The neon-coated urban sprawl of Shadowrun Returns is a familiar one.
Lights flash, puddles reflect, eddies of wind blow chunks of tattered garbage into mini-twisters. Glowing banks of computer monitors are found in even the dirtiest hovel, and life is as cheap as a chunk of zebra meat or the latest BTL disc.
You stumble into this world as a not-quite fully formed character. A lump of pliable flesh with a sex, a class, and a race.
Wandering through the cyberpunk wastes are all manner of fantasy tropes. Slender elves, stocky self-righteous dwarves, barbarous trolls with curling white horns.
It's in that melting-pot of silicone chip and magic-flash that the game finds its greatest inspiration. That blend of old-old and old-new fires the imagination. Will you be a noble dwarf who does the right thing, or an elf who shoots first, jacks into the matrix second, and asks questions a distant third?Shadow and neon light
Role-playing is very much the core of the experience. There are conversation choices galore as you swipe and tap your way through the linear story.
The controls are smooth and intuitive, with a jab at the screen moving your character. Objects you can interact with are highlighted, and a tap will take you over to them.
The combat is turn-based and quick-fire. You have a pool of action points that you can spend on moving, firing, using items, or blasting out magical spells. When you've used your points, it's the bad guys' turn to try and hack down your life bar.
Shamans conjure up balls of magical energy, street samurai wield deadly weapons, and jackers hack into the mainframe to try and turn the tide of battle to their advantage.
To begin with you run solo, but soon enough you'll find yourself with a crew of battle-hardened runners at your disposal, each with its own unique set of skills and equipment.
Completing quests earns you karma. You spend this on upping your various statistics. As you fill up the bars you unlock a variety of new skills that you can use in and out of combat as well.
There's a tactical nature to the combat that sees you darting for cover, flanking opponents, and making sure the weaker members of your crew aren't directly in the firing line.
Quite often there are secondary objectives in the fights as well, as you're tasked with minimising casualties or keeping other characters alive.
When you've only got one action point left and you need to heal, find somewhere to hide, reload, and deal some damage, making the right decision can be the difference between life and death, or at the very least losing one of your regeneration packs.
Out of combat the game is a story of murder and conspiracy. The tale unfolds neatly, but you're often funnelled down a corridor rather than being left to discover things for yourself.
Occasionally this leaves you without a sense of the wider world, and in an RPG that can be a problem.Small returns
Still, Shadowrun Returns is full of interesting characters, and while the first hour or so of the game is a bit on the slow side, when it finds its footing its an engaging and interesting adventure set in a unique, refreshing world.
The neon lights and seedy apartments might feel comfortable, but there's still an edge to the game.
It sometimes feels empty, it sometimes feels a little small, but the polish and precision of the core aspects will keep you entertained throughout the hefty single-player campaign.