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Game Info:

Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown
Developed by: Cliffhanger Productions
Published by: Cliffhanger Productions
Released: April 28, 2015
Available on: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, Android
Genre: MMORPG
Number of players: Lots!
Price: $29.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you, Nordic Games, for providing a copy of this game to review!

In 1989, FASA Corporation released a futuristic tabletop roleplaying game called "Shadowrun." It served as an intriguing blend of cyberpunk and high fantasy. Troll computer hackers and elven mages could battle dragons and corrupt corporations on the mean streets of Seattle, Washington. For me and my friends, not only was the concept a cool one, it took place in our home state! One of my friends bought the sourcebook and created characters. Two of us got done before the others, so we decided, just for fun, our characters would engage in a mock battle. I tossed some dice to see if I could hit him with a shotgun, and he threw some to see if he could defend against the blast.

Then we consulted the book for several minutes, trying to figure out what the results could mean. Unfortunately, the combat rules weren't clearly laid out in the book. The results of our rolls went unknown, and we quickly lost interest after that.

Still, the concept of Shadowrun has always been one that I found interesting. It's nice to see it continue after 26 years. Now owned by a different company, Shadowrun enters the MMO field with Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown.

 

Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown
Highlights:

Strong Points: Interesting setting; unique approach to "leveling" system
Weak Points: Poor graphics; wonky stability; unoriginal railroad plot
Moral Warnings: Numerous language issues; bloody violence; opposition to law and order

The game is played from a top-down, isometric approach. The player begins the game by choosing a race and class for their character. After that, a tutorial begins where the player needs to get their character out of a medical facility. Once the tutorial is completed, the player again gets into a character design screen, where clothing and other customization options are available. Once this is finished, the player is free to roam around a small district in Boston to interact with the denizens and discover quests. 

Unlike most MMOs that I've played, though, the options for quests are severely limited. There is a story mode led by a troll broker named Smedley... and that's it. Although there do seem to be other options for adventure, there seems to be only one path to advance at the start of the game. Going on the quests in the story mode will allow the player to briefly visit other areas in Boston, but only for as long as the quest lasts. These quests can be completed alone or with the assistance of another character chosen from the rest of the Boston district. As a result of having only one adventure path, the game feels like a bunch of people playing the same game online, connected simply with a chat box. The feeling is rather disappointing – you aren't free to explore Boston like you would in more dynamic MMOs. One element that it does share with MMOs are the quests – largely "kill these guys," escort missions and fetch quests tied together with a thin plot that serves only as an excuse to go to the next job down the line. This is as disappointing as it is predictable.

One of the nice aspects of the game is a departure from the "gain experience, go up a level, gain more experience" approach of most role-playing games. Instead, in Shadowrun Chronicles, you gain "karma points" after completing quests. These karma points can be used to increase skills among several different trees. Specialization is recommended, as those who try to take a "jack of all trades" approach may eventually find themselves too weak to take on some of the challenges. A key part of a successful Shadowrun mission is knowing what each character's strengths and weaknesses are, and how to use them.

 

Shadowrun
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 56%
Gameplay - 10/20
Graphics - 4/10
Sound - 5/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 36%
Violence - 0/10
Language - 6/10
Sexual Content - 3.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 2/10

The looks of the game are mediocre. Characters don't move their mouths while talking, and some of the clothing options show considerable clipping as the characters move and interact. Some of the dialogue is voice-acted, but not the portions where the character can speak with merchants. Some of the in-game interactions are a bit odd as well. Occasionally, the game will zoom in to show a dramatic attack, but this isn't always the case (one time it happened when one of my characters cast a spell which missed). At one time it appeared that my main character decapitated an enemy thug... but my character was wielding a 2x4 with a nail in it. Maybe it was a sharpened 2x4? I don't know.

I have had the game lock up on me a couple of times. In one instance, it got to the point where it refused to acknowledge any of my commands. Except for one – bringing up the menu and quitting the game. 

There are several things to watch for in terms of the moral aspects of the game. For starters, the language. This is frequently a concern whenever dealing with an online game, but within the game itself players swear frequently. "S**t seems to be the most common curse word, including being in the name of some of the default equipment. Although the Lord's name is seldom taken in vain, it seems that any other word is fair game by the other characters. In the Shadowrun universe, Catholicism was outlawed by the government, so in a clear case of writers not doing their research, this seems to extend to all branches of Christianity. The only religion in the game seems to be a form of shamanism. Magic use is common, including summoning creatures. Some of the characters can wear skimpy clothes, and thanks to the customization options, it's even possible to create cross-dressing characters. Despite that, there isn't any sexually explicit content or nudity. In the beginning tutorial your character is forced to kill two medical personnel even before you have control. Some of the loot that characters can obtain includes bodily organs (you can even devote skill points to do this) that can be sold or, in the case of cybernetics, implanted into your own body. Blood splatters are a common sight while on a quest. Finally, as a "Shadowrunner," your character is often opposed to the corporate-run government, and breaking the law is just another day at the office for these people.

In a sense, the feel of the on-line version of Shadowrun really isn't that much different than my fledgling attempts at the tabletop version all those years ago. It's a fascinating setting with lots of promise... but ends up feeling flat. Between the railroad plot, the quirky graphics and lackluster multiplayer, there isn't much substance to this game, and little reason to visit this dystopian future. 

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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