Harebrained Schemes has done it again. When you want a true RPG with an interesting plot and simple, fun gameplay, it can’t hurt to run the shadows.
Shadowrun: Dragonfall, Harebrained’s last entry in the turn based, isometric cyberpunk series was brilliant. A nice, suspenseful plot, fantastic characters, and a healthy amount of tugging on those RPG strings. It’s easily one of the best RPGs to come out in recent years. Does Hong Kong match those lofty heights? Does it exceed them?
Yes in some ways, no in others.
The interface has been improved since Dragonfall, making maneuvering around the menus while customizing characters and loadouts easier and smoother. Decking in the Matrix (a mini-game that takes place in cyberspace), easily the worst part about previous entries, has been filled out a bit as well. It still hasn’t quite managed to overcome the eyeroll factor for me, but it is a definite step in the right direction.
The titular runs, mercenary tasks you complete (usually some variety of sticking it to some sort of man), have never been better. Hong Kong really shines as it embroils you in plots that are innovative and fun, and there are plenty of them to go around. In almost every run, shooting my way in and out wasn’t the most expedient method to complete them, which adds some texture to a combat-heavy formula. As my PC had conversations and made decisions, I felt him grow, and become more fully fleshed out than my avatars in the previous entries.
The characters that accompany you on quest, however, fall short of Dragonfall’s. I just didn’t find a single member of my Hong Kong crew to be terribly interesting, and each had moments where they were downright irritating. They do manage to present some interesting philosophies and perspectives on issues, but I wish they had been more memorable and relatable on an emotional level.
The narrative scenarios surrounding combat took several steps forward. Key battles were tense, and involved more tactical considerations than taking cover and blasting away. Climaxes for shadowruns and the main plot were typically things to look forward to, not just one more fight, and this might just be Hong Kong’s greatest accomplishment.
Combat itself, however, felt a little sketchy in a way I don’t recall from previous entries. At least one turn in every fight, a couple of my party members lost the ability to hit the broad side of a barn. I once missed four shots in a row, each pegged at 77% accuracy. The very next turn, with the very same character, the same thing happened. It’s possible that I really just had crap rolls and confirmation bias compounded my frustration. But my bug radar was definitely going off, and the phenomenon made several fights extremely difficult—and not in the enjoyable way.
The climax of the main story helped me put my percentile woes behind me somewhat, even improving on the epic closer that was Dragonfall’s third act. If Harebrained deems it appropriate to include more encounters like it in their future entries, it will be to the series’ benefit.
The music is, once again, fantastic. The catchy and evocative tracks have been a real high point of all three Shadowrun Returns entries, and Hong Kong presents perhaps the best effort yet. Perfectly atmospheric, futuristic, and vaguely cultural, I found myself stopping at several points to just listen for a few seconds. Harebrained really hit their sound design out of the park.
Hong Kong is a fantastic entry in a fantastic series that, while not perfect, demonstrates that the developers are learning, growing, and trying. While they don’t hit every target, they make noticeable improvements in other areas, and this makes me excited for future entries.
About Our Rating System:
The Loresworn Order reviews games, movies, TV, books, and music on a four-point scale.
- No Medal, “Not Recommended”
- Bronze, “Okay”
- Silver, “Good!”
- Gold, “Great!”