I’ve been waiting for this to launch for months now. I’ve replayed Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall. I’ve brushed up on my cyberpunk style. Now it has finally come out. Shadowrun: Hong Kong released a few hours ago and I’ve only just managed to hop on, being in a Cyberpunk 2020 pen and paper session for most of the evening. I will not be giving any spoilers and I will not have an in-depth knowledge of the game just yet, only having played a few hours into it. What I can offer though are my first thoughts.
So, what is Shadowrun: Hong Kong? It’s the third game in a series by Harebrained Schemes, though it is not directly linked to the previous two, just as Dragonfall was not a sequel to the Dead Man’s Switch story in Shadowrun Returns. It is a totally stand-alone cRPG set in Hong Kong. It’s top down and set in the Shadowrun universe, cyberpunk with traditional fantasy elements, such as magic, elves, dragons etc. For a combination that does not sound as if it would work, it’s a pretty solid formula. So, I hopped into the character creator and had a bit of a play.
First thing I noticed was a small, personal thing: there’s a very corporate looking elf portrait which made me cheer and instantly know which one I was going with. My first playthrough is going to be a port of my own character, Renée Laurent, into the Shadowrun universe, so having a corporate looking elf portrait is just something that I really like. Give her a pair of pointy ears, change a few details in her background and she’s basically ported. Done.
Second thing I noticed was the general quality of the new portraits. The older portraits from Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall are still there, but the new portraits up the ante yet again. The portraits in Shadowrun Returns were decent enough, then Dragonfall stepped it up and gave us some cleaner, nicer looking portraits. Now that Hong Kong is here, we’ve been given another set of excellent portraits that just raise the bar once again. Personally, I really love a lot of the new portraits (trolls and orc dudes / dudettes don’t look particularly ugly either) and will certainly be using the new pictures in my playthroughs of Hong Kong.
Third: the music. The music in the Shadowrun games by Harebrained Schemes has always been solid and so far, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is keeping the standards as high as I would expect. The music is definitely solid in this and, combined with the art book, makes me very, very pleased that I pre-ordered the deluxe version. I have not heard a large number of tracks so far, as I am not far into the game at all, but so far I am not disappointed.
The combat is definitely solid, though if I were to be picky there is not that much that is new. Dragon lines have replaced ley lines, though I am still unsure of exactly what differences there are. There most certainly are differences as one gave my shaman health regen after casting some spells, which was nice, but I have no idea why. Also, it appears that losing control of elementals isn’t a massive pain in the backside any more, meaning I may actually play a player-character shaman, as it seemed like my water elemental just disappeared after a few turns; it should also be mentioned that I did not have to choose how many AP to give it, having a constant 4 AP until it vanished. Whether or not this is a good thing I will leave up to the veteran shaman players as I never gave it much thought in the previous games myself. Gun play, melee and spells all seem to work the same, cover is still super-important, flanking is a good way to put your enemies in the ground and armour is incredibly useful, though this was all true in Dragonfall as well. The animations in combat are smoother and seem more real than before, where the animations used to be a little clunky and robotic the new animations seem to flow quite naturally.
My main criticism is tiny and easily fixable. Starting armour is horrible. I will be buying new clothes as soon as I can because I hate the starting armour. If you’re playing a Lone Star rent-a-cop or some kind of contractor who would wear such armour, then it’s great. However, I’m playing a very corporate, private investigator style of character who I’d much rather be in at least a long leather coat like the previous games’ starting armour. Small, easily dealt with gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.
I will write more once I have gotten further into the game. There are a few things that I really want to try out, for example the supposedly revamped matrix experience as I always seem to play a decker, as well as the new cyberware options. Body is no longer just an arbitrary health statistic, there’s a cyberware skill tied to it now! Super excited to dive further in, but it’s 2:40am in the UK and I definitely need to sleep. At least being a teacher gives me stupid amounts of holiday!