Well, at FASA’s offices this week we got a lot more info on what this Shadowrun game was going to be like via info from studio head Mitch Gitelman. First, he gave the fictional backstory for the events in the game. It’s been 20 years since the events of 2011 where magic began to return to the planet and two groups, the multinational corporation RNA Global and the resistance group The Lineage, are fighting it out in South America where a ziggurat temple has been unearthed and magical power is being generated. Much like the Tribes series of games, the backstory is interesting all by itself, but players certainly don’t need to know anything about it in order to play the game.
And what about the game? After hearing about their plans and playing the game for ourselves, we can honestly say that this version of Shadowrun is unlike any other multiplayer shooter currently out there. While it definitely has some similarities to games like Unreal Tournament, Tribes and Counter-Strike, Shadowrun is doing a lot of different things. First among them is how they are handling the playable characters. There are no classes in the game per se. There are four different races, however. You have the Jack of all trades human, the highly magical elf, the slow but powerful troll and the hardened dwarf. All four races can be played by both the RNA Global and the Lineage sides and each has advantages and disadvantages. The elf, for example, is magically adept, while the dwarf is about the opposite and can actually leach magic from other players. When shot, the troll actually gets a tougher skin the more and more you shoot at him (there is an upper limit so he’s not invulnerable). All four races have some degree of magical ability (called essence) that they can use in the game to create spells. One of the more interesting aspects of Shadowrun’s spell is that it’s never really used for offensive power; in other words you won’t be throwing magical power balls at your enemy. Rather the spells are used for defensive or for support. Things like generating the Tree of Life (a healing tree for anyone to use) or turning your character into smoke so that weapon blast can’t hurt you, teleportation, pushing off enemies via gusts of wind are the main aspects here.
The offensive parts of Shadowrun are for the tech weapons. There’s nothing terribly innovative about the selection of weapons; you have everything from pistols, machine guns, and shotguns through grenades to rocket launchers to chose from. However, you also have other tech items that you can use to augment your character (at the expense of losing the amount of magic you can use in the game). The most popular tech items are the glider (flying around in short bursts) and enhanced vision (allowing the player to see through walls). If it sounds like abilities to look through wall or teleporting through them are more akin to cheating than gameplay features, that’s not an accident. The development team wanted to put in features in Shadowrun that would be considered cheats in other games.
The end result of all these features is that you can create a playable character in Shadowrun that will be a lot different than just picking one or two different firearms. In addition to magical and tech abilities Shadowrun will allow you to use those abilities in new and complex ways. You can glide up to a location on a level and then teleport through a wall to reach your final objective. You can fire anti-magic tech at an enemy that will cause him or her to not be able to use their magical abilities. You can resurrect your teammates with your magical powers..but if you die, that means anyone you have resurrected will start “bleeding” until they die. If you are getting the picture that this game is going to be more than just a Counter-Strike clone, you would be correct. It’s safe to say that Shadowrun is not for the beginning multiplayer shooter fan. Indeed, FASA is planning on a series of tutorials that in the game that will walk you through the basics of Shadowrun’s gameplay.