Sunday, January 6, 2008

2007 in Review - Shadowrun

I was fortunate to be able to participate in the beta for Shadowrun. It is definitely an interesting game. Trying to mix RPG elements into a first-person shooter was an ambitious concept, and I think it's one FASA did fairly well. The game is very unique, in that you get magic and tech that you can purchase, which really changes how you can play the game.

Unfortunately, it really didn't get a strong following. A lot of reviewers blasted it for not having any single-player campaign. Not knowing anything about the Shadowrun universe, I would've loved to have some kind of exposure to a story; and I'm sure fans of the fiction would've appreciated a little expanse. But let's face it: campaigns don't give a game legs. I haven't played Halo's campaigns that often (even Halo 3 with it's online co-op). What I did find about this game is that the matches tend to be very long. Each match is a best of six, which means you could be playing up to eleven times on the same game type and the same map to determine a winner. Depending on the skill and style of the players, that could be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. And if you're like me and die quickly, because you only get one life (a teammate's resurrection spell can extend that a bit), you might spend a lot of that time just watching. The other part of the problem is you play with this character, adding skills and stuff, and then you just throw him away at the end of the match. You don't really get to spend a lot of time with the most expensive toys and magic then before you have to start over.

One nice thing about this game is it has a concept of "karma", where, if your team is winning, it gets harder, and if you're losing, it gets easier. For instance, it may take more or less shots to "clear a body" (destroy a corpse so it can't be resurrected), or your mana may regenerate slightly faster or slower than normal. This tends to balance out the "rich get richer" problem -- the winning team earns more money as a bonus and can therefore buy more magic or tech for the next round, while the losing team usually has to spend their meager earnings just replenishing their weapons. It usually helps games to be fairly close, helping to avoid one team completely trouncing another 6-0 (which can still happen).

The UI is pretty slick, too. The wheel system they use for assigning and "quick-casting" is pretty easy to pick up on, and once you start to memorize where your favorite spells and tech are on the wheel, you can navigate to what you want really quickly.

I almost didn't buy this game, though. After spending so much time beta testing it, I started to tire of the same old game types and the same old maps. Sure, the retail version had a few more maps than the two we got to test, but no more game types. I did eventually buy it, though, as there were a few Geezers and even a couple friends I picked up in the beta who were playing it. I am glad I have it, because for a FPS, it is so different than anything else out there. When I last played it, I really enjoyed it (even though it was with some graphical glitches as my 360 was getting ready for a trip to the McAllen Repair Center).

I do wish there was more for it, though. More maps, but especially more game types would be welcome. Unfortunately, with the closing of FASA Studios, it's unlikely anything will come of it.

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