Shadowrun has always been a franchise that I’ve admired and I loved the RPG elements with previous instalments, but this one doesn’t quite scratch my itch for a rich RPG. Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown is a tactical, cyberpunk RPG. You are drawn into a cyberpunk/futuristic world where Orcs, Trolls, Elves and Humans all live together. You start the game by creating a character which has a boat load of options, I mean, honestly, this could have been the whole game, just making characters and then just managing characters on bounty missions or something like that, but as I said, there is a lot of options to choose from. I personally like the long coats, which I remember seeing characters from previous games wearing, but if you were so inclined, you could have a Red Sox baseball cap, a tattoo on your face, blue hair and knee high boots (kinky).
Unfortunately, once the game actually gets going, it doesn’t really ever get going. The basic premise is that you talk to a guy, he gives you a mission, you get get in a cab and then you attempt said mission. I love the idea that I can play the missions with a friend co-operatively, but the campaign is identical to single player. And if you are like me and don’t have a friend in the world, then you get lumped with having to control another random character, who doesn’t level up or gain any attributes, they are what we would call “meat shields”. There is no penalty for your extra guy being killed off, but I believe it means you won’t be able to choose them for the next mission.
Speaking of levelling up, I just don’t understand the experience. You have a skill tree, which you can pick one of two branches (for each skill). Once you pick one, that is it, you are stuck with it. You cannot backtrack or change your skills, they are permanent. So, I specialised in organ harvesting, thinking it would be useful since most of my help for hire meat shields have at least demolishing or hacking as a skill, only to find that these skills offer very little in terms of reward for successful use. Yes, you can access new areas, and find some goodies, but most of the stuff you find is weaker than the gear you can buy (quite reasonably I might add) from the stores. So long as you keep progressing through the story missions at a decent pace, and buy new gear whenever possible, I’ve never found myself outclassed. You always have enough money to get whatever you want, within reason – and pick-ups along the way are just a useful way of getting extra cash.
Let me break this down for you: I have a ginger haired, human character that doesn’t specialise in any skills other than guns. Yes, I can’t access the hidden areas without assistance, which means if I play with someone else, I won’t loot anything, but that’s fine. My character has high accuracy and does reasonable damage, usually two shots to kill anything that moves, which is far better than Revolver Ocelot from Metal Gear Solid (6 bullets pfft!). I was advised against having my character build this way for the sole reason that I can’t hack, harvest or demolish. Boo fricken hoo! I don’t need to, which I guess means I missed out on parts of the game, but when I first made a character, I went for a hacker/harvester and guess what? He sucked balls. Seriously, he was awful. Could I shoot the guy 5 spaces away hiding behind a bin? No. I’d end up shooting off into space. What good are the skills if you can’t get far enough to use them? I guess one method would be to do what I did and level up proficiencies first and then maybe add a skill in? But by that point, you have cleared half of the game.
Yeah, this game really isn’t all that long, considering it has a network co-op function. You could probably grind it out in a day or two if you’re really hardcore, but most people who have played an RPG before could probably be done with this in a week. The main hub where all of the main story takes place is the bare minimum expected, you have the stores, a place where people gather and the people that dole out missions. Whilst the surroundings look pretty good, it really doesn’t make me think of Boston. It could quite easily be Dudley in the UK, or any other neon lit, back alley.
The hub itself is cluttered with other players making you feel like you just created a new WoW character. This would be fine, but it really doesn’t serve any purpose but to have an avatar for when you are interacting with people, which is limited to text chat. No emocons or funky animations, no-one break dancing for the hell of it, nothing.
I’ll be perfectly honest, the game took me a while to get into, because it’s pretty lackadaisical in every aspect, no branching dialogue, side missions appear, but not frequently until you’ve reached a certain part of the game, and the story, whilst it is a Shadowrun story, isn’t very engrossing. The one thing that bothers me more than anything is that everyone talks about how shadowrunners are supposed to be hard to come by and that whilst more people are taking it up, it’s why they hired you, but you have thousands of shadowrunners all in one place? This is probably the one game I wouldn’t have needed network play to be included. Having all these shadowrunners around basically just contradicts the lore of the game.
Getting back to the review, the one saving grace was the combat. Thank god the main aspect of the game is good, because whilst I seem like I’m being picky (where you can see I’m clearly not). all these smaller aspects build up the overall experience and it makes the good combat in the game come across as a little token. It’s not the best combat of this style I’ve seen, I much prefer X-COM but you know what? I’ll take it. It’s tactical, turn based combat, back from the dead. Until X-COM, I thought the genre had died with the 16 bit era, but hell, I can be proved wrong too y’know.
You remember I said this game has network play? Well, trying to work together with others is not one of my key strengths, and having someone type to me to move to an area where I’m basically being used as a shield is not my idea of co-operation. I much prefer taking control of the additional generic help for hire guys, rather than chance my survival on someone who wants to loot and run to the exit. I need my fix of kills, and I don’t like sharing.
All in all, Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown falls short in many areas, but the combat is where it picks up. I’d recommend it only, that’s not what I’m going to do. It’s okay if you can look past it’s bland, repetitive nature.
Lead your team of Runners to survive a corrupt mega corporation’s intrigue threatening thousands of lives in this new action-strategy game set in the most popular cyberpunk universe of all times – Shadowrun.
Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown is on sale now for $14.99 on Steam!
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Ryan Griffiths is a British gamer, known as a bit of a lone wolf. Retro games are his passion, with newer releases not living up to his expectations. Of course there are exceptions to the rule when it comes to Dynasty Warriors & Total War games.