Thursday, 16 May 2024

Afterwords: Shadowrun Returns

Shadowrun Returns

Kickstarter has been a platform for many video game projects, but not all of them have seen the light of day. However, one team that has successfully delivered on their promise is Harebrained Schemes. They recently released “Shadowrun Returns” to positive reviews and feedback, both on PC and iOS platforms. In this article, we will delve into the game, its inspirations, and address some common criticisms.

Drawing Inspiration from an Array of Sources

The Shadowrun universe has always been influenced by a mix of science fiction and fantasy. For the “Dead Man’s Switch” campaign, the team drew inspiration from Raymond Chandler’s noir storytelling in “The Big Sleep” and the art direction of classic films like “The Maltese Falcon.” Additionally, they found inspiration in older Shadowrun books, such as Nigel Findley’s novel “Lone Wolf.” The team also acknowledged the contributions of their Art Director, Mike McCain, and a YouTube video created by one of their Kickstarter Backers, which helped shape the writing.

Gameplay Mechanics and Differentiation

“Shadowrun Returns” has been noted for its tactical combat, which draws some inspiration from the renowned game “XCOM: Enemy Unknown.” Initially, the team planned to base the combat on the original 1994 XCOM game to provide players with a high level of tactical control. However, they realized that the pace was slower than desired, and certain features felt too complex. To address this, they embraced a more streamlined approach, while still retaining similarities to XCOM’s mechanics.

Feature Development and Improvement

When asked what features the team would have focused on if given more development time, they highlighted two main areas: improving the save game system and adding more optional shadowruns. Despite having a small budget, they aimed to deliver the most important elements of the game, focusing on staying true to the Shadowrun essence, telling a captivating story, providing fun tactical combat, and allowing players to create and develop their characters.

Balancing Tutorials and Narrative

Balancing tutorials with the desire to keep players engaged in the story is a challenge faced by many game developers. While some games integrate tutorials seamlessly, others can feel burdensome. The team acknowledges that their tutorials lean towards an old-school approach, but they made this decision to maintain the tone and style of the game. They believe that Shadowrun Returns’ praise for its writing and tone validates their approach.

Scoping vs. Cutting Corners

As an independent developer with limited resources, Harebrained Schemes emphasizes the need to focus the scope of their projects. While other games with larger budgets and teams are often compared to Shadowrun Returns, it’s important to recognize the team’s accomplishment in delivering a visually appealing RPG with a classless character creation system, enjoyable combat, and a quality story within a year, priced at an affordable $20.

Continuing Growth and Future Plans

Harebrained Schemes has recently released versions of Shadowrun Returns for iPad, Android tablets, PC, and OSX. They are actively supporting these platforms and are close to completing an update. With a focus on community engagement, they are dedicated to delivering features and improvements requested by players, such as better save game functionality, Linux support, updates to the editor, and the highly anticipated Berlin campaign.


Q: What are the main goals for the upcoming Berlin campaign?

  • A more flexible main story arc, allowing players to choose which runs to complete first and which factions to support.
  • More depth to the NPC runner characters.
  • New weapons, outfits, portraits, music, and enemies, including additional magical creatures.
  • Improved gameplay for Physical Adepts and other existing archetypes.
  • A European city with a distinct look, atmosphere, and cast of characters.
  • A story that highlights the compelling themes found in the Shadowrun: Germany sourcebook.

Q: What makes the Shadowrun universe unique?
Shadowrun stands out due to its depth, breadth, and grounding in the real world. It tackles real-world issues like poverty, bigotry, and unregulated corporate power within a sci-fi/fantasy context. The game explores popular character tropes with an ironic modern twist and added depth. Shadowrun allows players to create complex characters with unique backstories, providing unparalleled storytelling opportunities.


The release of Shadowrun Returns has been met with positive feedback, and Harebrained Schemes continues to support and improve the game across various platforms. With their dedicated community and commitment to delivering requested features, the future looks promising for this immersive RPG. Stay tuned for updates and get ready to embark on new adventures in the captivating world of Shadowrun.

For more information about Harebrained Schemes and their projects, visit Wqaindia.