App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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What was old is new again. Thanks to popularization of crowd-funding services like Kickstarter, many forlorn, neglected, and abused franchises of yesteryear are receiving a new lease on life. One such series seeing a massive resurgence is the strategy RPG and table-top classic, Shadowrun, which finally found its way to iOS in the form of the newly released Shadowrun Returns. Can it somehow live up to the nostalgia laced, sky-high expectations of fans, or will it suffer the same fate as the attempted Xbox 360 reboot?
Looking back through the annals of history, the last time that a proper Shadowrun RPG was released, Sega was trying to hock the Sega CD. Thankfully, time has been kind to the genre, and the developer, Harebrained Schemes, has went to great lengths to assure that the title’s mechanics meet up with the expectations of a modern audience. The action itself plays out from a third-person, isometric view, akin to what would be found in most modern tactical RPGs, and is coupled with an extremely organic screen tapping control scheme.
Shadowrun Returns exists in a strangely futuristic cyberpunk world where orks, humans, and even elves co-exist, and magic spells could be just as useful as high-tech firearms. This compelling amalgamation sets the stage for a murder mystery investigation that propels the storyline into the vibrantly realized, yet admittedly seedy underbelly of Seattle. Even the art design elegantly manages to look highly polished and modern, yet still carries the grit of a city that’s best days have long since passed.
Be prepared to bust out the glasses, because the richly user-defined plot plays out entirely through interstitial text and dialog trees. Not that this is a bad thing by any means, it could just become a bit tiresome if the entire campaign were tackled in a single ten-to-twelve hour sitting. If there were one minor knock against the game, it would have to be the lack of camera control, especially when in combat. The isometric perspective makes combatant positioning troublesome because it is impossible to determine if enemies will be within line of sight for attack, before executing a troop movement.
Harebrained Schemes has done a fantastic job of exhuming the dated Shadowrun brand and morphing it into a form that an entirely new generation of gamers can enjoy. Everything about Shadowrun Returns, from the reasonably sized mission structure to the intuitive control mechanics, is a perfect fit for iOS. It is a pity that the game is currently iPad only, because everyone should get the opportunity to experience this gem.
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