- Format: PC (version reviewed), Mac
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Nordic Games
- Developer: Cliffhanger Productions
- Players: 1-4 (online only)
- Site: http://www.shadowrun.com/shadowrun-online/
Game code provided by the publisher
Shadowrun Chronicles is an interesting, challenging game, which does some good things and some bad things. It’s also had to deal with MMO-style launch issues with lag – which seems to be fixed for good now – that’s hugely marred the experience of many a player. It also compares itself to XCOM which to some just means a tactical action game, which is what the developers mean; but by using XCOM as comparison it evokes immediate links to permadeath, base management and tough decisions. This isn’t a dig but rather a clarification so we’re all on the same page.
The story is good but it is hard to enjoy with a character as obnoxious as the one you are. Granted, you are a Shadowrunner, which is practically a mercenary for hire; but it’s difficult to listen to someone who you really want to shut up all the time – even more so as they are voiced. It’s worth mentioning that all dialogue is predestined, so no choices in dialogue trees like some might expect if they’ve come off the backs of Shadowrun Returns or Dragonfall.
Character creation is a mixed bag; traits and stat changes are comprehensively catered to by the races and backgrounds you can give your character and you can progress them into the weapon and skill masteries that you want to without any limit as of this moment.
Hairstyles, beards and clothing are fairly limited in one way or another (follicle aspects have separate entries for each colour, giving tiresomely large lists to trawl through with half as much variety as it first appears). Clothing has a fairly decent starting choice, which is bolstered by the rather pathetic variety of random pieces you might find in a mission, as there is no way of purchasing clothing or stopping the game from giving you the same piece over and over; there’s only so many times you can get a skimpy top and be glad you found that instead of a weapon, armour or valuable to sell.
Skills and weaponry come in an equally mixed bag, as each weapon class has a fairly narrow path, with only a few differing skill choices. However, the bigger issue is that the weapons trend towards a point where there is only one choice of good weapon to have at endgame of each type, with the scarce exception if you want to trade critical chance/accuracy/range for a few points of damage. It also may feel a little scarce on weapon types, as skills tend to be factored in to make up for it instead, such as snipe being in the automatics tree.
Non-combat skills offer a varied experience in missions but ultimately serve as little more than ways to gain loot, which is mostly inconsequential towards the endgame when you’re sitting on mountains of cash. They do let you occasionally do interesting things; they’re smack bang in the mind and body skill trees so you will be forced to take at least one, but it’s not hugely invasive thankfully.
Missions are tough and structured, and therein lies the fun. It’s the story missions that make the game worth playing, while the side missions become a chore fairly fast and merely serve as ways for gaining Karma (for buying skills). Side missions are almost always defend X or kill all enemies, and reuse the same layout and maps over and over. Story missions however have better defined unique objectives, interesting tactical decisions to make, and if they do reuse a map they tend to offer it from an angle that makes it feel fresh, whether it be by layout or objects.
Co-op is an option, but you can take NPC henchmen with you too, some of which are based on players and take their skills, appearance and stats. They’re inconsistent and late game you’ll often go for the staple henchmen like Jimmy Mac or Shucks; they just always seem to have better health, movement and skills (which is a shame).
One flaw of having humans coming along for the ride is that – as with single player – if a player character dies, then you have five turns to complete the mission and possibly escape the map too. In single player your character can easily be shielded by henchmen, in co-op it ups itself to four targets that can easily lose you a mission. Characters can be incredibly fragile and critical hits mean someone without much health or armour can be killed in one attack if you’re unlucky or foolish. This is especially aggravating when the game spawns enemies either on top of or behind you – which happens too frequently.
Shadowrun Chronicles has suffered from its choice to be online all the time. The lag issue seems to have passed, but it’s still a co-op experience which somehow feels better without a full team of human players, perhaps because of the increased control it affords you. It’s a highly enjoyable game but really requires time to sink into the considerable campaign. It’s due to get content further down the line including PVP modes and new single player content – whether or not it’s free is anyone’s guess, but there is free stuff of some sort coming.
It’s oh so very rough around the edges though, with systems that don’t work as you’d expect or want – such as tech armour being practically useless for 90% of the game. It’ll probably go through with some iteration on core content at some point, even if it’s just for balancing’s sake, which can only make it better. The bottom line is that it can be really fun to play, whether that be single or co-op, with blunt weapons or summoning skills – finding what suits you is key.