweet.
You can find out more here.
- Shadowrun Primer (PDF) – an in-depth introduction into the lore of Shadowrun.
- Shadowrun (SNES) music – some of the best techno-industrial-noir instrumental (is that a genre?) music ever conceived.
- Shadowrun Online – an upcoming MMO based in the Shadowrun universe, also successfully Kickstarted.
- Shadowrun Crossfire & Shadowrun Sprawl Gangers – upcoming deck building card game and miniatures battle game set in the Shadowrun universe.
- Shadowrun Tabletop Quick Start Rules – play the tabletop RPG that started it all.
Note: The screenshots in this article are NOT actual in-game footage, rather they are posed models of the in-game assets.
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