By: Ted Chow
If you came here thinking Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown would be a more definitive successor to the original Shadowrun reboot, you may come out feeling a bit disappointed. While the mythos continues to bring gun slinging elves and troll bouncers into the fray, the rudimentary and barebones nature of Chronicles may more than turn off even the genre’s heartiest veterans. For the Shadowrun faithful there are inklings of bright spots, though you may have to search for concrete reasons as to why to stick with the game.
As a turn-based game akin to XCOM, the control scheme is pretty similar to XCOM and the previous Shadowrun games. Many of the missions you go on will give you action points in which you conduct the placement of your characters. During this phase you’re also allowed to attack, cover and use special abilities. Everything is simply registered with the click of your mouse, with the inclusion of freeform camera panning to check out the mission map and plan your strategy.
If there is one credit in the graphics department, it’s that the game is pretty well optimized for an online experience. Aside from that, you may feel like you are playing Shadowrun Returns, with stylized art that can feel flat at times. Budget constraints could also be the culprit for a lack of polish to certain areas.
It may also feel like the game was intended for numerous players with a high emphasis placed on lowering polygon count to account for an MMO experience, though it may be for naught as player levels can fluctuate heavily. The soundtrack felt like it was an afterthought with much of it seemingly ripped from other Shadowrun titles.
The main focus of Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown is on the missions and less on the story and the degree of branching choices. Missions are handed out by the same quest giver in your main city hub where all commerce and player interaction occurs. These missions can be handled solo or co-op with friends or strangers, though playing with computer AI for henchmen will give you the best sense of control.
Co-op can be fun, but the time spent waiting for other players to finish their turns rather than playing the mission may be a deal breaker for many. After a mission is completed you will travel back to your city hub and rinse/repeat this rudimentary principle.
The missions themselves can vary in difficulty and best method of approach, but fundamentally, they’ll involve you killing gangsters and other scumbags in a rather ambiguous world where classification of said scumbags may be tenuous at best.
What cheapens the mood is the lack of urgency, seriousness or care for these characters. Unlike XCOM, these characters felt flat and generic. And with no real underlying story, you’re left wondering why you’re just playing a barebones tactical turn-based game.
If you find missions to be a chore that does little more than check boxes off a list, then much of the remaining game experience may also feel uninspired and lazy. The central hub, for one, is static throughout your play experience amidst all the changes you hope to instill.
Vendors are spread apart to garner a sense of artificial longevity in travel time and offer little to no variety in weapons or other equipments. Side missions are time exclusive and often follow the same formula as regular ones.
The player base, while generally tame as of this writing, provides a hollow sense of community to a title that could be perceived as single player. It was probably wise to rename the game to Chronicles instead of online as players could’ve definitely misinterpreted the game’s offerings and intent.
While most of the gameplay experience is a rinse and repeat cycle, Boston Lockdown does have some decent customization and ability trees. Players can outfit their characters with an assortment of vanity items that are mainly there for aesthetic reasons and less for statistical benefits. So, if you wanted to roll as a troll with a Mohawk and pink polka dot short shorts, that would be your prerogative.
The ability tree offers some interest choices in different areas of proficiency from hacking to magic. Some will offer some needed utility, while others are great for statistical bonuses or additional features like summoning spirit bears to take aggression. Overall, the customization had some thought put in for players to mess around with.
Like its predecessors, Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown follows a similar formula that, when compared to XCOM, is mediocre and rudimentary. There is also room for concern as to how long people will continue to play the game as there isn’t enough substance for people to invest their time and effort into.