Shadowrun: Hong Kong Review

Posted Sep 15, 2015
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  • Developer/Publisher: Harebrained Schemes/ Harebrained Holdings
  • Platforms: PC (Steam – $/€ 19.99)
  • PC (Steam) copy reviewed. Review copy provided by Harebrained Schemes.

Welcome to Hong Kong, 2056, where you’ll be returning to seek out a dear old friend that was abandoned so long ago in your pursuit of a far reaching career. But family, as they say, is indeed important. The cyberpunk atmosphere is very strong here, with a strong fantasy component that newcomers to the series might not necessarily be ready for.

It’s a very interesting and coherent story, however, with plenty of explanation for all of the specific lore and the mythos you might not have played in the other Shadowrun games. The beginning is at once a tutorial for the turn-based mechanics as it is a primer for the chaos that’s about to consume a few days of your life. And trust me, so long as you sit back and prepare for a wild ride, you’ll be very grateful you did.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong, an exercise in patience that just might pay off in spades.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong is very much an RPG as much as it’s a turn-based combat game. Isometric, text heavy and filled with interesting characters and despots that all want to kill you. It’s a fun premise on the surface, weaving a glorious story that takes you on an adventure of a lifetime. Your foster father disappears after sending a message that you have to come meet him. The circumstances are mysterious, and the plot becomes even thicker once you arrive. Your brother, Duncan, meets you at the docks, eager to find your father, but also eager to slam you with 15 pages of text explaining the backstory and helping to orient you to the surroundings.

Quite frankly the entire game seems more suited to be in some other sort of literary form, say a book. The writing itself is expertly done, the dialogue well thought out, but in perhaps a different medium would it thrive even more than it does here. It drags on. And on, and on, and on for what seems like an eternity. This is most definitely a text based game that describes every little detail to you. It isn’t necessarily a terrible trait by any means, but just be prepared to take a lot of time, even if you’re a fast reader, either clicking through the dialogue haphazardly or actually delving into it.

Along your path you’ll have be delighted with challenges and instances of magic that are certainly at home in the atmosphere, almost reminiscent of real-life Asian mysticism. It embraces that culture to a point of being almost terrifyingly silly, sometimes a bit childish. But it still has a charm all of its own hidden underneath. A surprisingly bustling and energetic, if desolate Hong Kong awaits you to explore it.

It’s the plot and the story that really draw you in and help you to enjoy it. The epic, chosen-one esque storyline fits well here, as you’re thrust into the role unwillingly, following the lead of your friends and newly met colleagues along the way to try to uncover a vast mystery as well as avoid getting captured now that you’re a fugitive.

The previous Shadowrun games seemed to guide you along the objectives, almost holding your hand and presenting a mostly linear type gameplay. Shadowrun: Hong Kong gives back the player their freedom, only forcing you into the beginning mission and the ending. The rest, is up to you. And there are a lot of different side missions and different jobs you can take up to make your characters better for the final confrontation. The problem is that it doesn’t feel like a coherent part of the whole. Those side missions and different quests don’t necessarily have to do with the main story itself, and it can feel very aimless a lot of the time. And the pace can be downright achingly slow. Combat itself is not a quick thing, you won’t be winning any prizes for taking out enemies quickly. In fact, one of the first combat sequences sees you barely able to hit the enemy without struggling to not die. The battles themselves are an exercise in patience. That action, though, is still varied enough from one sequence to another to be quite exciting.

And despite the copious amounts of well-written dialogue, it still doesn’t feel nearly as deep as past Shadowrun games. The characters are far from forgettable, though they aren’t nearly as well developed as you’d like. The pages upon pages of interactions only go so far into giving insight into the minds of of our protagonists.

A better isometric CRPG than most.

Regardless of what might seem to be a relatively short main story with an emphasis on the middle portion of the game for fun, it still shines through as a great isometric CRPG. The novel use of abilities that have real and a significant impact on the action is just brilliant. The best part is that you can use decking (a hacking mechanism) works well. You can avoid a lot of conflict by that pseudo cyber-punk hacking technique.

The story might be convoluted at times, but it’s still polished and rather enjoyable to read through. The combat mechanics are also much refined over the past, making Shadowrun a fantastic game in it’s own right. Just be aware of the slow, self-starting pace and having to read a novel or two.

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