Sunday, June 10, 2007

Problems Overshadow Shadowrun Game!
Since I’ve been outted to a degree on Blogcritics, let’s talk serious RPG gaming versus on-line shoot-‘em-ups.

As a professional author, I wrote three of the Shadowrun novels (Preying for Keeps, Headhunters, and Run Hard, Die Fast). I know the Shadowrun universe from the pen-and-ink game and from pulling on the skins of characters for the novels I wrote. Shadowrun, the RPG, is all about running for your life through the shadows of the large that make up the world of 2050. Players sign on with a shadowy Mr. Johnson and agreed to achieve a certain assignment for a specified amount money. The players want the money to upgrade their personal weapons systems and/or magical abilities.

In the novels I wrote, the characters inevitably ran up against harsher circumstances than then they believed they would and had to run for their lives against superior forces what getting blackmailed by someone else who use their efforts as a smokescreen for more duplicitous undertakings. That’s the element I loved that’s missing from this computer/console game. There just aren’t any real stakes, no mysteries, no bad guys that you learn to hate and have to outsmart.

A lot of the game product designed by FASA included twists and turns, and surprises for the player. No one knew how a “run” was going to turn out until the last bullet was fired for the last spell was cast. That was one of the things that drew the players to the game. In all the game product, there was even a shadowy “bulletin board” then held rumors, half-truths, and outright lies for the players to consider, fear, or use against other players.

Microsoft’s version of the game is beautiful. Absolutely a stunning visual treat. From the opening sequences to the training sessions, the game is so well choreographed that I wanted to see the movie. If you watch those sequences and training sessions, it sounds like there is a solo campaign game. But those well-done pieces work against the finished product in its present incarnation. They really highlight what’s missing in this game.

The game environment provides well laid out an artfully executed levels of play. There are plenty of hiding places, ambush spots, and interesting sights to see – the first few times you see them. After you play them over and over again, everyone knows where those hiding places an ambush spots are. And the interesting sites become tedious and leave you wanting more.

The racial aspect of the game seems to be well done as well. You can play as human, dwarf, troll, or elf. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. However, there are some who are going to disagree with how the elves and trolls are depicted. In the RPG, trolls were often favorite street samurai and weren’t as bulky as they are in the MicroSoft game. And in the RPG, elves weren’t bald unless by choice.

Another sticking point between the RPG and the MicroSoft game is the use of magic and technology. In the RPG, the player character had to choose between magic and technology. Both could not coexist in the same player. Microsoft’s game offers both options to the players, probably to mollify players who wanted to use both sets of abilities. The same way that Wizards of the Coast re-wrote Dungeons and Dragons in the 3.5 versions to allow players to become half-dragons and player character vampires.

I really like the powers presented for use in the Microsoft Shadowrun game. Teleport, although not in the original RPG game the way it used in the MicroSoft version, is a blast to use. And in my house, the Glider ability is the bomb. My kids love to fly around and attack. I like to think of them as skeet and bang away quite happily.

Wired Reflexes, one of my favorite tech add-ons, is included in the game. I think the presentation of this ability is pretty well done and the downside of using it is fairly represented. In Shadowrun, you never got anything for free; it always cost you to have it.

The Katana is going to be a favorite of the sword-wielding crowd. Another benefit of using this weapon is the fact that you slip from first-person viewpoint to that of third-person viewpoint and get a chance to see around yourself better.

One of the drawbacks the game, although I understand why it functions that way, is the amazingly short time the player has to select or change weapons, magic, and tech. Although I did get faster making selections, I still felt pressured after each match to hurry and didn’t always get a chance to lock in the variables I wanted. I wish there was a way to slow that down so a team could be better equipped and prepared.

The drawbacks to the game aren’t limited to the gameplay. If you match up the offers made regarding the Microsoft Vista version versus the Xbox 360 version, you’re going to find a large discrepancy. I know that Microsoft is really pushing their new Vista operating system. You see it mentioned everywhere, and all the new machines are coming out with that already installed. But there’s no reason why, especially if the Microsoft XP version is supposed to smoothly upgrade to Vista, the PC version should run on XP.

So in order to play the PC version, which comes with a slightly different cover on the game case, you have to upgrade to MicroSoft Vista. The Vista players receive a 30-day free membership to Xbox Live while their Xbox 360 counterparts only receive 48 hours. I guess the message is upgrade to MicroSoft Vista to receive better treatment. In my opinion, not a very good message.

The disparate offers seem to express favoritism between Microsoft products instead of promoting the Shadowrun game. It’s almost like Microsoft is unwittingly splitting the hopefully large gaming audience it hopes to capture. To me, you want to create one large happy family. Not set them to squabbling.

All in all, I expect with all the heightened variables of tech and magic available to the first-person shooter crowd, MicroSoft Shadowrun game is going to take the gaming world by storm.

But only in the on-line combative mode.

Guys like me aren’t going to be totally happy with this product until something is done to rectify the lack of a solo campaign, a deeper immersion into the Shadowrun world that exists in the RPG, and a chance to run the shadows as we did when we lay their lives on the line for every mysterious Mr. Johnson we met.

1 comment:

Katie M. said...

going to vote....