Title: Shadowrun – Hong Kong
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux, Steam

Reviewed on: Windows

Genre: RPG
Players: Single player
 


Written by Whistler 24th  August 2015

















It’s no mystery that I adore Harebrained Scheme’s Shadowrun series, based on a tabletop roleplaying game set in the future with heavy cyberpunk themes weaved intricately with fantasy and corporate espionage. This humble turn-based RPG trilogy of stand-alone titles are my go to for fantastic story melded with solid gameplay and immersive worlds.


This year’s immersive world of choice is the sprawling corporate city of Hong Kong; the year is 2056 and out of the blue your receive a desperate sounding call for help from your foster father Raymond along with enough money to meet up with him in order to ‘finish something he started’.

Before you have even become accustomed with the area everything goes wrong, Raymond is nowhere to be found then you and your foster brother Duncan are forced to go into the shadows after the Hong Kong Police Department attempt to frag both of you and the mercenaries Raymond hired.

In light of being falsely branded a terrorist you now turn to the path of the shadowrunner handling jobs for the local triad while you work together to uncover a bigger plot afoot.

























Once again Harebrained Scheme’s have crafted an excellent story that is both gripping and excellently written, however I will say it doesn’t quite live up to expectations that were set so high after Dragonfall.

Now I’ll concede that it might purely be preference of setting as the Flux State of Berlin just had me so enthralled so raising the bar past what it already was would be no small feat. That’s not to say that Hong Kong’s world isn’t engrossing; the setting is top notch with serene corporate temples, dreary slums and makeshift city streets that feel true to both source material and the region.

The Asian influences in both art style and design feel authentic blending masterfully to create a truly cyberpunk environment faithful to a Chinese setting.


Throughout your playthrough you’ll come across a colourful cast of character from rat shaman orks, dwarven computer hackers to corporate vampires and undead samurai. The overall roster of characters you’ll meet paints a plethora of uncannily believable scenarios and dialogues. However your Hong Kong crew just doesn’t feel as interesting; perhaps I just preferred the guys back in Berlin but I just didn’t care much for my party’s backstories. That being said I did enjoy that the crew feels more involved with the story and interactions between each other feel more varied.


Shadowrun’s gameplay remains largely unchanged, exploration is handled in real time and combat shifts into a turn based formula. There are subtle changes such as being able to enter combat mode should you be able to see enemies on screen allowing you to coordinate your team and even set up potential ambushes more efficiently before engaging.

























What has seen a major overhaul is the Matrix system,

for anyone not savvy with terms in the Shadowrun universe the Decker is a techie class capable of hacking

into security mainframes and terminals all in real time allowing the player to turn security drones against their masters, bypass locked areas or even dig up some paydata to be sold later on.

Dotted around each area you’ll likely come across jack in connections such as on computer terminals where your Decker can access the area’s Matrix.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong utilizes a pseudo-stealth approach, allowing the player to avoid unnecessary combat by avoiding the sightlines of virtual patrols adding to the overall experience that drives home the adrenaline rush of dodging past firewalls and security protocols to achieve your goals.


However I feel the Matrix this time around was sorely in need of a small tutorial, it didn’t take me too long to get to grips with the changes but it’s understandable to see why others haven’t adjusted nearly as well.

Throughout the cyber space you’ll need to bypass IC Blockers, firewalls that require you to ascertain their randomized six character codes within an allotted time before being shut out. In order to figure these out you first need to play a memory game where you follow code inputs on a 9 digit pad; each successful combination will light up one of the seven nodes.

So long as you have one node you can take a shot at guessing the IC Blocker’s code, depending on how many nodes unlocked characters will briefly appear in the top screen where you then need to figure which of the ten character combinations are the correct one.

It takes a bit of adjustment but I personally love these changes, the hacking mini game and pseudo-stealth elements making decking all the more immersive and is a welcome change for those of us that adore the Decker class.

























When all is said and done Shadowrun: Hong Kong is an excellent addition to the series, however I feel more needs to be done for their next instalment. For example visually models still look underdeveloped, there are some improvements on certain character models but it makes HK feel more like a standalone expansion (an superb one at that) as opposed to a fully-fledged title.

I also feel that the freedom HK offers has a double edged side to it, while side missions have great stories on their own, the game seems to have an issue with tying it altogether.

For Shadowrun lovers there’s plenty here with a 12-16 hour campaign, refined mechanics and another great story to dive into, I just hope they’ll depart from the module-like delivery and opt for a fully-fledged sequel.



Pros:    

Superb text based storytelling,

Overhauled Matrix system,

Engrossing dialogue,

Great level design.


Cons:   

Much of the same as previous entries,

Simplistic character models,

Story and characters aren’t as strong as Dragonfall.


Final verdict,

Shadowrun: Hong Kong jacks in with an 8/10.


Written by,

Whistler














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