If you grew up playing “pen and paper” style games such as Dungeons and Dragons, you might be familiar with Shadowrun. Shadowrun is a science fiction RPG that got its start back in 1989 and combined elements of cyberpunk, urban fantasy, and crime. Over the years Shadowrun has also seen video game adaptations on systems such as the Super NES and Sega CD and even newer releases on the PC. It was even adapted into a collectible card game (which as a CCG enthusiast surprises me that this is the first time I’ve heard of it). The latest game to hit the scene was Shadowrun Returns which was crowd funded through Kickstarter and released last year. Cliffhanger Productions is looking to bring the Shadowrun experience online with its latest project Shadowrun Online. As of right now the game can be played via Steam Early Access and I got the chance to check it out. Keep in mind that with Steam Early Access games the game itself is still in development and can change once the final product is complete.
With that said though, there’s seriously not much up right now. When you hit the main menu you can choose to go through what little bit of story mode they provided (all of four chapters) or go through Matchmaking. I’m going to hit up the missions first as that was the bulk of what I checked out. The missions provided take place later in the game to give you a feel of some of the different abilities you can use in combat. There are four missions and you can only move onto the later missions once you complete the earlier ones, so the progression is that of a normal game and the missions follow each other, as opposed to having four random missions that take place at different parts of the game.
The only goal in the missions is to clear out all of the enemies, but that is sometimes easier said than done. While the first couple of missions really don’t pose too many problems if you utilize your skills properly, you’ll soon notice that while you can see all of the stage at any time you wish, your view of enemies is pretty much “tunnel vision”, meaning you can only see an enemy if he could do so in a realistic setting…mostly. This isn’t too bad in the early going, but I found out just how annoying it can be in Mission 3. Late into the mission there are a couple of enemies that you can see behind cover that in normal tunnel vision you probably wouldn’t be able to. You clear them out and think it’s all over, but then you take two steps and suddenly three more enemies seemingly pop out of nowhere. Prior to that I thought I was in the clear, a good thing because one of my two characters had died and the other had minimal energy left. Needless to say that a one-on-three situation is not a good one and I didn’t last long.
You control two characters who get up to two actions each on their turns. Since this is based off of a pen-and-paper game the turns work similarly. If you wish to move, do so first as a lot of skills and attacks end your turn. There are two ranges you can move and depending on how far you wish to move you’ll use up one or both actions (similar to Dungeons and Dragons where you can move up to twice your speed but it uses up your action for the turn). Once you’re in position you can end your turn with a skill, typically an attack. Your attacks range from ranged attacks, melee attacks, and even a few magic attacks. Keep in mind that when using ranged weapons that require you to reload them, reloading takes up an action. If you’ve played pen-and-paper games this should all be very familiar to you.
So those are the basics of the game as of the current Early Access build. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about a few things that bothered me. Most of my issues with the current build can all be summed up in one major issue: the current build is incredibly short. For starters there is no character building or customization in the current build. The skills they give you for the four missions are what you’re stuck with. For a game styled after a pen-and-paper RPG it would have been nice to at least give you some skill points or something to practice building a character. I’m really surprised that’s not in the current build. It’s also worth noting that there are also no items or guilds in this build, though the latter make sense since there are only four missions.
There is a matchmaking option for multiplayer. I mean it is called Shadowrun Online for a reason, right? Well sadly I can’t really report on the matchmaking because I have yet to be able to get into a match to see what it’s like. On the main title screen you can choose from any of the four missions you have unlocked or you can start Matchmaking. After a while of waiting it’ll automatically abort the process, but one time it did say Match Found, but nothing more happened and it aborted the process anyway. I tried multiple times and never got into a match. Either no one else was online when I was or there’s an issue with it, and I’ve tried at a couple different times of the day.
That’s all there is to it as of the time I’m writing this (May 11th). While I’ve never played the Shadowrun tabletop game, I’m no stranger to those kinds of games as I have dabbled in Dungeons & Dragons in the past. That being said, D&D was most fun for me when the challenges were balanced. The enemies weren’t too tough or too numerous. If there were only two or three PCs then you might have a similar number of enemies to deal with at your level, or maybe a couple more enemies at a lower level than you or a single high-powered enemy. Here it felt a little unbalanced. Now granted I’m kind of new to Shadowrun so maybe past games were similar in structure. It just felt like you get out of one battle and almost get immediately thrown into another. However, I can get past all of that if they at least let you explore a bit of the character customization. Maybe if they gave you a couple of skill points to try out different skills instead of the ones they decide on for you it would have made things a bit better. Fans of Shadowrun will likely enjoy Shadowrun Online when the full game comes out, but if you're like me and have little experience with the series, the current Early Access build might not get you into it.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.