Shadowrun Online Infilitrates Steam Early Access Next Week

Hack the planet!

After a bit of a bumpy development, including turning to Kickstarter a year after its announcement and a lengthy delay, Shadowrun Online is slipping on its trenchcoat and mirrorshades to greet the world. Street samurai and shaman throughout The Matrix will get to throw down in turn-based tactical combat come Monday, March 31, when the game will launch via Steam Early Access.

While the full game will have a free-to-play option, Early Access is only for the full paid version which includes all microtransaction doodads for $30 (one imagines it’ll be £20-ish). It’ll be a combat-focused hunk of the game with several co-op missions and a little PvP, but missing a fair few parts.

A fair few parts like hacking, character progression, items, and more. Given that the game’s already pretty late, the Kickstarter campaign having pegged it for May 2013, developers Cliffhanger Productions simply want to get something into players’ cyberhands.

Cliffhanger had hoped to simply build Shadowrun Online upon its Jagged Alliance Online code but oh, what folly! After starting over from scratch, they then needed to find another investor to hold them up while they did the unexpected extra work.

Oh, it’s hard not to be sceptical about a F2P game with a wobbly history, but turn-based cyberpunk combat and mirrorshades and hand razors! Hopefully its focus on killing means the combat’s a little more rounded than in HareBrained Schemes’ Shadowrun Returns, where the best solution to street thugs and elite corporate security alike was almost inevitably spitting bullets.

Here’s Cliffhanger managing director Jan Wagner to explain a little more of what’s going on with the Early Access release:


  1. razgon says:

    From all I’ve seen, this will fail miserably, unfortunately. We need more Shadowrun games!

    • primetide says:

      While I am the first to admit we had a difficult time (I am saying so in the above video), this seems a bit harsh based on not one shred of game evidence yet. But the jury is out on this, so either of us may be right…

      • razgon says:

        Well, I usually base my comments on two things now that you ask

        1) past work of the developer
        2) previews / what we’ve seen

        As for past work, I must say, I’m not impressed with Jagged alliance. As for previews, and what we’ve seen so far, its VERY little and that worries me a lot. The video linked here is the same – Lots of talk, but no moneyshots, to speak crudely. Now, as I stated, I’d love to be surprised, but I’ve been in the business of being a gamer for quite some time now, and this is usually warning signs.

        Take that as you will – as an incentive to change marketing next time around, or just ignore me as another guy on the internet.

        • Frank says:

          Um, have you tried Aerena (in “early access” on Steam)? I like it.

          But, yeah, didn’t really get far into JA:O. I think some F2P mechanics got in the way… I don’t really remember, though I’m surprised by how much hate it seems to get (that I’ve seen, oddly, on the Steam forums for Aerena). Sucks for the devs that they aren’t yet at the point where they can just release a game and let it speak for itself.

    • ceriphim says:

      I tend to agree with Primetide, honestly. I don’t think we’ve seen enough of this either way to be able to tell. That’s been my stance the whole time, really, even since the Kickstarter. There hasn’t been enough to make an actual judgement (which worries me a bit), but I’m optimistic this may have some of the secret sauce I found lacking in SRR.

      • toxic avenger says:

        I think you might change your tune to be a bit more skeptical if you ever tried Jagged Alliance online.

      • MisterFurious says:

        The fact that we’ve seen so little after YEARS is enough evidence to be skeptical. I was interested in the game when it was first announced but there’s been NOTHING released since then. I’ve actually completely forgotten about the game several times and was only reminded about it when Shadowrun Returns came out and then later when the expansion for that came out. We’ve seen no new gameplay or anything about Shadowrun Online since the initial announcement and that was a very long time ago. Yeah, I admit that I’m pretty jaded because I’ve been burned so many times by games and movies that I no longer get excited by anything anymore, but the sheer lack of any new information for this game should have even the most devout Fanboy more than a little nervous.

        • Crimsoneer says:

          Yeah, this is the issue. I “pre-ordered” the game back in April 2012, and I don’t know much more about the game now than I did then.

  2. derbefrier says:

    I dare hope that this will be fun. Not enough to buy it in early access but if I hear good things I might give it a shot

  3. DrMcCoy says:

    So the game will be more focused on combat than story and roleplaying? Meh.

  4. rascalibur says:

    I still can’t find any information on what the game is about, what are the selling points? How will it play besides being turn-based? And what the Online part brings? Is there a single player campaign? Is it just a co-op game? So many questions but hardly any answers.

    I’ve read the website, I follow the Facebook page and read whatever news I see but I still don’t understand anything about the game.

  5. Lonestar1771 says:

    Same guys that did JAO? Yeah better not waste your time and money. JAO is crap and this game will most likely follow in it’s foot steps.

  6. HyenaGrin says:

    Shadowrun has traditionally had a bit of an iffy past in computer gaming.

    Even Shadowrun Returns, while a perfectly worthy game, still doesn’t scratch the itch (though Dragonfall was an excellent piece of storytelling).

    Too much effort usually goes into combat when, at least to me, the game is more about high-tech crime. Ocean’s 11 type stuff. Creative problem solving, dynamic manipulation of the environment, information gathering/reconnaissance, etc. I’ve always felt like any Shadowrun game should have a solid stealth/social manipulation component. Combat happens, but without the other aspects it’s not really Shadowrun so much as it is some brutes kicking in the doors and mass-murdering a bunch of security guards.

    Obviously different people play the game different ways, so that’s just my approach.

    Anyway, I’m definitely going to keep my eye on this. It might turn out to be pretty good, and I’ve always got a place in my heart for a decent SR game. I just wish someone would dare to focus on the subtler parts of Shadowrun.

    • Shieldmaiden says:

      You’re spot-on. I mean, for it to be Shadowrun, you at least need the opportunity to make and attempt some kind of plans before it goes horribly wrong and you have to resort to shooting everything.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      Yes, this.

    • Philomelle says:

      What the hell are you talking about? You could pilfer entire corporate buildings, clean out their private Matrix servers and make off after weaseling past their guards and seducing their office workers, all without a single shot fired, in Shadowrun on Sega Genesis.

      What hurt Shadowrun Returns is precisely that it advertised itself as a spiritual successor to Shadowrun Genesis. That thing was the closest one could get to having an open world RPG on a 16-bit console. It was a huge cyberpunk sandbox where you chose how to handle things and the only things that stood in your way were whether you had the money to afford all the cutting edge gear. About the only times I drew a gun in that game were against ghouls, gangbangers and Renraku cronies (who deserve to be shot anyway), plus the rare cases when I critically failed my persuasion rolls. Compared to its freedom, the heavily story-focused and linear Returns felt like being trapped in a box.

      The problem with Shadowrun franchise isn’t the Superman Curse (a lot of potential with none of the developers who know how to use it). It’s that it had a really incredible game with more freedom than anything else in its era or on its platform, and everyone else has been struggling to live up to its legacy since.

      • toxic avenger says:

        Yes, I completely agree.

        I wanted to like Shadowrun Returns so, so, so, much and was a little hurt when it did not live up to expectations. I’m surprised to see people here noting the energy dedicated to combat in Returns by the development team; Combat felt like it was the weakest area of all in the game, if not tied with Character progression (skills, leveling up, and depth of strategy).

        • HyenaGrin says:

          Because combat was more or less the only gameplay element that existed beyond dialogue trees and skill checks?

      • MisterFurious says:

        ‘Shadowrun’ on the Genesis is one of my favorite games of all time. I don’t know why game developers can’t make games these days that top those great games of the 16-bit era in terms of gameplay. Sure, games of today are much prettier than the old games, but the gameplay is just lacking.

        • Philomelle says:

          I should probably admit that I never actually beat it. I know it has this epic story with a Free Spirit and some elven hero, but after some point in the narrative, I went off to putz around the Matrix, stage corporate burglaries and harass Lone Star officers. I still have a save on my Genesis emulator that I pull out from time to time, just so I can do a couple more runs and advance my character a bit further.

          At the same time, I’d argue it’s a sign of a really good game that you’d rather keep playing it forever than finish it and move on.

      • HyenaGrin says:

        At no point did I say that the Genesis game was bad.

        I said that Shadowrun has an iffy past in computer gaming. One game twenty years ago doesn’t invalidate that statement.

        But kudos for latching on to the one part of a comment you find issue with, when you appear to agree with the rest.

        • Philomelle says:

          No, I disagreed with you because you claimed all Shadowrun games so far focused on combat and disregarded the setting’s subtleties. That simply isn’t true. There was, in fact, a game that covered all of these subtleties and it still holds up as an amazing experience despite being 20 years old.

          The series’ “iffy past with the computer gaming” mostly boils down to that trashy Counterstrike clone by Microsoft, followed by a long silence because their marketing division assumed that the game’s poor sales were “Shadowrun doesn’t sell,” as opposed to “we have no idea what we’re doing”. And while it’s true that its problem was focusing on combat, I’d argue that it’s more an exception to the rule within the broad series.

          Returns has its issues, but the focus on combat really isn’t one of them. It’s that the campaign included with the game is honestly just an interactive trailer (albeit a well-written one) for the campaign editor’s features rather than an actual effort to make a Shadowrun game.

          • HyenaGrin says:

            No sir, that was what you decided to read into it. You are still responding to something I didn’t say.

            I said ‘Usually too much effort goes into combat.’

            Are you familiar with what ‘usually’ means? In that there are necessary exceptions? Ie, ‘usually’ and ‘all’ are two mutually exclusive terms to use when referencing a trend. ‘Usually’ is the same as ‘most of the time, but not always.’

            You are going to have to stop putting words in other people’s mouths. Especially when in spirit you agree with them, and are simply going off on a defensive tangent about a game that was never insulted to begin with.

            Granted there have not been many Shadowrun games, but every Shadowrun game since the Genesis version has more or less hacked out any game mechanics that didn’t boil down to combat. Returns has a strong emphasis on narrative, but that isn’t the point. As a game, taken as a series of actions performed by the player, comes down to Combat, Dialogue Trees, and Skill Checks. It is a tactical combat role-playing game with a strong narrative element.

            There’s a problem when games like Payday and Splinter Cell capture the general moment-to-moment gameplay feel of Shadowrun better than all but one of the Shadowrun games seem to, despite the obvious massive theme differences. Microsoft’s problem was that they were interested in skinning a generic multiplayer deathmatch shooter into something marketable, which is always a bad way to use an IP. HBS’s problem was that they thought the setting itself would be enough. And they put together a good game if you’re into Shadowrun purely for the setting and the lore of the world – and I am – but the medium they chose to tell the story, through a series of dialogues and combat events, just was not my vision of how Shadowrun ought to be played.

            Now seriously, drop the defensive crap about the Genesis/SNES version, it’s not productive.

      • DrMcCoy says:

        You forget that the great “Shadowrun franchise” is actually a franchise of mainly pen & paper tabletop roleplaying games. And they are far from the pure combat simulators SRO seems to be, and SRR is for the most part (granted, Dragonfall is a step in the right direction, but only one step).

        • Philomelle says:

          I don’t think Returns had as much focus on combat as people believe. Like I said above, the problem is that Returns fell into the same trap as Neverwinter Nights. It’s a wonderful set of tools that allows players to create versatile and engaging stories, but with a campaign that is mostly a demonstration of what the editor can do, not an actual attempt to make a new game for its setting.

          I’m sure that as time goes on, we’ll get rich and open stories created by players on Returns’ editor. Until then, all we have is honestly just an engine demo.

          I’ll hold off on judging Online because they did promise to eventually make a game where you can handle missions in many different ways and select your own playstyle, not go in guns ablaze. Guns were simply the first thing to be put together.

          • HyenaGrin says:

            How is it not focused on combat?

            Cyberware/bioware. All but the datajack and the pheromones directly impact combat.

            Gear. Basically every single inventory item in the entire game (apart from decks themselves) were only useful in or because of combat.

            Magic. Name one spell or magical thing that mages could do that doesn’t directly impact combat.

            Decking. Apart from in Dragonfall with its occasional ‘paydata’ reward for decking, the entire decking experience was just a reskin of the combat system, and most of the time the benefits of hacking came down to assisting in combat.

            The combat was the mechanic they focused all of Shadowrun onto, in order to give them a game to tell a story around.

  7. slerbal says:

    It is a bit odd that no one has actually commented on the video. I reckon that was a pretty honest and open vid from a game dev and if nothing else that probably deserves a mention. Having been through the games dev investment cycle in the 11 years I built and ran my own studio I do know how hard that can be.

    As to whether Shadorwun Online is any good remains to be seen – I initially backed the Kickstarter then backed out as it did sound increasingly confused. I almost certainly will not be picking this up in Early Access, but I hope that this route actually gives them a chance to make a great game.

    Certainly Jagged Alliance Online was not that game, but studios do learn from previous mistakes and it sounded like they have tried to take on board the failures of JAO. Though mea culpa videos are great, the proof will, of course, be in the final game.

    Like most other people in this thread I’d love a great Shadowrun game, but nothing has even come close to the pen and paper RPG.

    I guess what I am saying is – good luck to them, they are apparently trying