Originally called Shadowrun Online, Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown puts players in control of a “Shadowrunner” trying to make name for themselves in a corrupt Boston in the year 2076. Having begun as a science fiction tabletop role-playing game in 1989, the world of Shadowrun has since expanded into novels, a collectible card game, two tabletop wargames and several videogames. Players of series in all its forms will be happy to see that this latest incarnation is set in the same cyberpunk-themed universe they have grown to know and love over the past 25 years.
According to the Shadowrun Chronicles wiki, Shadowrunners are “Elite criminals of the [Shadowrun Universe]. When conflicts arise that cannot be solved by legal means, the corporations, governments, wealthy individuals, and even organized crime will subcontract their dirty work to deniable specialists. Shadowrunners fall outside the structured corporate world. Many are outcasts, having risen from the streets or fallen from corporate or government ranks. The one thing they have in common is that through necessity or by choice, they work in the shadows cast by the gigantic corporate buildings.”
Here are a variety of Shadowrunners yours can look like.
Shadowrunners do the work that others cannot or will not do. Many of them have technical and magical skills at their disposal. Others just like hitting things. Hard. What your Shadowrunner does is completely up to you though. When you first begin the campaign you immediately get to create your Shadowrunner. Character creation was not super exciting in terms of variety, but still enjoyable.
You can choose from one of five “Metatypes” (races) and one of 27 “Backgrounds” (stat bonuses). Each metatype and background have various pros and cons in terms of stats and skill bonuses. After you make your selections, you can then customize your Shadowrunner’s appearance like from a decent assortment of clothes and accessories. From there you have 10 Karma (skillpoints) to spend on your Shadowrunner’s skills and abilities. For the purpose of this review I will refer to my Shadowrunner: Blotto.
This is the character load-out screen. From here you can spend your karma points, swap out your gear and even change what you’re wearing.
Blotto is a Troll (metatype) Bouncer (background) with karma points improving his body, artistry with blunt weapons and proficiency with shotguns. I like to be up close and personal with my enemies. After Blotto’s creation, the game started. It launched into a very brief (perhaps too brief), fast-paced tutorial that gave me the basics of combat and how to control my character. From there the actual campaign started and I began to do Shadowrun missions.
The campaign/mission process is very simple. You talk to your contact, hear a briefing of the mission, then have time to go shopping and prepare yourself before starting the mission. If you have any friends that are also playing Shadowrun Chronicles, you can invite them to join your party. The online community is very friendly if you would like to reach out to someone and ask for help. If you don’t feel like playing with others, you can very easily select skilled, pre-made characters that you control yourself once you are in-game. An image of the pre-mission character selection screen can be seen below.
For this particular mission players can have up to 3 teammates. If you’re not playing with friends then be sure to diversify your team as best you can.
Each mission plays out like a traditional tactical battle. You work your Shadowrunning team through the stage, defeating enemies, collecting items and interacting with the environment while completing objectives for each level. Some missions are simple and may just require your team to collect some data from a computer and head back out the way you came. While others are more intense and can entail fighting heavily armored robots, hacking security cameras or clearing out rooms of enemies with only your small team of characters.
All traditional turn-based, tactical combat rules apply. You can choose to do an action and then move or move and then do an action. You will deal more damage and have better chance to hit if you attack someone from behind. Someone hiding behind cover gains a reduced chance to be hit. So on and so forth. Nothing new under the sun per-say but the levels are still fun and can be very challenging.
Here are some Shadowrunners taking cover during a mission.
The game does provide some forgiveness for the more difficult levels. Even if Blotto dies, if I can get the rest of my team to complete the mission I still win. Even if you do lose your whole team, you still get to keep any items you may have found during that run of the mission. That way players still have a chance of getting more money and better equipment regardless of how well they do on that stage.
As for the plot of Boston Lockdown, it’s a little odd. You originally wake in some lab with doctors operating on you. You promptly dispatch them and get contacted by a close friend of yours telling you to escape. Once you do, the game suddenly jumps back several weeks to when your character just started to Shadowrun in the Chinatown area of Boston in 2076. That is where you meet Smedley, a sophisticated Troll who is in-charge of all Shadowrunner missions in that part of the city. He’s well connected with all the movers and shakers in Boston and is your primary source of work.
Smedley is the well-dressed gentletroll sitting with his leg crossed.
After doing various jobs for him, investigating a certain gang, he sends on what was suppose to be an easy gig. Get in. Get out. Get paid. Unfortunately, shortly after you get in, a dragon emerges from some underground facility and wrecks havoc throughout the city. After all the chaos dies down, it’s discovered that the dragon also spread a disease across the city that is turning your Bostonians into homicidal maniacs! The government and all the corrupt corporations that Shadowrunners do work for put the city in lockdown, a Boston Lockdown, and leave, forcing everyone inside to fend for themselves.
While the plot is a little weak in my opinion, the Shadowrun universe, this game’s heart and soul, really made me forget the issues I had with the story. I could tell that a lot of love and attention was put in the world to please long time fans. I really appreciated that. Though the gameplay and character advancement were really the stars of the show, in my opinion. I had honestly never rolled a character before that had the option to be a hacker, a mage or a street thug but then could still level-up skills in summoning, robotics or automatic weaponry. The Boston accents in the voice acting were not half-bad either. In the end the futuristic, magic-technology based world that is Shadowrun made this game for me. I hope you enjoy it too. Hurry over to Steam today where you can pick up this gem for 50-percent off! Well worth the price.
Good Shadowrun Gateway Game
Gameplay - 9/10
Plot - 6.5/10
Design - 8/10
As someone new to the Shadowrun universe, this game really got me excited to experience the other games in the Shadowrun series.
That being said, Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown does not break any molds but still delivers solid, tactical rpg gameplay fans of the genre (like myself) can enjoy on their own or with friends.