Shadowrun Returns Not Quite Returning Just Yet

By Alec Meer on January 29th, 2014 at 5:00 pm.

Much as I thought last year’s opening salvo pulled a few too many punches and didn’t offer anything like enough freedom of choice/movement, I could really go for some Shadowrun about now. Offbeat world, reasonably strategic battles, option to be a bit of dick to everyone… Take me, cyberpunk/fantasy roleplaying mashup, I’m yours. Sadly plans for first official expansion Dragonfall to launch this month have been nixed, though a more concrete release date of February 27th has been pinned to it. I’ll probably have changed my mind about wanting to play it by then. I’ll probably want to play something with horses or chefs or chefs on horses in instead.

Anyway: trailer, features, exaggerated descriptions below.

That’s some Shadowrun alright. The main draw for me here is not the New Berlin setting (I wasn’t previously familiar with the Shadowrun setting, as I wasn’t allowed a console when I was a wee one, so this means nothing to me, oh New Vienna), but suggestion that this new campaign will be more open and flexible than the A-B of the main game’s. This suggestion, specifically: “operating out of an offbeat central hub neighborhood, you’ll choose which missions to accept and how you’ll approach them while navigating the dark underbelly of “the Flux”.”

Also, the new Save Anywhere system is going to salve a lot of wounds. Many Kickstarted games seem to think they can do away with user-controllable save systems – I wonder why that is? Anyway, the new thinger will be retroactively patched into existing copies of Shadowrun Returns too – no Dragonfall purchase necessary.

Again, February 27th for this, and you can preorder it via Steam if you so wish, you big silly.

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62 Comments »

  1. SkittleDiddler says:

    SR desperately needs more dev-created content. Steam Workshop is a nice addition, but a lot of the user-created stuff is…sloppy.

    Also, $15 for Dragonfall? Ouch. That’s just slightly less than what SR vanilla costs.

    • Emeraude says:

      Also, $15 for Dragonfall? Ouch. That’s just slightly less than what SR vanilla costs.

      Supposedly it offers more content though. We’ll see I guess. Eagerly waiting myself.

      • hungrycookpot says:

        Personally I felt disappointed with the amount of content in the main game. I feel ripped off with what I got, (a mediocre game engine and a tiny campaign that you couldn’t even fully level up through), basing it only on unfair comparisons but the amount of fun I had with Shadowrun is comparable to many $5 games I’ve purchased recently.

        I will absolutely not be dropping another dollar on this game. Totally missed the boat for me.

        • seles04 says:

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      • BletchleyGeek says:

        Maybe someone is taking the piss, but all this moaning about the price of games is attracting these spamming robots like sharks smelling blood in the water.

        • Baines says:

          Everything at RPS attracts those spam bots. Possibly the worst site that I read for spam, either in general or that specific “My whatever makes $X” spam.

          Kind of weird, really. I wonder what RPS did to attract that attention. Or is it some kind of backdoor advertising deal? “Let only our spam bots through, and we’ll give you a shiny nickel for every bilked sucker that clicks on the link.” (Hrm, I wonder how many sites would actually agree to such a deal. Besides all the file download sites that is.)

          • Ich Will says:

            Nah, they target RPS because of the prominent position steam gives their articles

    • karthink says:

      1. The campaign’s longer than Dead Man’s Switch, apparently.

      2. They said they’ll sell everything bundled for $25.

  2. Emeraude says:

    Not to throw salt on the old save debate, but why would games necessarily *need* a save anywhere feature ?

    If anything, I’d say some game are broken by offering the option.

    • Vinraith says:

      Because real life is more important than games, to put it simply. Sometime you’ve got to stop playing, you shouldn’t lose a bunch of progress when that happens.

      • Emeraude says:

        And why is “losing content” such a bad thing, especially if the game is so unimportant ? Next time you play you’ll can just try again. If anything I find the position highlights the development of games as problems to be solved to games as content to be experienced.

        I’m not saying that the option to save anytime you want cannot be convenient, but it also can go against the design intent of the game. Demanding that it always be an option is limiting the kind of games on offer.

        • Snidesworth says:

          In this particular case the inability to save anywhere was down to the way the game works; each area is a “scene” designed to be run through before transitioning to the next. The new save system should change that, but people had to go to all sorts of lengths to add permanency and re-visitable areas to their modules when the game first came out.

          In general, not allowing some means of suspending the game (even if it’s as simple as a pause button) is a dick move. Even Dark Souls, which has an absolute no-reloading policy, still allows you to save and quit anywhere with only a slight amount of progress lost. Unless it’s a multiplayer game, but that’s a whole different ball park.

          • WedgeJAntilles says:

            Ok, I agree with everything you’ve said, but I have to call this out because I keep seeing people say this and it’s complete bullshit: the save system was NOT in ANY way influenced by it being a mobile game. The developers have said that they always wanted the game to have a save-anywhere system, from the very beginning. The issue is that save-anywhere is much more technically difficult to implement than the checkpoint-system the game ended up with — and this fact has nothing to do with the choice of platform. They looked at their schedule, realized they didn’t have time to finish save-anywhere without delaying the game, and so they cut it, or, more accurately, pushed it back to the expansion where they’d have time to implement it properly.

            You’re right that the game really does suffer without it, though, so I’m glad they at least realized that and made it a priority for the expansion.

        • Nenjin says:

          @Emeraude

          That implies the game is fun enough that players shouldn’t mind having to replay it because of a (mobile-driven save game solution.)

          Newsflash, it’s not. SRR’s campaign is not the kind of thing you want to sit through multiple times because of a bad save system. You find yourself clicking through dialogs as fast as possible to get back to where you want to be. When a mostly text driven game requires you to restart at the beginning of the level (and the script) it’s as bad if not worse than games with unskippable, 3 minute cut scenes you have to watch every time you die. There’s just no excuse for it, other than a lack of money and time.

        • dE says:

          Because in this case, the game is so completely linear that those 10 minutes are identical. You click through the same dialogue options (as the game does not offer a whole lot of options anyway), you do the same things to progress. Combat might be different, depending on the situation. But due to the way the engine was built, fighting was usually at the end of a map – just seconds before an area transition.
          Essentially you’re looking at having to retrace your steps everytime something comes up in real-life. Also in some not that rare cases, you spend much more than 10 minutes in an area.

        • Emeraude says:

          All three of you: see my comment right blow: it’s not so much the particular case of SRR I was talking about, but rather the idea that this would be true of *any* game.

          • Nenjin says:

            You’ve gotten plenty of reasonable answers to your questions that aren’t SRR specific. “Goes against the design of the game” is a nebulous statement. Do you have an example that isn’t a theoretical, academic point?

            For example, save games go against the design of classic roguelikes. It goes against the design of games like Candy Crush Saga.

            And it goes perfectly with games like narrative driven, text-based RPGs with dialog options. So what, exactly, is your point? Because you’re not making a good argument we don’t need save anywhere games anymore.

          • Emeraude says:

            @nenjin: again, look below.

          • derbefrier says:

            Dark Souls wouldn’t be the same with a save anywhere feature. Hell the save system(campfires) is even built into the lore. It would also completely change the way the game was played by most people. Instead of carefully learning your enemies attacks and patterns the average player would save scum untill they got luvky and won. This is common practice with most save anywhere games anyway but if your Dark Souls and the primary focus of your game is the intricate fighting system the ability to save scum would go completely against that idea.

            Do use your lazyness in gaming to justify plain bad design that doesn’t fit thw game. It was needed in SRR for reasons already stated but for many games its as good as having a god mode.

          • Emeraude says:

            Well, Dark Souls doesn’t really need a “save anywhere” feature because it has a save everywhere feature.

          • derbefrier says:

            Not really you can’t save right before a boss so you can throw yourself at it 100 times hoping to beat it by sheer luck, which is the crux of these people arguments. If you die or close the game your are not going to respawn right in front of the boss with full health. Character prgression is saved automatically yes but if you die you have start back at the last campfire. Now most of the time the run to the boss from the closest campfire isn’t that long but its long enough to cause less skilled players to rage quit then jump on the forums demanding a save anywhere feature.

            Also apparently from these comments the readers of RPS’s time is so invaluable they can’t sit in one place for 10 minutes ever. I mean seriously guys I understand having to unexpectaly leave the house or something but if you are really so busy the thought of having to sit in one place for half an hour seems impossible perhaps candy crush saga. Or the myrid of other casual games aimed at people like that would better suit your availability.

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            Bugamn says:

            Dark Souls and many roguelikes (for example, nethack) have save anywhere. You can save and quit any time (at least without enemies close for Dark Souls). What they don’t have is load anywhere. You can only load outside of game. And that is fine for those games.

          • Baines says:

            Classic Roguelikes tend to have a Save Anywhere But Delete On Death system. Which, barring user exploit save scumming, is more of a Suspend Anywhere system than a Save Anywhere system.

            Such systems give you the benefit of being able to stop pretty much anywhere at a moment’s notice, but do not give you the safety net of being able to reload when you didn’t like the outcome.

        • Lemming says:

          The game is supposed to work for you, not you work for the game.

          • Emeraude says:

            So every game ever is to be limited to the necessities of being an entertainment product first and foremost ?

            I’m reminded of the argument against long, slow movies, because those aren’t fun. Ran and Stalker are bad movies obviously. – the very fact that they are long and slow is in no way part of the how and why of their respective achievements, necessarily.

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            Bugamn says:

            You can always pause a movie, no matter how long (unless you are in a cinema, but then you shouldn’t receive phone calls there).

          • Emeraude says:

            You can always pause a movie

            You can, but the movie will still be slow and long. You can also fast forward, or only look at the scenes featuring your favorite actor, or watching them in a different order, but then you’re not watching the movie.
            It’s mostly a matter of technological means control given to the viewer overstepping authorial intent – the gaming equivalent would probably be modding.

          • Premium User Badge

            Bugamn says:

            What was the point?

            I think this started with someone complaining that he/she/it might want to leave the game, but the game won’t allow him to save at that point (for example, he must leave to work).
            A film can be paused, and replayed from that point, no matter how long or slow.

          • Emeraude says:

            The original point (the thread is not that big) was me asking why would all game necessarily need a save anytime feature, and stating that in my opinion, some games are diminished by such a feature.

            I also gave a more in-depth analysis down-thread.

          • P.Funk says:

            Why does a game need a save function to save you having to repeat parts of the game you’ve beaten?

            I dunno, because we’re people with lives and there are sometimes phone calls, girlfriends, personal emergencies, and power outages, all which should not punish the player.

            Basically a game is about players being rewarded with progress for “beating” parts of the game. If you beat parts but are punished because real life insisted you stop then thats not a user friendly game.

          • Emeraude says:

            Basically a game is about players being rewarded with progress

            A thing with which I disagree. But you didn’t read the post, nor are addressing the question being posed in the first place.

            By the definition you are giving, I guess they should add a save anywhere system to Ketsui Death Label…

          • logjammin says:

            @Emeraude
            Basically a game is about players being rewarded with progress

            A thing with which I disagree.

            I think you just answered your own question. The saving debate is entirely personal preference. If you do not agree with the basic premise of wanting to be rewarded for progress in a game, then you will never feel it necessary to be able to save & quit anywhere in a game.

            Many reasons for wanting the ability to save anywhere have been presented, but they are all predicated on the desire for wanting that specific aspect of rewards for progress. Without that root desire, the reasons given will hold no sway in your opinion. Both opinions are perfectly valid, of course; we all want to enjoy our games, and we do it in different ways. But I think you need to realize that basic fact of enjoying games differently.

            Personally, I want rewards for progress, thus I want that save anywhere feature. You do not, thus you care not for such a feature. Plain and simple.

        • hungrycookpot says:

          Because when I have to replay the exact same content multiple times, I likely just wont, because it’s boring, and I don’t play video games to be bored. I understand it makes sense if we’re talking procedural roguelike, yes you wouldn’t want to be able to save, because that would be against the philosophy of the game. But then, it’s procedural, and you wouldn’t see the same thing you saw last playthrough anyways. SR was completely scripted missions in hand-built scenarios, the exact same thing.

      • PhoenixArise says:

        ALT-TAB out and leave it in the background. How difficult is this? I’ve had games running in the background for DAYS until I can play them again. Games that take FAR more system resources than the whelp, in comparison, that is Shadowrun.

    • Snidesworth says:

      People might want to be able to shut down a game and not replay 10+ minutes of stuff they already did. There’s also the issue of crashes, power outages, etc. If savescumming is an issue you want to combat have the game autosave every few minutes, have it save when you quit and wipe everything but checkpoint saves when the player resumes.

    • klinkvonstal says:

      Because there are time in life, like when your dog needs to pee, that you cannot afford to play for one hour without nonstop, and Shadowrun Returns have missions that takes this amount of time without autosave?

    • Soulstrider says:

      Because sometimes you don’t have the time flexibility to wait until reach a point in which the devs decided it would be good for checkpoint, and that you have no idea when that will arrive, I’ve played games where the distance between them was absurd. I got my gaming experience literally ruined for me more than once because I had to leave due to x reasons and I had no idea when the checkpoint was coming, but didn’t want to start from the previous ones again.

      I can’t really think any situation where saving whenever I want is bad, it should be a basic feature in any game.

      • Emeraude says:

        Most skill based games seem to suffer from it, because suddenly its not about solving the sequence of problems being presented, which can be broken.

        But then to use a very different example: If anything, I’d say the design intent of a game like Dishonored is totally diminished by the possibility to save at will.

        The game was marketed around the slogan “Revenge solves everything”, but its main message seems to be that no, revenge solves nothing.

        Restoring proper socio-political order does.

        The use of violence is only showed with a modicum of positive light as long as it is used as the minimum possible to achieve that purpose. Anything more is painted in a rather negative tones.

        The whole message of the game narratively seems to be about control. First sentence of the game once it actually starts “Steady hand ! Watch it.”, the writings on your cell: “We all begin with innocence, but the world leads us to guilt” and ‘ A small fire that brings warmth is better than a big fire that burns”.

        The problem is that the narrative intent of the game is mostly crippled by the concessions made to being an entertainment product: being able to save anytime means there is no weight to the the consequences of your actions and choices, which you can erase anytime. There cannot be accidental blood on your hands spilled in the process of trying to do the right thing – if even it is right. It dilutes the experience the game is trying to offer.

        The choice between violence – the easy way out – and non-violence – the one that demands restrain and control – would actually be more meaningful if it had a price. But there is no applied pressure to the player from the design of the game, because of the save system.

        • Soulstrider says:

          Honestly in that situation it’s exclusively the players fault, if they lack self control and ruin that aspect of the experience, it’s not the fault of having or not a save system. At least with a save system you give the players the choice of how they handle things instead of forcing them down path.

          I can easily say that despite having loved Dishonored, if they had set save points I just could be bothered to play it for the sole reason that certain areas would take too damn long to pass and I would have no idea when the next save point would be.

          EDIT: And has someone said in the comments, if they wanted that sort of experience they should at least use save slot like many rogue-likes have in which when you leave the game it automatically saves and when you load it, the save it deletes itself.

          • Emeraude says:

            I think you’re missing the point: “that experience” -the rising of pressure that forces you to live with blood spilled you otherwise didn’t want to – barely exists with the save anytime system on. Whether you chose to reload or not, there is no pressure.

            I can easily say that despite having loved Dishonored, if they had set save points I just could be bothered to play it for the sole reason that certain areas would take too damn long to pass and I would have no idea when the next save point would be.

            Yes, as I said, the concession made for having to be an entertainment product. Which conflicted with authorial intent here I think.

          • Soulstrider says:

            @Emeraude : And as I said, that experience should depend entirely on how the players decide to play the game and not on the save game system. I played both Dishonored and Deus Ex : HR with a no-going back policy, trying to go non-lethal but if I fucked up and ended up needing to kill people so be it. I feel like I got the exact same experience and the pressure you mentioned and it wouldn’t change a bit with the removal of the saving where you want. For the same reason that Paradox games adding Ironman rules didn’t change the experience for me, because I have been playing with Ironman rules all along.

            Another good example of this is the Pokemon Nuzlocke runs, the game allows you to save whenever you want, but they way you decide to play it can change your experience.

            With the save games you are just giving the player more choices on how they decide to play.

          • Emeraude says:

            And as I said, that experience should depend entirely on how the players decide to play the game and not on the save game system

            And that’s where we disagree. If the aim of the designer is to make the player feel that pressure, then expecting the player to be self-enforcing it is an automatic design failure.

      • Baines says:

        I’m of mixed opinion on Save Anywhere. (Suspend Anywhere solves the “have to step away because of real life” issue, so Save Anywhere isn’t really necessary anyway.)

        I played the original Tomb Raider on consoles, and it was a different experience than the PC game. Why? The console version used user activated Save Points while the PC version used a Save Anywhere system. In the console version, you had to learn to play the game to advance, to work your way through a sequence of puzzles and actions to reach the next save point. The PC version doesn’t have the same drive. You can just save, explore and experiment, and the only consequence is the time spent reloading.

        Old CRPGs were definitely influenced by Save Anywhere, and I think in a somewhat negative way. It was up to the player how often they saved, but the games were designed with the knowledge that players could save every other step if they wanted, and had the random lethality to match that ability. (Which in turn meant you needed to save more often.)

        Save Anywhere in an action game boss fight can be the difference between having to learn to fight the boss and just quick saving every three or four seconds with a reload whenever you take damage. Save states in emulation show a similar effect. Games that once required skill become beaten without restarts by persistent save state use. Which also feeds back into gamers with shorter attention spans and no patience. People don’t even want to repeat 10 seconds of gameplay, and get annoyed if they are expected to learn how to play a game to advance. They just want to reach the end.

    • drakkheim says:

      because sometimes you don’t know that you’re an hour away from the next savepoint and only have 45 min to play. Ask anyone with children if they get to determine when they have to walk away from the pc.

      I’ve walked away from more than a few game because I don’t want to repeat a section yet again. (SR being one of them)

    • Turkey says:

      It depends on the game, but if it has tons of dialogue or cinematic stuff that you don’t really want to experience twice, it’s probably a good idea to have a save-anywhere option.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Real life is more important than games” is a good general answer, but it has other impacts on game design too.

      Sometimes a developer doesn’t realize that part of their game has a massive difficulty spike that can cause some players to ragequit, because the in-house testers are so familiar with the game mechanics through constant repetition. Allowing save on demand (and multiple save points, so you don’t accidentally save right before a Big Bad lands a killing blow), is a hedge against poor game design. It can smooth over difficulty spikes the dev doesn’t even realize are in the game. If you’re such a hot gamer that you never encounter difficulty spikes, or you prefer an Ironman play style, then the fact that a game allows save-on-demand doesn’t affect your experience at all. Just don’t use it.

      Auto-checkpoint saves also affect the pacing of a game. With a game that forces me to replay 15 minutes of content between checkpoints, I’m naturally much more willing to take risks in the first few minutes after I see a little rotating “saved” icon, than I am when I’m deeper into the content. I don’t want to screw up and repeat what I’ve already played through. That’s bad game design, in terms of player wariness and pacing. If I’m made to feel cocky, or scared and cautious, that should be due to the actual content I’m playing through, and not just because I know I’m X distance between autosaves.

    • Moraven says:

      Suspend saves is pretty much included in most JRPGs now for the fact that you may just need to set it down. I could see forcing people to accept their results unless they wanted to redo it all instead of a small part.

    • Nate says:

      I agree with you completely regarding Dishonored, but the reasons why save-anywhere was a poor choice for Dishonored don’t come up in many games. I would love to write an essay, sometime, somewhere, about the way Dishonored explored failure. It was powerful and new. At least to me.

      People (especially consumers!) always have their hard rules for good design. Used to be that everybody knew permadeath was the decision of a poor designer. Last year was, to many game journalists, the year of the Roguelike (where RL refers more to permadeath, less to ASCII). Tom Chick described Dark Souls, widely hailed as one of the greatest games of recent memory, as the game that violated every game design precept of the last ten years.

      What’s my point here? The rules of game design are as soft and loose as they are for any aesthetic discipline, but people find it easiest to say, “It is known.”

      Not to say that it was the right decision for Shadowrun. Haven’t played Shadowrun; from the comments I’m reading here, it seems like the scenes in it maybe could have been divided up a bit, paced a bit better, and people wouldn’t be as unhappy about the decision.

    • solidsquid says:

      In this case because it can be kind of irritating to go through 20 minutes of dialogue and organisation at the hub location, then have to either start a mission or do it over again if you have to take a break in the middle. I wasn’t too bothered by it at first, but it became kind of irritating pretty quickly. I wouldn’t mind if they prevented you from saving during battles, that’s fair enough, but outside of that it just seems daft not to let you do it. Even having save points like Final Fantasy would be an improvement

  3. ran93r says:

    Still not picked this up yet, not sure why I’m so hesitant.
    During the Steam sale I saw it was reduced but couldn’t decide if I wanted to try the Android version or not.
    Anyone have experience of both and would like to offer an opinion on which way to go?

    • pseick says:

      I’ve played the Android version on a new LG G2, which has a 5.2 inch screen, and I wouldn’t recommend it. I think it would be great on a tablet, even a smaller tablet, but the touch controls were so imprecise I keep sending characters running off to the corner of the screen when I was trying to choose abilities/weapons. Outside of combat it works great. I tried to compare it on my 5yr old macbook but apparently that’s too old for 2.5d turnbased games now, so I can’t tell you how it compares to the steam version.

  4. razzafazza says:

    Didnt mind the lack of a save system and its linearity as much as i loathed the terribly simple character system and combat mechanics. I didnt expect a 1 to 1 port of the pnp rules… but what we got felt nothing like shadowrun at all. More like some “try to look like xcom but sacrifice any depth” mobile design. But the graphics look soo damn pretty i hope dragon fall does at least offer a little improvement in that regard… please :(

    • Emeraude says:

      Oh, come one, the Telestrian run was quintessential Shadowrun.

      • razzafazza says:

        Certainly the highpoint of the game but that doesnt change the underlying mechanics being crap. Cyberware is a joke. Class creation and progression are awfully simplistic etc. etc. Dont get me wrong their artists and writers did a great job … but the gameplay mechanics feel as little shadowrun as the microsoft fps. If shadowrun is all about the setting/lore for you then i can understand being okay with the game but the game plays nothing like the real stuff nor does it compare well to other party based rpgs in terms of depth

    • Stevostin says:

      Combat mechanics are basically X-Com, but with enough depth to actually give players some thoughtful choices to make.

  5. Cronstintein says:

    I think a nice middle ground is a Quit and Save option like Tales of Maj’Elal so that you can’t save scrum but can leave if you need to.

  6. Syt says:

    Massive props for the Ultravox reference!

  7. Emeraude says:

    @derbefrier

    Fair enough. I had forgotten to take that situation in account.

  8. Emeraude says:

    Edit: sure sign I need to stop.

  9. BigPrimeNumbers says:

    Hope to see this DLC and quicksave feature on the iOS version :)

  10. icemann says:

    razzafazza: Give the UGC a try. Some good proper “Shadowrun” type modules out there. Some are even open world unlike the main game. Just requires ALOT of tinkering to get right, but the beauty in UGC design for SR with the level editor in its current form (speaking as someone whose made and is making UGC) is that you can mold the game into whatever you like, other than making up for the lack of saving (for now).

    On to topic.

    Alot of the comments above refer to non RPG games and trying to use that as an argument as to why SR shouldn’t have it, but that’s comparing apples to oranges. This is an RPG, not Candy Crush, not a platforming game or whatever. An RPG. Allowing people to be able to save anywhere encourages experimentation (in play styles, character skill choices etc) and goes with the role playing experience, it also enables players to quickly back track when they fuck up, rather than leaving them stuck with that choice/mistake. Another thing is that it gives CHOICE to the player.

    If you don’t like manual saving, then DON’T SAVE, and just play the game, reloading only from the autosaves that have been done. Take away that option from people and you are removing choice. One of the great things about PC RPGs over JRPGs is in the role playing options and choices that are available to players so that they can play the RPGs HOW THEY WANT, not how the game designers want you to, or how other people think you should be playing.

    On a side note, going by the patch notes for the upcoming patch 1.2.0 is that through Harebrained schemes changing the game engine to allow manual saving, this has also resulted in auto saving at set check points now being possible within scenes/maps, rather than just when a scene/map is loaded, enabling both them (Harebrained Schemes) and UGC creators to put this into their content. If the work into allowing manual saving had not been done, then this also would never have come about. Food for thought.