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Review - Sahdowrun: Hong Kong

[The following observations were originally posted to Twitter on May 13, 2020. The text has been reproduced here with minor revisions for clarity.]

Finally got around to playing Shadowrun: Hong Kong. The completionist in me appreciates Harebrained Schemes' streamlined approach to RPG design. No bloated world map or tedious fetch quests here—just a hub area packed with interesting NPCs and a handful of tightly scripted missions. While it utilizes the same basic formula as the franchise's previous two installments (Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall), this iteration refines it to near perfection, addressing most of the gameplay balancing issues. Additionally, it features the series' best squad of supporting characters to date.

As a huge chanbara fan, Gaichu was obviously my favorite companion. His personal storyline is basically a Hideo Gosha film in a cyberpunk setting. Unfortunately, he's a melee build in a cover-based tactical RPG, so he's not always super useful to have on the team.

On the flip side of the coin, I found Duncan's characterization to be somewhat grating; after unlocking enough of his skill tree, however, I simply couldn’t avoid using him: he gets two abilities that one-shot enemies under certain conditions, and he can totally negate grenade damage.

Even the grind of min-maxing your player character is unusually satisfying. If you allocate experience points into the correct attributes and invest in a few cybernetic upgrades, you can hit enemies from clear across the map with a shotgun—without sacrificing any of the benefits.

Honestly, the only thing I didn't enjoy was the Matrix. Stealth from an isometric perspective is an enormous pain in the ass, and the hacking minigames kill the momentum. True, those segments are technically optional... but they're also the primary source of extra money in a game in which quest rewards generally pay for about 1/3 of a new weapon. If you neglect the Matrix, you're just needlessly handicapping yourself.

Overall, though, I loved Shadowrun: Hong Kong. It offers up a decent variety of quest scenarios (one mission, for example, forces you to contend with two rival heist crews; another allows you to decide how to deal with a traitorous employer) without overstaying its welcome.

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