Shadowrun: Hong Kong Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Independent
Developer:Harebrained Schemes
Release Date:2015-08-20
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Changes

If you've played Harebrained Schemes' other two Shadowrun games, then you might be wondering how Shadowrun: Hong Kong differs from them.  The answer is "not a whole lot."  Shadowrun: Hong Kong uses a modified version of the same engine, so if you've played the earlier games then you should be able to jump into this one with a minimum of effort.  But there are two places with significant changes: hacking and cyberware.

In the previous games, hacking was handled like mini combat missions, where you'd attack enemy programs while making your way to your objectives.  In Shadowrun: Hong Kong, hacking is more about stealth and breaking codes, which is good because that's more representative of what hacking is about.  So instead of attacking enemy programs, you try to avoid them, and then when you reach special gates, you play a mini-game (involving Simple Simon and pattern matching) to break through them.  If you're bad at sneaking, then you build up "trace," which eventually leads to security programs attacking you and the hacking sequence to play more like previously.  If you hate the mini-game, then you can force the gate, which costs you some trace.

The other change involves cyberware.  Harebrained Schemes added a few new cyber equipment locations, such as skin and the brain, and they also added cyber weapons to give you more ways to attack people (including Shock Hands, which you can use to stun your opponents).  To make up for the extra locations, one of the new skills in the game is Cyberware Affinity, which affects how many cyber items you can wear, and how powerful they can be.

Issues

Shadowrun: Hong Kong has a collection of minor issues and problems that hopefully will get fixed soon.  With all of the text in the game, it's probably not surprising that there are more than a few typos, including silly things like "local" versus "locale."  The opening and closing cinematic sequences (the only places in the game with voice acting) don't have subtitles.  The campaign is extremely skimpy about rewarding money, so even if you're cheap and avoid hiring shadowrunners and buying drugs, you still won't be able to afford everything you want.  The new loot interface is iffy; if there's a way to pick up an item and assign it to a companion, I never figured it out.

The only serious problem I had with the game is the load times.  Shadowrun: Hong Kong is right up there with Pillars of Eternity in slow load times.  Sometimes this isn't much of a problem, as loading a mission includes all of the maps for the mission, and so one load might last you for an hour or more.  But other times you get into frustrating sequences trying to navigate conversations in a good way or trying to hack without being seen, and all of the loading and waiting makes them almost unbearable.  In Pillars of Eternity, the save files include all of the maps you've visited, which is what slows them down.  But Shadowrun: Hong Kong shouldn't have that much to save, so I have no idea why they're so much more turtle than hare.

But otherwise, I didn't encounter any broken mission objectives or conversations, and the game didn't crash on me once during the 40 hours I spent with it, so I'd say that Shadowrun: Hong Kong is still ahead of the curve as far as technical issues are concerned.

Conclusion

So far I've enjoyed all of Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun games.  They've all been inexpensive, interesting, and well-made, and they all given multiple ways of completing objectives and dealing with enemies, which is always nice.  Shadowrun: Hong Kong is no exception, and better yet, it's the longest of the three.  It took me 40 hours to complete it, which is about as long as it took me to finish the first two games combined.  Of course, I'm something less than a speed reader, so your mileage may vary.  But if you enjoy isometric turn-based RPGs, and if you don't mind reading, then Shadowrun: Hong Kong is definitely a game to check out.