If you’re a fan of Dungeons & Dragons podcasts that are story-rich with diverse battle options, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is the game for you.
Set in 2056, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is a cyberpunk dystopian fantasy. You must explore the city’s seedy underbelly to solve the mysterious disappearance of your adopted father.
It’s been a decade since you spoke with Raymond, the man who took you in off the streets when you were a kid. He was like a father to you, raising you alongside fellow orphan Duncan. The three of you were a makeshift family, and Raymond did his best to shape you into decent people. But, you went your own way, and now Raymond needs your help. He’s asked you to return to Hong Kong and meet him there. He sounds desperate. So, you go.
That’s when everything goes downhill. Raymond isn’t there, but Duncan is. The two of you team up to try and find out what happened to your father figure. In the process, you end up tangled in a web of seedy Hong Kong crime and politics.
In this engrossing story, you’re instantly bound to this group of outlaws and misfits, determined to ensure they survive. The world of Shadowrun: Hong Kong is gritty enough to make you realize survival isn’t a guarantee. As you wind your way through it, you find yourself waiting on baited breath for the next path in the story. The characters are well-developed, something that shows in the customizable dialogue options. Your choices truly have an impact in the way this all plays out.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong has a “Dungeons & Dragons” type of set-up. You choose a class, your skills, and a few other traits that will later determine how you interact in battle. The game walks you through selective dialogue options at the beginning that let you set the tone of who you are and how you present yourself to the world.
For example, if you decide your character has experience as a Shadowrunner (a black-market runner and dealer in this world), you’ll be given extra choices in conversations and quests that have to do with the underworld. So, that expertise comes in handy.
Some choices you make simply determine how you interact with others in this dystopian fantasy. That may not seem like much, but keep in mind that this game has multiple endings. How you deal with certain situations with certain characters determines which end you will ultimately find yourself in.
The cyberpunk element of this game doesn’t start at aesthetics, it comes to play in battle as well. Tech meets magic when it comes to your combined abilities. If you’ve ever played games in the X-COM series, you might be reminded of the way alien tech can be combined with genetic manipulation in a turn-based battle setting.
Who goes first in these turn-based battles is determined by each character’s AP, or action points. Everyone starts out with two, but you can gain and lose points by how you develop your character as well as by actions performed in combat. Each action point allows you to “purchase” an action, such as moving a certain distance or performing a kind of attack. The more of these you have, the better your odds are in each combat round.
One of the standout abilities here is called decking, which is the Shadowrun version of hacking. But you don’t need a computer, keyboard, or even direct access to hack things in Hong Kong. On the player end, when you deck an object you are given one of a variety of puzzles to solve to determine how successful your attempt is, ranging from Simon Says to pattern matching. This particular feature has been slightly controversial among players, but overall it adds to the roleplaying element. Instead of decking being just another button you press during combat, it’s an actual skill you need to employ.
And, by the way, decking isn’t just for combat. This is a skill you can use while rummaging around the refuse heaps of the slums of Hong Kong to get access to areas otherwise locked to your team, giving you a lot more options when it comes to several side quests.
It’s hard to believe that a game that received its funding largely through a Kickstarter campaign came out this successful. While the story doesn’t have you on high alert, providing plenty of pauses for you to pursue side missions at will, it’s consistently engrossing. Even the side missions provide their own stories with fleshed out characters that keep your side-runs from feeling like throwaways. The writers really put out their best material here and it shows.
The bottom line is: if you’re a fan of cyberpunk, dystopian fantasy, engrossing stories, turn-based battle systems, or games with replayability that includes both enhanced story and combat options, do yourself a favor and pick up Shadowrun: Hong Kong.