Having a story of leaving most RPGs unfinished or in a cycle of endlessly creating new characters until I find something I can stick with, I didn’t have any idea of why I was jumping into Shadowrun: Hong Kong. To be fair after Deus Ex there was a hole in my soul reserved for Cyberpunk games, so I guess that may be a reason. Either way, one week after getting the game, I have finished it, without restarting characters, and I got a lot of good things to say about this game.
The game is the third in the Shadowrun CRPG series, that started with Returns and continued with the Dragonfall expansion, fortunately this is a standalone release, which means you can jump in without playing the first two games.
You travel to Hong Kong to meet with your foster father, but let’s just say things go wrong, the police is hunting you and your adoptive brother, and now you’re off the system, performing jobs for a triad boss while trying to figure out what happened to your father and why everyone is having nightmares about the poverty-stricken Walled City that just happens to be right next to the town you’re staying in.
Like in most RPGs, you create a character, choosing a gender, a race and a class. You can choose one of five races: Human, elf, dwarf, orc, troll. As well as six classes: Street Samurai, who specializes in close or ranged combat with a variety of weapons. Mage, who specializes in a variety of offensive and support spells. Decker, who specializes in accessing the in-game matrix. Shaman, who focuses on summoning spirits to help in combat. Rigger, who uses drones both to attack and give him support. And the physical adept, who uses a variety of spells to enhance his abilities. However, you can also create your own class and distribute every stat yourself.
Along with that, there’s an “Etiquette”, that you pick at the end of character creation, this will give you additional dialogue options with certain kinds of people depending on what you picked, for example, Gang etiquette may allow you to avoid combat with a group of street thugs, or a “Corporate” etiquette may allow you to talk your way into a restricted area of a building.
The character I made was a male elf street samurai who specialized on ranged combat with rifles, with a Shadowrunner etiquette.
There’s a hub town where you hang out between missions, you can visit shops to buy gear and items, or interact with various NPCs, in this hub town there’s also a safe house, where you can store items, interact with your crew members to know their backstory better or accept new missions from your computer.
During missions, you can take up to three crew members, or you can hire a mercenary if you want (I managed to beat the game without one though). Missions can go from solving murders or raiding tombs, to corporate sabotage and espionage in the upper classes.
Some missions may follow a linear path, while others will require you to explore and talk with people, sometimes you will come across a terminal that will allow a Decker to jack into the matrix, inside the matrix, you can find information or data that might help you with the mission, while fighting enemy ICs or Deckers, however as you get into combat, you slowly gain System Trace points, if the bar at the bottom-left of your screen is filled, there will be an alert status and you will be swarmed by hostile ICs. You can also perform a hacking minigame in order to gain access to some terminals inside the matrix, you can also just force your way in, in exchange for 50 system trace points.
When talking with people, you can also perform additional actions or dialogue options depending on your stats or skills, for example, a high level in strength will allow you to intimidate someone into giving you information, or a good charisma stat will allow you to talk your way into a restricted area.
Combat is turn-based, where the actions your characters can do are determined by a number of Action Points, you can change between weapons freely at no cost, and ammunition is unlimited, but you need to reload once you run out. Of course this doesn’t apply to melee weapons. Some abilities and spells also have a cooldown before they can be used again.
Shamans can summon spirits to assist you in battle, and you can assign them a certain number of AP to use every turn, however, the longer they are on the field, and the more AP you give to them, the higher the chance of them turning on you or escaping. They can also do other spells, like an AoE poison smoke, or a heavy cover barrier that damages anyone who crosses it.
There’s also a cover system, which you will certainly need to make use of if you want to avoid having your HP drained down quickly, there’s two kinds of cover, light and heavy, naturally heavy cover offers the most protection.There’s also a critical chance system, which determines the chance of you getting a critical hit. Finally, friendly fire is also in the game, so you need to be careful and think twice before you throw that grenade.
Now let’s talk about something else: The music. Music has always been one of my favorite parts about games, and Shadowrun: Hong Kong delivers in that aspect.
Every track blends in perfectly with what’s happening on the screen, and fits pretty well with the style of the game, especially the tracks used during combat, which while being subtle, you can still notice them and enjoy them.
The levels are beautiful too, you will see from the poorest slums of Hong Kong to the most secretive corporate offices, each made with their own little details.
Now we should talk about the difficulty of the game, the game isn’t crushingly hard, but it’s not a cakewalk, you will be fine if you manage your team well during combat and get everyone behind cover or in a position that makes them hard to get hit. Some parts that one would imagine to be hard may be underwhelming, and during the whole campaign there was only a part where I got a bit “stuck”. One could argue that the game may be easy, but I played on Normal and will replay on Hard later, after that play through maybe I’ll update the review and give you final insight into the difficulty.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong is a pretty good choice if you’re looking for your Cyberpunk fix, being standalone and independent from the first two releases (Returns and Dragonfall), makes it accessible too. Combat feels fluid and fun to do, both the music and the artistic design of the levels are great, and it even comes with an Editor that allows you to make your own campaigns (Maybe I’ll use it since my life goal is to be a game developer).
In the end, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is a good game, worth your time, right now it’s exclusive to Windows/Mac/Linux, but the game won’t push your hardware to the limit so you shouldn’t have any problems.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to get into the Tabletop game this is based on.