Shadowrun Returns Review: Digital Running As Good As The Tabletop

There are two types of people who will be buying this game: those who have played Shadowrun and want more and those who have not but love these types of games.

Focusing on those two types of potential buyers, Shadowrun Returns has a lot going for it. For the tabletop’s fanbase it has a highly accurate representation of the long-running RPG. Genre fans will find a highly customize experience that offers a bunch of gameplay options in an exciting sci-fi world. For $19.99, you’ll be hard pressed to find something similiar with this much to offer.


For The ‘Runners

So you know what a Street Samurai is? Do you have a mental database of what kind of cyber implants you normally take during character creation? If I said “my last character was a human Decker”, would you know what I was talking about or did you think I worked for Double Decker selling inside-out pizzas?

If you’re a fan of Shadowrun, the tabletop game, then you’ve most likely been waiting for Shadowrun Returns since the Kickstarter opened up. You want some raw, close-to-the-source corporate espionage and classic shadowrunning in a digital format. You want to be able to craft a story and throw it out there for Runners across the net.

Shadowrun Returns is all that and then some. Hairbrained Schemes did a fantastic job in recreating the environment, experience, combat, and systems. This game truly feels like Shadowrun in all its possible digital glory.

For those of you reading that like to play GM and create campaigns, you’ll find a robust system at the ready good enough to just about fully recreate the critically acclaimed Super Nintendo Shadowrun game. There are more and more tools, models, and props coming out for the campaign editor through the Steam Workshop, too.




For The Newcomers

Even if you have never played Shadowrun before, you’re in for a treat. This tactical RPG offers a ton for genre fans or those just interested in a new experience. As I said in the section above, Shadowrun Returns does a fantastic job recreating this beloved RPG into a digital version. For newcomers, the way the information of how Shadowrun works is conveyed very well and is easily understood.

The main game itself feels like a well polished tactical RPG and in that aspect, you don’t need a bunch of Shadowrun experience to play. The main places where Shadowrun systems are prominent is in character creation and weapon/skill proficiency. Aside from that, newcomers to the Shadowrun universe won’t have to worry about being overwhelmed by the source material.

Even the campaign editor is easy enough to use, if you have no prior experience using a system like this. It’s well rounded in features and offers a lot but it isn’t a chore to learn to use. Adding new tools, models, and props from the Workshop is very easy and eventually you’ll find yourself crafting a deep campaign that other players can download and play.


Dead Man’s Switch

Shadowrun Returns is banking a lot of its longevity on the campaign editor and whatever the players’ hearts can come up with. However, that doesn’t mean Hairbrained Schemes is going to launch Shadowrun Returns without some sort of studio created story or campaign.

The game comes with Dead Man’s Switch, a studio made campaign created to show off Shadowrun Returns in all its glory and to show Shadowrun fans that they’ve done everything they could to convey the RPG’s world and experience in a digital product.

In that aspect, Dead Man’s Switch does a wonderful job. It definitely feels like a solo player’s campaign in a Shadowrun world. This feels like a story a GM would come up with for me if I was the only player to show up for a gaming session.

Dead Man’s Switch does a lot right but it’s missing some key gameplay aspects. First off, you don’t have a real sense of choice in the campaign. There are plenty of  little choices that if you make one decision you could miss an item or a boost or something but there is nothing that changes the campaign due to something you do, say, kill, or show mercy to.

That’s a key thing in Shadowrun: choices. What you do during your runs can seriously come back to haunt you or may even present new job opportunities by being headhunted by a corporation you once stole from and now they want you for a job. That’s the world of Shadowrun! It’s a random, chaotic world built up and run by devious corporations and filled with desperate people trying to make a living.




The Future of Shadowrun

I read a review on another website that said that Shadowrun Returns is the first Kickstarter project that delivers. I have to disagree. There has been some great games that actually released that came from Kickstarter. FTL comes to mind pretty quickly. Still, Shadowrun Returns really shows us what kind of quality can come from a hard working studio that used crowd funding to get its product out.

When you look at how well Hairbrained Schemes used the source material to create a tactical RPG with an in-depth campaign editor using Kickstarter, it really should make everyone hopeful for what could come out of that site in the future.

The future of Shadowrun looks insanely bright. Shadowrun Returns will be in the limelight for quite some time thanks to the campaign editor. When you see the entire Super Nintendo game recreated in the Returns engine, the sky’s the limit right now. What’s next? What will the players come up with?

For now, I’d say the price of admission into Shadowrun Returns is well worth it. Dead Man’s Switch is a great intro campaign that really shows you what the game can do. The campaign editor is easy to use and has even more gameplay options than Dead Man’s Switch shows us. You’ll get more content and experiences out this twenty bucks than most of the recent releases in the long haul.


Whether you’re a fan of Shadowrun or not, you’ll find a worthwhile tactical RPG with a very in-depth campaign editor. Shadowrun Returns is an awesome representation of the source material which will also please fans.

Review Overview

Review Score - 9


Summary : Whether you're a fan of Shadowrun or not, Returns offers a ton of content and creation while staying true to the source material.

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