Review: Shadowrun Returns

Shadowrun Returns Title

Hairbrained Schemes vision of Shadowrun Returns rings true to the source material. It does it so well in fact, I researched further to understand how they were able to do such a great job! I discovered that Jordan Weisman, the creator of Shadowrun, was also the lead designer for Shadowrun Returns.  Fantastic! This is the definitive Shadowrun experience.

30 Second Review

+ Immersive story telling.

+ Turn based cover combat system similar to XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

+ The in game music and textures really set the mood and atmosphere.

– The game design of Shadowrun Returns is fairly linear.

– No tutorial, but it is similar to other turn based strategy games of this genre.

Gamer Humor

This is your Dead Man’s Switch loft…


The future world of Shadowrun is a very dystopian corporate run world. Magic has reawakened.  Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, and Orcs have also reappeared.  Shadowrun Returns has such an immersive story along with excellent character development.  Surprisingly, even the vendors have well written dialogue.  It really captures that descriptive feel you would get from reading the source material. Most conversations have multiple dialogue options. Some dialogue choices require you to have a stat prerequisite to unlock them.  Others can be unlocked by being trained in a specific style of dialogue etiquette.  The effort placed into Shadowrun Returns is very appreciated.

I’m going to briefly mention the plot lines to both Dead Man’s Switch and DragonfallDead Man’s Switch is the campaign that comes with the base game.  Dragonfall is the newest DLC that was recently released.

Dead Man’s Switch

The campaign opens up in a loft, and by the looks of it, these are hard times that you’ve fallen on.  You receive a notification alert on your computer.  It’s from an old partner by the name of Sam Watts, but it turns out that this is no ordinary communication.  It’s a prerecorded message; Sam Watts is dead.  He had a dead man’s switch placed inside of his cranium.  It was activated once his heart stopped beating.

He’s come to terms with the fact that he was a degenerate living a troublesome lifestyle.  He’s accepted the fact that most likely no one will miss him because of this.  He wants someone to care about the fact that he existed.  He understands that he has no friends to turn to, but he hopes he can count on you for one final request. Find out who murdered him and bring them to justice or kill them.  Either is fine for Sam.  He knows that most likely you won’t be motivated to do this out of generosity. He’s offered to pay you $100,000 nuyen once you’ve completed the task.


You’ve recently arrived in the free state of Berlin.  You’ve gotten work with a rag tag team lead by Monica Schafer.  The team is raiding the Data Vault at Harfeld Mansion, which is located just outside of Berlin.  The raid is supposed to be a simple operation: get in, get the data plans, and get out.

The mission doesn’t go according to plan; in fact it goes terribly wrong.  The team uncovers a military installation below the manor instead of a Data Vault.  It becomes a fight for survival that will take all of your skill just to escape! You know this was a set up; you don’t know who it was or why they did it. Now you must uncover the truth.

Say hello to Voshka!

Say hello to Voshka!

Roleplay & Combat

There are light appearance customization elements to choose from when creating your character.  You will have a stats page that allows you to allocate points into attributes.  Your skill tree gives you the freedom to design your character however you want to regardless of what profession you chose. Creating characters is a nice and enjoyable experience that doesn’t feel like a chore.

So much attention was paid to the story of Shadowrun Returns that the combat system feels like an afterthought.   It’s not to say the system is bad; it is a solid system, but it’s not exactly represented the best way it could have been either.  The system is similar to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, though that game did it better.

Shadowrun Returns features a fixed camera position.  Most games allow you to have a bit more freedom with the camera angles.  Since it is designed with this fixed position in mind, you’re never left feeling like a point of interest is blocked from view.  This is especially important while in combat.

Seamstress Union, interesting name for a dive bar.

Seamstress Union, interesting name for a dive bar.


I didn’t start playing Shadowrun Returns till after the release of Dragonfall.  You can start playing the game from this campaign.  Both campaigns have about a 10 to 15 hour play through experience.  Even though there wasn’t a tutorial, I didn’t need it, because it is reminiscent of other games within this genre.  The game does have a detailed help menu. You can save multiple game files, and each one has its own independent Auto Save. That’s a really nice feature, which I wish more games would include!  Steam Workshop is supported, and there is a Shadowrun Returns Editor.  The editor has a steep learning curve, and I wouldn’t classify it as user friendly. Don’t go into the editor with the expectation that you’ll be able to create your own content right away.

I had a lot of fun and took a little trip down memory lane from my table top days while playing Shadowrun Returns.  I am excited to see what additional DLC’s they release, and I am definitely interested to see what user created content will be made.  This has excellent potential, and we’ll just has to see where the game takes us! Shadowrun Returns scores an 8.5 out of 10.

[starreview tpl=14]