Today marks the launch of Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown on Steam, a game that's not at all related to the other two Shadowrun games on Steam or the recently Kickstarted third. Confused? Great! That's why I wrote this.
So Shadowrun Chronicles is completely unrelated to Shadowrun Returns?
Well, not completely unrelated. Both are digital takes on the popular pen-and-paper tech-meets-magic role-playing game originally published by FASA in 1989. Following the amazingly successful kickstarter for Shadowrun Returns, a turn-based tactics game created by some of the RPGs original designers, Cliffhanger Productions held its own Kickstarter for a game called Shadowrun Online, a turn-based tactics game that would allow multiple players to play together.
All of the games are officially licensed Shadowrun products. They share a website with the pen-and-paper game, with the trademark held by Topps and Microsoft. Microsoft hasn't tried making its own Shadowrun game since the incident.
Wait, so all of these games are the same genre?
Technically, yeah. Shadowrun Returns, its follow-up Shadowrun: Dragonfall, the upcoming third instalment, Shadowrun: Hong Kong and the game that was Shadowrun Online all feature turn-based tactical combat. The first three, developed by Jordan Weisman's Harebrained Schemes, have a real traditional PC game feel, while the latter is a bit more dynamic, like an X-Com. The genre just works really well for the subject matter — much better than a first-person shooter.
So what happened to Shadowrun Online?
In order to curb expectations that a label like "Online" sets, Cliffhanger renamed the game Shadowrun Chronicles. The first full campaign for Chronicles is Boston Lockdown. While players do see each other online and can team up to take on missions (runs), it's not quite the living, breathing sort of massively-multiplayer affair the adjective would indicate. It's still pretty cool nonetheless.
Which modern Shadowrun video game should I play?
Shadowrun: Dragonfall is the ultimate version of Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun series (for now), and it is excellent. I've played a little bit of Shadowrun Chronicles, and so far I like what I've seen. If you love the Shadowrun universe, all of these tactics games are steeped in it. The magic flashes, the bullets fly, the swords swing and the guy with the keyboard sits quietly in the corner, as it should be.