Game: Shadowrun: Hong Kong
Playtime: 29 hours
Completed: March 2, 2017
Developer(s): Hairbrained Schemes
Publisher(s): Hairbrained Schemes
Release Date: August 20, 2015
DLC: Kickstarted DLC used – Additional Character Portraits, Extended Prologue
Hong Kong, 2056. The city is controlled by a corporate council of mega-corporation CEOs. Kowloon, the Walled City, a mega-slum in the heart of Hong Kong is a breeding ground for violence, despair, and crime. The magical landscape in Kowloon is bad – it is a slum after all – but is there something more…something darker?
Your “father” that rescued you from the streets of the Redmond Barrens back in the United Canadian and American States (UCAS), who you haven’t talked with in many years, suddenly leaves you a commlink message and enough nuyen to get a flight; he needs you in Hong Kong, now.
Getting off the suborbital jet, you meet your “brother” Duncan and everything goes sideways in a big way.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong is the third of Hairbrained Scheme’s reboot of the Shadowrun video game series. It follows the same general gameplay features as Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall, but has an improved magic, matrix, and cyberware system. If you have used the back 4 blood hacks, then it is very similar to that.
The series is an isometric 3rd person tactical RPG where you create your character how you want. Choose between the basic races of Shadowrun – Dwarf, Ork, Elf, Troll, or Human – and choose either an archetype, like Decker (hacker), Rigger (Drone master), Street Samurai (cyberware and guns), Adept (magical melee attacker), Mage, Shaman, and others, or use the Karma system to build the character any way you want.
Playing through the game, you will end up doing a number of missions (Shadowruns) where using your skills and those of your other 3 teammates, you can find a number of different ways to complete the run; some more subtle than others.
You find yourself a reluctant Shadowrunner as you unravel the mystery that is keeping you in the shadows. The main plotline of the game is engaging and it keeps peppering you with hints and opportunities for backstory as you progress through the side missions. There are plenty of interesting characters around the town you’re staying in that allows for a lot of flavor and backstory.
Without going into spoiler territory, the story threads that get set up at the beginning get resolved throughout the gameplay, which is always nice, and there is even an Extended Addition DLC that you can play as a prologue.
The prologue picks up a few months after the end of the events of the main campaign. You use the same characters and pick up another. The story of the prologue does tie up one loose end and has some good plot twists (just like every good Shadowrun).
The main characters in the game, besides your own, make for a pretty well rounded group. The primary characters are a pair that grew up in the Walled City and escaped. Gobbet the ork Rat shaman and Is0bel, the dwarf decker. The pair’s personalities are quite distinct and fun to see play out and grow as you get to know them. The other main character is Duncan, a security specialist that is your “brother” that you grew up with. Great with guns and in subduing stunned combatants, he’s great to have in a fight.
Other major players are Racter, a human rigger that can join your team if you ask nicely. His drone is a murder machine that can output a ton of damage. Your fixer, Kindly Cheng, is quite the character, as well. You don’t get to fight with her, but you interact with her throughout the game a lot. There is a side character that you can pick up for your team, as well, which I will leave out details of due to spoilers.
Those that checked out my review of Dragonfall back in episode 2 are aware of some of my complaints with that game, mainly that your character is always in the lead when exploring areas and you will sometimes start combat after walking into an area. Unless you’re playing someone heavily armored with a high strength score, you can get taken down in one round without having any chance. Thankfully, this got changed this time around. You still enter combat with you in the lead, but the enemies never take their first round to fire. They always start by taking cover, which gives you a chance to do the same.
I also had an issue with being unable to give your teammates supplies if you picked them up mid-mission. This has also been corrected. If your teammate has space in their inventory, you can give it to them instead of sending to your stash.
The matrix system is improved now, allowing you to be more stealthy if you want and the hacking system is something that makes you actually think quick and you feel like you are legitimately hacking something.
In Returns, I played as a troll bruiser. Went through the game punching my way through problems.
In Dragonfall, I played as an Elf Shaman, using Spirits to rain down chaos on my enemies.
In Hong Kong, I utilized the Karma system and went very heavy into Charisma. This gave me a number of Etiquette skills. This opened up avenues of discussion in many of the missions that let me talk myself in and out of places. There were several missions where I didn’t fire a single shot as I conned, negotiated, and intimidated my way through the area. I did pick up a few points in using SMGs. Even with a silver tongue, there will be many times in the sixth world that you need to shoot something, anyways.
I played through on normal difficulty and found it a good challenge. I only failed a couple of missions, but there were a couple where it was very close. I was out of Doc Wagon contracts, out of medkits, and down to my last bit of health.
If you like cyberpunk and the idea of mixing magic, technology, and guns in one setting excites you, you owe it to yourself to play through this series. Hong Kong is a refinement of the gameplay of the first two. The characters are unique, the story is engaging, and the combat is fun.
Dragonfall had scored a 4.5/5, and since they fixed all the issues I had with it, Hong Kong walks away with a Pile of Shame perfect score of 5/5 Ruger Super Warhawks.
For more game reviews and discussion about how to conquer that pile of video games we buy but haven’t beaten yet, check out the Pile of Shame podcast.