Shadowrun Returns Review: Cyberpunk Done Right

shadowrun returns logo

shadowrun returns logo

Shadowrun Returns is at both times a love letter to RPGs of the past and a faithful follow-up to the classic SNES and pen-and-paper Shadowrun entries. Fans of the franchise and newcomers alike will find that the well-realized cyberpunk setting and expertly written dialogue provide for an immersive role-playing experience that genuinely feels like you are playing a role within the game.

Shadowrun Returns excels in a number of places, specifically the game’s story-driven focus and deep character dialogue that drive the narrative. Player’s experience the story through speaking with the various characters they encounter as well as environmental interaction. Thankfully, virtually every NPC you interact with has a bevy of dialogue and your character is provided with numerous ways to respond and direct further conversation.

Much of Shadowrun Returns’ story is focused on your character, a washed up and penniless shadowrunner, and his journey to gather information about his friend’s killer. The hunt to avenge your friend has players scouring through Shadowrun’s futuristic Seattle and dealing with its oftentimes seedy underbelly. The cyberpunk setting featured in Shadowrun fits the game’s story perfectly. In a world where magic and elves are as normal to see as cybernetic implants, the noir/sci-fi feel of the game is completely natural.


Creating your character in Shadowrun Returns is the first step in being drawn into the game’s rich world. Race options and character classes are plentiful, as well as customization choices for your avatar. The playable classes are varied; mages, street samurai, and even shaman are just the tip of the iceberg. Upon selecting a race and class, the ability to customize your skills and ability comes next. Thanks largely in part to the game’s karma points – which are essentially rewards for completing various missions – players are able to finely tune their character’s abilities.

Putting your character’s skills to the test in combat is a blast. Shadowrun’s turn-based system seems to draw heavy inspiration from XCOM, units move within the combat zone and can take cover behind various environmental objects for cover. Moving within the battlefield consumes Action Points, as does attacking and using various skills. Cover is often the key to survival during combat, which thankfully, is readily available.

Balancing movement, taking cover, and troop placement allows for some fairly deep strategy within Shadowrun’s relatively simplistic combat system. When attacking, players see the percent chance of scoring both a normal and critical hit. Hiding behind cover may ensure that you are safe from enemy fire, but also may mean your attacks will miss as well.


While exploring the world and story of Shadowrun Returns is an interesting and enjoyable experience, the game does suffer from a few faults. The lack of a manual saving system is the most apparent of Shadowrun’s faults. Exiting the game without moving to a new area and then loading a save puts the player all the way back to the beginning of the scene. This may cause players to have to replay certain parts of the game over if they are not cautious. While you will never be set too far back, this can lead to some frustrating moments.

The UI in Shadowrun Returns is lacking. Perhaps largely in part to it containing large sections of unused space, navigating through the menu tends to leave a lot to be desired when interacting with the UI.

These complaints are nothing but minor inconveniences, however. All in all, Shadowrun Returns is an excellent RPG experience. The game’s campaign is a tad on the short side, and while it left me wanting more of the excellent world and writing found throughout Shadowrun, having a shorter campaign made it easy to delve right into the game without the huge time commitment that often comes with RPGs. Additional content is planned for Shadowrun, which will allow those who are left looking for more an chance to dive right back into one of gaming’s best cyberpunk worlds.

Shadowrun Returns is certainly worth the cost of admission. Fans of classic RPGs are sure to find lots to love within the game, largely in part to the tremendous writing and lore. The combat shines for those interested in an accessible, yet potentially deep strategic battle. Do yourself a favor and strap on your cybernetic implants, Shadowrun Returns is going to pull you right in.

[schema type=”review” url=”” name=”Shadowrun Returns | Review Summary” description=”The Awesome: Awesome dialogue, Great turn-based combat, Immersive cyberpunk setting | The Not So Awesome: Lackluster UI, No manual save option” rev_name=”Shadowrun Returns” rev_body=”Shadowrun Returns is a exciting, story-driven RPG featuring tightly written dialogue and an easy to learn combat system. Fans of classic RPGs, as well as genre newcomers, will find lots to love with this cyberpunk romp.” author=”Ray Porreca” pubdate=”2013-07-31″ user_review=”8″ min_review=”0″ max_review=”10″ ]

The reviewer received a copy of Shadowruns Returns for the PC courtesy of the developers for the purpose of reviewing the game.

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Raymond Porreca

The author Raymond Porreca

Raised on classic role-playing games, Ray’s eternal quest for the next great game has led to him playing everything he can get his hands on. With a passion for every facet of the video game industry, Ray aims to keep readers informed and entertained with every word he writes.