As a tabletop gamer, I absolutely love the attention that Shadowrun has gotten in recent years. The franchise might not be as widely-known as Dungeons and Dragons, but its blend of cyberpunk and contemporary fantasy is ripe for exploration in games and other media. Harebrained Schemes’ revival of the series is one of the best RPGs in recent memory, a fantastic combination of choice-driven storytelling and tactical combat coupled with a robust game editor that has provided fans with endless hours of enjoyment. Now Cliffhanger Productions, the Austrian studio behind the frenetic turn-based strategy game AERENA, is offering their own take on the universe, and the project is nothing if not ambitious.
Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown is a cooperative multiplayer strategy game that focuses on the challenges of commanding a group of Shadowrunners. The game lets you create your own runner and build him or her in any way you see fit. Want to be a trollish decker with a knack for picking locks or an elven street samurai who runs around in flip flops? The range of possibilities is vast, and it grows with each update. Once you’ve built a runner to your liking, you can hire a crew of mercenaries and head out on a mission.
If you’ve played XCOM then Shadowrun Chronicles’ combat system will be instantly familiar to you. You’ll maneuver your squad through derelict urban environments, takin potshots at vaguely humanoid foes and setting up ambushes to catch them off guard. Taking cover and flanking enemies is absolutely vital, since a few shots are enough to put down almost anyone. When your squadmates die they’re gone for good, so it pays to be cautious.
But then this is a Shadowrun game, and you have more than just guns at your disposal. You can summon spirits to fight your battles for you or take foes out with an array of powerful spells, or you can fight with remote-control drones and high-tech gadgets. If you have the right skillset, computers can be hacked to disable security and open doors, and some walls can be demolished to create a new angle of attack. You also don’t have to go it alone – your friends can join you for any mission, and it’s a lot of fun to coordinate assaults with other players instead of micromanaging individual soldiers.
You can tell that Cliffhanger Productions has a passion for their source material, as everything from the game’s art direction to its writing stays true to the spirit of Shadowrun. Dialogue is witty and tinged with dark humor, and though the character models are a little cartoony, their designs could be ripped straight from a campaign book. On the whole I’d say chronicles is a bit goofier than Shadowrun Returns or Dragonfall, but in a universe where a dragon ran for president once that’s not really a bad thing. Between this game and Hong Kong, it’s a good time to be a runner.