Fantasy Round 26: Shadowrun Returns
Shadowrun Returns is a turn-based role-playing game based on the tabletop of the same game.
And it’s quite entertaining.
Oh, and mind the (mostly) minor spoilers.
Shadowrun is a dark, cyberpunk setting… with magic. In essence, magic reappeared in the world, some people turned into elves, dwarves, and so forth, and the dragons all woke up from millennia-long snoozes. The year is now 2054, long after this reappearance of magic and the time when the megacorporations managed to essentially gain the rights of nations.
The world is a mess, in other words. There’s fantastic racism, poverty, corruption, crime… and that last is where the shadowrunners hang out. On the edge of legality, or over it — assuming you can figure out where the line is. Shadowrunners are black ops for hire.
The gameplay itself is a pretty standard turn-based RPG, with a lot of nice role-playing conversation options. These mostly give you a way to avoid or mitigate fights, or determine what information you get at different stages, but I enjoyed the additional flavor.
Emerald City Organs
Except it’s not exactly time for organlegging. Dead people who aren’t accounted for in other ways end up in chop shops. For organs. And… well, it’s not exactly organlegging, since it’s entirely legal in this universe. In fact, a significant amount of the plot you get mixed up in involves a person, unhappy about someone they know having their organs harvested after an accident, and decides to get them back… after they’ve already been transplanted into other people.
Modern rules about organ donation are usually pretty strict. In the United States, non-consent to donate your organs is the default. So, if you’d be willing to donate, but never fill out a donor card… it’s illegal to harvest your organs for donation after that nasty car accident, or whatever it was. Other countries have an “opt-out” system — the default is to assume you’re okay with donating, unless you say otherwise. (This includes, for example, Germany.)
Fundamentally, this relates to the “default effect” — most people won’t care enough (or want to think about death enough) to bother signing up for something other than the default. In the opt-in system, this means that there are many fewer potential donors. (US folks: if you want to be an organ donor, sign up for it! Do it! Just in case.) On the other hand, while an opt-out system does have more donors, there are questions of ethics involved — what if someone is too poorly educated to understand how to opt out? Or just arrived from another country, and doesn’t realize the rules are different?
Either way, retrieving someone’s already-been-donated organs by killing the recipients probably isn’t the best way to resolve the issue.
This, I think, was the best part of the game.
The plot builds nicely, slowly but surely, towards ever increasing scope and impact. You start as a shadowrunner just looking for a paycheck, and end up working to save the world. I appreciated the pacing in this instance; you don’t just immediately jump into the fray, and your first mission only gradually becomes more complex. You start with investigating the murder of a friend… which turns into investigating the serial murderer who was responsible for several other deaths… and it expands from there, leaving enough hooks and unanswered questions at every stage to naturally draw the player on to the next.