(You should listen to the main theme above, it's pretty good)
What's this all about?
Shadowrun Returns is a 2013 RPG based on one of the more well-known tabletop RPG settings originating from 1989, Shadowrun. It was developed and published by Harebrained Schemes, a company founded by Jordan Weisman who is one of the original designers of Shadowrun, following a successful Kickstarter.
It's not the first Shadowrun video game released - even many people not otherwise familiar with the setting remember the 1993 SNES game simply called Shadowrun or the 1994 Sega Genesis game simply called Shadowrun which were joined by the less famous 1996 Japan-only Mega-CD game simply called Shadowrun. And yes, these are all completely different games. There were also a couple of fairly unremarkable games carrying the Shadowrun title released in 2007 (called, you guessed it, Shadowrun) and 2015 (called Shadowrun Chronicles - Boston Lockdown), but their existence is usually ignored and we will do the same in part because the former is barely connected to the setting and the latter takes place long after this game.
The SNES and Genesis games have their own LP's in the archives, the former by Danaru and the latter by Turtlicious. Check them out if you haven't!
Shadowrun Returns itself was followed by two more titles from the same design team using the same gameplay systems, Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut (originally released as an expansion to Returns and simply titled Dragonfall) and Shadowrun: Hong Kong. These two are largely considered the pinnacle of Shadowrun video games, and Dragonfall in particular enjoys the reputation of a modern classic.
So what's the setting all about?
The real short version is that Shadowrun takes place in our world's alternate cyberpunk future where magic became real in 2012 and with it came all kinds of previously slumbering otherworldly creatures, such as dragons, with the classic fantasy races such as elves and orks mutating from previously ordinary humans. Animals mutated as well, with results you can probably guess.
Most countries as we know them have ceased to exist or at the very least have changed dramatically, and the world is ruled by the immensely powerful dragons (though more in the "holding all the strings behind the scenes" -kind of way than in the "burn down cities" -kind of way) and gigantic megacorporations. Corruption, drugs, violence, crime and cyberimplants are commonplace. Overall life tends to be pretty shitty in most places unless you're rich. Basically the classic fantasy staples mixed with classic dystopian cyberpunk stuff that each and every day feels a little bit more real.
There's still much more to the setting of course, but it'll be easier to cover it as it comes up instead of having it all here in an enormous wall of text. Also I'm by no means a Shadowrun expert and will no doubt miss something here and there, so all corrections and additions are welcome as long as they don't contain spoilers. See the spoiler policy below.
So where does this particular game fit in?
As I mentioned earlier, this game's two follow-ups are both considered quite good, excellent even. Shadowrun Returns itself on the other hand tends to get a more mixed reception for various reasons that we'll get to when they become relevant. In many ways it feels like a prototype for its successors, and it had some particularly rough edges at the time of its release such as the complete lack of manual saves (!) which didn't help its case. Some particularly hard-to-deal-with bugs were also a fairly common complaint.
All that being said, I personally think the game's semi-negative reputation is maybe a little undeserved, though also understandable especially now when you have Dragonfall and Hong Kong to compare it to. Still, it's a fun and relatively short romp in one of the cooler fantasy settings around.
The game's main campaign itself, which goes by the name The Dead Man's Switch, takes place in the year 2054 and the location is the city of Seattle, the most common "default" setting in Shadowrun which is also where the SNES and Genesis games took place (the SNES game in 2050 and the Genesis one in 2058). Outside of some references and perhaps a familiar face or two, Returns' plot isn't connected to the two and prior knowledge of them isn't necessary. Also unlike the previous protagonists Jake and Joshua, the main character in Returns is a blank slate completely created by the player.
- No spoilers, preferably not even in tags unless it's something particularly inconsequential (e.g., related to game mechanics). If something hasn't happened yet, don't talk about it or even allude to it. And don't be the guy who has seen the movie and constantly keeps talking about how the good bits are coming up, nobody likes that guy.
- If you haven't played the game but are otherwise familiar with the setting, be especially careful. This LP assumes the viewer is not intimately familiar with Shadowrun, so even if Banana Jackson actually being a killer android is common knowledge to those who follow the setting, don't bring it up here unless it has already come up in the LP as it might turn out to be relevant to the plot.
- Related to the above, remember that the game doesn't take place in the most up-to-date version of the tabletop game, so if you're not 100% sure if something has happened by the time this game takes place, assume it hasn't.
- Otherwise discussion is encouraged so don't be afraid to or ask questions, and for example talking about the older Shadowrun games or what have you is totally fine.
Table of Contents
Part 01 - The Dead Man's Call
Part 02 - Create-a-Criminal
Part 03 - Blood in the Water
Part 04 - The Chop Shop Stop
Part 05 - Auspicious Beginnings HD Remastered
Part 06 - CSI: Seattle
Part 07 - Getting Unionized
Part 08 - A Night at the Market
Part 09 - Ten Ways to Move Up in the World
Part 10 - Painting the Penthouse
Part 11 - Meeting the Locals
Part 12 - Meeting the Locals Continued
Part 13 - Paranormal Activity
Part 14 - Crusader Queens
Part 15 - Watts on My Mind
Part 16 - Warehouse Warfare
Part 17 - Re-Enter the Matrix
Part 18 - Madness and Mercy
Part 19 - Puppets and Puppeteers
Part 20 - The Calm Between the Storms
Part 21 - The Graveyard Shift
Part 22 - Welcome to the Hood
Part 23 - A Look Under the Hood
Part 24 - Dawn of the Metal Age
Part 25 - A Tale of Drones
Part 26 - Corporate Raiders
Part 27 - Corporate Raiders Continued
Part 28 - Duty Above All
Part 29 - Friends in High Places
Part 30 - Final Preparations
Part 31 - The Spirits Within
Part 32 - The Finale
Part 33 - The Aftermath