In the world of Shadowrun, high-tech science and magic merge in a dark futuristic cyberpunk world where humans, elves, dwarves, and orks co-exist. A Shadowrunner is an agent tasked to do work that's usually on the gray side of legal. Using a combination of cybernetic gadgetry, magic spells, and old-fashioned firepower, Shadowrunners get the job done for a big payday, or die trying. Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown brings the role-playing experience that was revived with 2013's Shadowrun Returns (but not developed by the same studio), focuses it on a single city, and brings it online with 4-player co-op.
As the title indicates, the city in question is Boston. So, if you're not a big fan of the accent, you might want to hit mute on this one. You build your character using a number of background traits that offer advantages at a cost. For example, you might choose to become a great hacker, but you could be more easily damaged as a result of your life choices.
Things seem to play out in a fairly straightforward fashion once you hit the streets of Boston. You have a handful of points for skills and pick up some equipment using a money advanced to you for your next job. Then it's a matter of picking up jobs and completing them alongside other players or pre-configured henchmen.
If you haven't played Shadowrun Returns, Shadowrun Chronicles plays very similarly to XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Each character has two points for which to move and perform actions. Once each character has moved, the enemy side gets its turn. Further similarities include the stat based actions, which dictate how likely you are to hit a target, cover, and flanking maneuvers. However, unlike XCOM, characters can't be set to react incoming enemies, nor can they pin enemies down with covering fire.
The game also happens to be extremely challenging. You can't outfit henchmen with gear, and they generally don't come equipped with armor early in the game. So, even they usually end up being blown away, even when you order them to duck behind cover. Additionally, some henchmen or characters are simply unfit for certain missions. For example, characters that are completely specialized in magic won't do much against security droids. But you're rarely ever given a heads-up as to what to expect when you step into a mission. In addition to being a warning against me specializing my character too much, I also had to replay tricky missions a couple of times before I finally got it right. Sometimes, my henchmen even lived to the end.
After completing a number of missions, and somehow agreeing to rob Fenway Park of Red Sox trophies shortly after a dragon attack, a number of gameplay issues became apparent. The most prominent problem being that despite its single player options, Shadowrun Chronicles is an online game. Getting live teammates to join you is a big feature, but there aren't a lot of ways to advertise your game or that you're interested in joining except by typing into a chat channel. But the biggest problem comes from how you'll lose mission progress if you lose connection with the server, which happened to me several times. On the bright side, I think you keep all the gear you pick up during the mission. However, you'll have to replay the mission from its start, which is infuriating when you were in the middle of a long mission or doing well in one that you're replaying.
Still, the game is fun and exciting enough to keep me playing despite the setbacks. We'll see if the frustrations continue to mount as my Shadowrunner continues to explore corporate controlled Boston, caught in the fires of a killer dragon. Is summoning a dragon what corporate sabotage looks like in a sci-fi fantasy future?