In a world divided along social lines, corporate influence, resource wars, and new diseases that are plaguing humanity, the re-awakening of dragons leads only to more problems. With Metahumans (such as Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, Trolls) and magic commonplace in its near-future setting, Shadowrun combines elements of fantasy and science fiction to create a compelling foundation for a tabletop role-playing game, and now a turn-based combat RPG on computer.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong, created by Harebrained Schemes, is the sequel to Shadowrun: Returns and its expansion, Dragonfall. The production of these games was successfully funded through Kickstarter, with Hong Kong receiving $1.2m in February. Having played the original game I was eager to play this new story; by using their established engine and game mechanics with some tweaks, Harebrained could focus on a richer story and gameplay polish for this edition.
Before beginning the story, you need to create your character: choosing their sex, race, in-game portrait and model, and profession. Additionally, for specialisation you can invest a starting pool of karma, Shadowrun’s equivalent to skill points into your character’s attributes and skills. Additional karma is acquired during the game for completing tasks.
The story starts with your character being contacted by your foster father Raymond Black. Black requests your return to the independent city-state Hong Kong, long after you ran away to the United Canadian and American States’ city of Seattle. Meeting up with your fellow adoptee, Duncan, now a private cop, you travel to meet with Raymond, only to find a team of four shadowrunners – identity-less mercenaries hired by individuals or corporations for wet-work and corporate sabotage. Soon after, you fall victim to a police ambush that leaves three of your new compatriots dead, and Duncan and yourself labelled as terrorist at the centre of a manhunt. With no other option than to go SINless, your identities are wiped from all databases, leaving you with debts to criminal organisations. You must team up with the survivors of this shadowrunner group, pay your way and piece together the backroom dealing that has led you to this situation.
After this opening, you are left to pick and choose which jobs you take, which fellow shadowrunners you bring with you, and how to approach the situations you are presented with. The jobs that are offered hold a lot of variety and are often morally dubious, ranging from kidnapping, investigating murders and raiding archaeological dig sites, to missions as surprising as messing with a corporate headquarters’ Feng Shui.
Rather than leaving you with a binary choice between being stealthy or loud, you can often find an approach that blends stealth, talking and investigation, as well as turn based combat. All these mechanics have been polished and expanded as the series has continued. This all builds up to create interesting stories of your own choosing. Within this gameplay, hacking is more than just a skill-level or minigame, it instead requires a character to hack into the system and explore the matrix within as an electronic identity to unlock what the system holds and leads to an extra layer of gameplay.
The art-style and graphics of Shadowrun are similar to earlier combat RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Planetscape: Torment, and more recently the well received Pillars of Eternity. From an isometric view 3D sprites move around a pre-rendered maps, allowing for small, rich details to embellish the world, similar to a physical painting.
Role-playing games are often seen as highly replayable due to the many playstyles and solutions that can be chosen from, and Shadowrun: Hong Kong is certainly not lacking in this respect. However, for even more replayability, custom campaigns can be created and shared between players to further extend the large amount of content available for this gem of a game. If you are looking for a role-playing game that provides a vivid world, beautiful artstyle and challenging gameplay for you to explore and enjoy, I would look no further than Shadowrun: Hong Kong to satisfy your desire.