Jesse Woo
PAX Prime 2015: Shadowrun: Hong Kong Hands-On Preview
That's great, but now I'm hungry for dim sum.
08.29.15 - 7:16 PM

The classic cRPG. Such choice, such exposition, such clicking. Alright, in truth I am largely uninitiated in the cRPG tradition, having played a few no-name titles on my dad's clunky work laptop that I quickly abandoned for lack of interest. In some ways, this puts me at a disadvantage to talk about Shadowrun: Hong Kong. But seen through a different lens, I am coming to the game with a blank slate. While I cannot make any final pronouncements, I can say that I liked what I saw on the PAX Prime floor and think the game is worth a shot.

The third in Hairbrained Schemes' cRPG Shadowrun series, Shadowrun: Hong Kong takes the by now familiar cyberpunk/fantasy crossover and plops it squarely into the gateway to the orient. Hong Kong is an interesting enough city in this universe, so layering orcs, trolls, and the matrix on top of that hustle and bustle is no small order. Though others, including multiple other RPGFan editors, have lauded the series' strong writing, I felt it was noticeably weak here in one sense. The denizens of Hong Kong as they were written did not really feel Asian. In the little dialogue I saw, speech mannerisms of Hong Konger characters felt very western and out of place. Now this may not be true of all the characters, and in a way it is preferable to the blatant orientalism of some others, but as an Asian American and someone who has spent a fair amount of time in Asia it broke the immersion ever so slightly.

But for those of you who are not sinophiles, Shadowrun: Hong Kong comes with plenty to recommend itself. The tactical combat is fast-paced and challenging, and the game offers plenty of options for completing missions and for dialogue. The characters themselves seemed well-written (perhaps because they weren't Asian) and I was immediately interested in learning more about them. This is despite being dropped into the middle of the story for a demo mission. The usual classes archetypes are back, Street Samurai, Physical Adepts, Mages, Summoners, Riggers, and Deckers, but thanks to increased Kickstarter funding there is greater flexibility with skill progression.

The story stands alone from the other Shadowrun games and follows the trials of a former delinquent street kid who travels to Hong Kong following a cryptic call for help from his father. In the abstract, it sounds a bit generic, but the story comes to life in its writing and characters. There does not appear to be a distinct personality or karma system, but the breadth of dialogue choices allows players to realize their own distinctive voice in the game.

All in all, my time with Shadowrun: Hong Kong was short, but perhaps this was by design as it left me curious for more. The game is out now on Steam, so anyone sharing my curiosity can try it for themselves.