A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
While elements of Shadowrun Returns focus on strategy and logic, we don't recommend it for learning because of its mature themes and graphic violence.
This game is largely what players make of it. Players will be forced to consider character motives throughout the mystery-style story and make their own decisions as to how to react. The narrative could play out as a campaign for justice or simply as a raging hunt for a paycheck. Along the way, players will need to use their brains to think strategically, developing combat strategies while carefully reading text to solve contextual puzzles.
Positive Role Models
The personality of the player's character is largely up to the player, who can select response options in dialogue. He or she may be played as a greedy, self-interested, vaguely villainous mercenary or as a slightly dodgy but mostly loyal and honorable freelancer. Other characters in the game range the gamut from clearly evil to unequivocally noble and good.
Ease of Play
The action begins pretty simply to start, then slowly ramps up to harder levels. Play outside of combat can be more challenging, forcing players to memorize important bits of text and clues within the environment to solve puzzles or progress. Menus can be a bit confusing to start, but come into focus through use.
Violence & Scariness
Human heroes fight using guns, blades, and magic. Blood can be seen emanating from wounded enemies, but the action is depicted from a bird's-eye view, making it difficult to make out much detail. There are no cinematics or slow motion moves to enhance the style or presentation of attacks.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Several female characters are presented in skimpy outfits, exposing cleavage and dancing in a nightclub. Dialogue includes light sexual innuendo, and it's suggested some secondary female characters are associated with the sex trade, though no explicit evidence is provided.
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Several instances of light profanity, including words like "damn," "ass," "bastard," and "bitch."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The player's character can order and imbibe alcohol at a nightclub.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know Shadowrun Returns is an unrated turn-based strategy role-playing game with mature themes and some bloody violence. It is available for download through Steam and unrated by the ESRB as yet; but its predecessor, Shadowrun, was rated M for Mature. Profanity is light but frequent. Sexuality is suggested in some scenes by dint of location (a bawdy nightclub in which several characters can be seen drinking alcohol), some female characters' skimpy clothing, and dialogue with faint but unmistakable innuendo. Only about half of the game involves combat, but these scenarios involve both guns and bladed weapons and wounded characters bleed red. Given the mature content, this game is best suited for older teens and above.
Is It Any Good?
It's clear that the team of indie game makers who built Shadowrun Returns put a lot of love and effort into this game. The futuristic world is loaded with bits of detail, and the many-branched dialogue trees are bursting with interesting conversations and ideas. Time spent exploring and investigating is rarely dull, thanks to no shortage of objects to investigate and interesting characters to chat with. That players get to mold their character as they like through the decisions they make is the sugar on top.
The combat doesn't quite live up to the conversations, but it's still pretty fun. Battles tend to be a little too short and easy, especially at the start, but as the game progresses and players earn more abilities and additional gear and weapons it slowly grows more sophisticated and satisfying. It's not quite up to the lofty standard set last fall by XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but Shadowrun Returns is nonetheless multifaceted and enjoyable little game of role-playing and turn-based tactics.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.