If you’ve been following all of our Cyberpunk 2077 coverage and thinking it could really do with some Orcs, you’re in luck. No, CD Projekt Red isn’t injecting magic into their sci-fi RPG, but some magical cyberpunk is free on the Humble store right now. Shadowrun Returns can be yours for nothing at all, as long as you snatch it up in the next day. It’s not as good as its follow-ups, Dragonfall and Hong Kong, but it’s a great, if a bit brief, introduction to universe.
Shadowrun mashes together a near-future version of Earth full of shady corporations, vigilante hackers and street samurai with magic. Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, spells, evil spirits and big ol’ dragons - it’s all there. One minute you’re breaking into an office building to steal blueprints, the next you’re fighting an eldritch cult and dodging fireballs. Obviously this is brilliant.
Shadowrun Returns is a lot more straightforward than its successors, and it isn’t as blessed in the companion department, either. They’re just some extra bodies to control in the tactical battles. Hairbrained Schemes obviously got a lot more confident by the time it came to designing Dragonfall. Don't let that put you off, though. It's still got a lot to give. Here’s what Jim thought of the first game, back in 2013:
Ultimately, I suppose, this feels like a vindication of the “hey, let’s do nostalgia and turn-based RPGs” thing on Kickstarter. I’ve always been sceptical of the inclination to look to the past, but this is actually giving us something we wanted. Something we needed. In this case I feel like it was filling a void. A rain-slick, turn-based, isometric elf-shaped void with mirrorshades and a shotgun.
It’s good and it’s free, so it’s definitely worth picking up, but the sequels are also almost free as well, thanks to the Steam sale. If you’ve only got time for one, it should definitely be Shadowrun: Hong Kong. It’s only £3.74/$4.99/€4.99. It’s a cracking cyberpunk romp in a city that’s perfect for it. Hong Kong also got the best companions of the series, including a ravenous (sometimes friendly) zombie samurai.
Shadowrun Returns is free until Saturday.