Remember the PC/Xbox 360 cross-platform first-person shooter Shadowrun? No? Good. It was a trainwreck. Some solid ideas were marred by an overwhelmingly lackluster execution. Cliffhanger Productions, the developer behind the upcoming Jagged Alliance Online, hopes to redeem FASA Corporation's cyberpunk universe with Shadowrun Online.
The series' roots extend back to a pen-and-paper role-playing game created by FASA and released in 1989. The RPG's grim near-future setting immediately struck a chord with sci-fi fans, especially with the way it mixed fantasy elements like magic and elves with more recognizably cyberpunk themes like megacorporations and a Matrix-like online space (actually called The Matrix).
Cliffhanger revealed in its newly posted first newsletter for Shadowrun Online that the game will be a browser-based RPG-style affair viewed from an isometric perspective. The above screenshot, an early, incomplete work-up, is certainly eye-catching and immediately reminds me of Housemarque's excellent 2010 twin-stick zombie shooter from, Dead Nation.
Very few actual game details are revealed in the initial announcement, but the developer does lay out the basic structure. Shadowrun Online features two major gameplay "modes." Action-oriented missions are where you'll spend the bulk of your time, either alone or with friends. Goals could involve anything from stealing a corporation's secrets to a frontal assault on a well-defended outpost. Hacking will be as important to the game as gunplay and magic, and Cliffhanger notes that these bits will all play out simultaneously.
Between missions, players will explore a "city overview map" as they prep for whatever the coming task is. "This will be closer to rolling the dice on an action and getting a short, narrated outcome," Cliffhanger's Primetide writes. The amount of prep work you can do is governed by your supply of action points.
The studio is also apparently working with some series veterans, including "writers and artists and Shadowrun alumni who have worked on the pen and paper game or had their hands in Shadowrun Mods or community work." It's at this point that I'll try to forget that the PC/360 game was also worked on by the folks from FASA, the RPG's creator.
Cyberpunk looks like it's coming back into vogue, what with the recent success of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the generally warm reception Electronic Arts' Syndicate has received in previews. I've always been a fan of the Shadowrun lore and wish Cliffhanger the best in giving the series a much-needed kick. We probably won't see the game until after Jagged Alliance Online is completed, but hopefully we'll get some more details soon.
Source: Cliffhanger Productions