[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]ast month we posted a preview of Cliffhanger Productions Shadowrun Chronicles, highlighting the features present in the Steam Early Access. To get a little more about the foundation of the project, I was offered a play session with project lead Jan Wagner. Beginning in the Hub, Jan invites me to join his group to start a mission. We assemble the team, and it comes time for each of us to choose an AI companion for the run.
We get to the facility, and as Jan is hacking into a terminal to unlock a door to a room full of enemies, I begin to bombard him with questions about character development in the game. Shadowrun Chronicles focuses on tactical combat and story progression. The game does however allow players to customize their character with many features from appearance to clothing. We will not see character relationships evolve depending on player choice, so the game will steer towards the action, not the drama. With equip slots for primary and secondary weapons, a rig for hacking or deploying drones, and armor or suits, there are plenty of choices available when it comes to suit up.
After breaking into the room full of guards, the two of us take cover behind some benches and floor displays in the center of the room. Jan flawlessly takes out an enemy, and then it’s my turn. Scoping out the two guards at the northeast door of the room, I decide to toss a grenade to wipe them out. With absolute dead on accuracy, my character lobs the grenade three spaces over right onto Jan’s head, blowing up his character and nearly killing him. This not only compromised the whole mission, but it proves that character skill dictates the dexterity of combat techniques, such as throwing grenades and having them hit the square that you targeted. Interestingly enough, a moment like this was an example of what the developers were hoping would happen in the game. Much of the fun of co-op Shadowrun Chronicles comes from outrageous moments that occur during missions, creating tales we’ll tell for years to come. I myself will never forget the time I accidentally blew up my partner who happened to be one of the people developing the game. Embarrassment aside, we pressed on toward the objective.
When confronted with the question of the new Unity 5 Engine, a few examples were provided on why the developers didn’t use it. Shadowrun Chronicles was developed in Unity 4, even though the new iteration of the engine has been released, notably featuring PBR materials (Physically Based Rendering, where light bouncing off surfaces will be cast in realistic color and intensity). The team is more familiar with the version they’ve been using, and made a wise choice not to switch over to Unity 5 in its infancy, since there are still bugs and issues that come with new versions of any engine. There are a number of problems that could surface should they have switched, and would severely hinder the progress on the title, especially an online multiplayer (you online gamers get really angry when a game even hiccups).
Wrapping up the session with a couple of short missions, I couldn’t help but ask if Jan was a player of the tabletop Shadowrun, in which he replied he had been playing for a couple decades, and even has his own group. That important bit of info proved to me that this title is in good hands. I’ve never even touched the tabletop game, despite owning a couple books on decking from the 90’s player manuals. I began to wonder if there would be DLC for the game, and “Chronicles” in the name, how couldn’t there be? There’s a lot of story to tell, and with an addicting strategy-driven mission structure, those of us who thoroughly enjoy Shadowrun could blow through hundreds if not thousands of missions. The team has planned five major content updates, including a PVP update planned post-launch.
Shadowrun Chronicles has already proven that it can take the exciting tactical gameplay established by Harebrained Schemes in previous titles, and mix in multiplayer action and content to create an interesting take on the series. We can expect to see Boston evolve while we experience a network of well-written stories backed by solid combat mechanics (not as solid as my grenade skills however). Shadownrun Chronicles – Boston Lockdown is available now on Steam for $29.99 and it does not disappoint.