Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown Review

Smear tactics.

In the broadest strokes, science fiction has always been about testing the limits of humanity in strange or unimaginable circumstances. Jules Verne's works raised questions about our boundless curiosity. Films like Blade Runner asked us to look at the Platonic ideal of a life well lived. These questions are important, and they tap the underlying fears and hopes we all share. They are curt expressions of the human experience filtered through the impossible or the surreal.

On the whole, Shadowrun fits into this grand unifying theory of science fiction. It melds classic fantasy elements like dwarves, elves, orcs, and magic with bleeding-edge cybernetics. On top of that, it supposes a future in which corporations take the role of national governments, and the only way to make a decent living is to steal from these cyberpunk renditions of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John. With such a rendition of the future, the game makes some important points about the role of class in this world and the tensions caused by unchecked corporate power. Moreover, cybernetics, while vital to bringing the lower classes up to the same level of physical and mental acumen as their well-funded corporate adversaries, sap users' humanity. Again, we have an implicit question regarding whether the loss of pieces of our anatomy is analogous to the loss of some ethereal sense of self or our souls.

You can use cybernetics to boost your stats, but without a heady narrative, potentially interesting moral choices are reduced to seeing which numbers are bigger than others.
You can use cybernetics to boost your stats, but without a heady narrative, potentially interesting moral choices are reduced to seeing which numbers are bigger than others.

These pieces are all fundamental to Shadowrun. They are an intrinsic part of the property itself, and they cannot be extricated, though Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown certainly tries. In doing so, it betrays its namesake by incorporating a long list of technical and gameplay missteps to create one of the most underwhelming releases in a long time.

Shadowrun Chronicles has the veneer of a proper Shadowrun game. It uses a lot of the lingo, it has the right color palette, and the soundtrack is spot-on for a dystopian Boston. But on closer inspection, the façade is just that. On a minute-to-minute level, the majority of the game is spent running missions. Each one is a turn-based tactical scenario with usually one clear win condition and a few side items or collectibles. You'll infiltrate company X to steal McGuffin Y or hold off rival gang Z for some pre-determined number of turns. These missions are about as rote as they come, and they’re packed to the gills with clichés. At the end of almost every mission, some arbitrary twist occurs that is meant to raise the stakes or establish a sense of tension. However, Boston Lockdown misses too many necessities to be called an engaging drama.

There are still a few witty jokes, but they feel like token nods rather than honest embodiments of an ideal.
There are still a few witty jokes, but they feel like token nods rather than honest embodiments of an ideal.

You begin each mission by selecting from a list of NPC helpers to fill out your team. You can also bring other players along with you for cooperative multiplayer--one of Boston Lockdown's signature features. The game expects you to get the same feeling you might if you were playing an original tabletop role-playing game. It tries to foster a community on which players can build an interesting game, but it fails in the most basic ways. Whether you rely on NPCs or bring in outside help, your teammates are disposable and their tangible utility isn't clear. As you prepare for specific missions, Boston Lockdown never provides enough information about the coming challenges for you to make a reasonable, informed choice about which companions would be best to take along. Even worse, no explanation or rundown is given regarding the specific strengths of different classes. You know, for example, that summoners can summon some … things ... to help them in battle, but the game never tells you what scenarios that ability is useful in. I had to fumble my way through missions using trial and error to brute-force a solution to tactical troubles that didn't have easy solutions.

Boston Lockdown misses too many necessities to be called an engaging drama.

That belies a deeper problem--the lack of tactical options at any given juncture. I've said before that great tactics games need to give their characters enough skills and abilities to tackle different problems. As a player, you must be able to think your way through a problem and apply creative solutions to otherwise insurmountable problems. Games like XCOM excel at this. In XCOM, if you find that a group of enemies has you pinned down, you may use explosives to blow open a wall or retreat, forcing enemies to reserve their attacks for the first sign of movement. There is an option to fight back and win in almost any condition.

Shadowrun Chronicles isn't just limited--it's the tactical video game equivalent of checkers. You can move and attack, but not much else. There's no defensive option other than to take cover. Your teammates have virtually no items to use, and items you do collect offer little more than minor stat buffs. The simplicity is odd, because it makes classes simultaneously more and less important. If you need to take down a large group of enemies and spreading out the damage dealt by any one member of your team is of prime importance, picking a summoner is the only viable option. While that's a valid role that can encourage closer cooperation on its own, the fact that you have no other way to accomplish the same goal wholly diminishes Shadowrun Chronicles’ success as a strategy game.

This is about as deep as conversations in Shadowrun Chronicles get.
This is about as deep as conversations in Shadowrun Chronicles get.

To make matters worse, Shadowrun is also a terrible role-playing game. There are few characters to chat up, and those that do exist have only a handful of lines. There's no character development at all, nothing to react to, and no means through which to play a role. Exploration is limited to a tiny hub world where merchants sell you gear for lackluster missions. Boston Lockdown is set in Boston, of course, but the token references to Fenway Park and a few god-awful voice actors hamming up their Bostonian-ness don’t exude "Boston," one of the most iconic American cities.

It's hard for Boston Lockdown to escape comparisons with the other recent Shadowrun releases, which are far, far superior. They nail their settings, tell rich, deep stories with vibrant characters, and back all that with deep, interesting mechanics. Boston Lockdown, in comparison, is a barely functional demo. Without a solid draw, the game is pointless besides its online co-op, and even then, without a strong system of tactical play to back it, that mode is as pointless as any other.

When Shadowrun Chronicles was first released, the influx of players brought the game's always-connected servers to their knees. It was unplayable for over a week after the release. Now, with some of those obstacles vaulted, it's clear that the underlying game wasn't worth the wait. Shadowrun Chronicles isn't just a bad Shadowrun game. It's a bad game. That it comes from a series with such an exceptional pedigree and plenty of exceptional recent successes just makes the disappointment that much more bitter.

The Good
Solid soundtrack fits the Blade Runner-inspired aesthetic
The Bad
Bevy of technical problems and poor networking
Poor tactical systems lead to substandard and boring play
Lack of role-playing beyond stat selection is an insult to the game's namesake
There's just nothing to do in this world
3
Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

A fan of all things Western RPG, Dan Starkey suffered through Boston Lockdown's boring, monotonous campaign before trying some co-op. Sadly, adding people didn't save a fundamentally dull game.
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Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

It's closing on November 30, 2018.

Sorry, Primetide, but really, good riddance.

Harebrained's games are way better.

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DarkForestCrow

Good review, man.

Yeah, it's sad they've lost the spirit of the game focusing on 'action' which is not actually that great.

I'm missing the compelling characters. It would be really nice to have some (and an ability to talk with them).

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dngdangerous

Wow thats a pretty harsh score. I wonder what score it would have gotten if it was on a tablet instead of pc

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good_evil

@dngdangerous: I think I've actually been a bit stupid with my replies. Check platforms this game is on:

  • ANDROID
  • IPHONE/IPOD
  • MACINTOSH
  • PC
  • UNIX/LINUX

previous games rated very well share same platforms. I would say score is accurate presuming game is exactly the same on all platforms ;)

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dngdangerous

@good_evil: well I stand corrected. I did not know it was on iphone or droid. i am tempted to get it just to try it out and see if the review holds up the same.

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good_evil

@dngdangerous: There is only one real game on tablets - Hearthstone. All others are terrible, except for pick and play puzzles.

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dngdangerous

@good_evil: what about FTL? Thats a pretty good tablet game in my opinion...

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good_evil

@dngdangerous: that is PC game ported to tablet. TBH I wasn't aware about FTL being ported on tablet, so I stand corrected.
I will correct myself and say good TBS ported to tablet will remain good if done right (hearthstone falls in this category too). What I wanted to say is I'm yet to see proper game developed just for tablets :)

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Bond_Villain

I played the first game which I thought was very well done. There was a second one I think which got good reviews too

A bit surprised this has now fallen to a 3. Not that GS scores are an end all be all for me, but that's a pretty low score for a game that's been at the very least, an interesting engaging RPG

Avatar image for Darkeus
Darkeus

@Bond_Villain: Different company.

This was made by Cliffhanger

The other games (Shadowrun Returns, Dragonfall and the upcoming Shadowrun: Hong Kong are made by Harebrained Schemes)

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PutASpongeOn

@Bond_Villain:

The review if you had read it, makes note about how the rest of the series is strong and that this is completely uninteresting and flawed compared to the rest.

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lambazelda

translation: "We give low scores to games too, our 10 point scoring system is justified"

this is how most reviews looks like to me on Gamespot. you guys are either throwing 10/10s (bayonetta, Witcher 3, probably MGS V next) or throwing super low scores around. we get it, you guys use all sorts of scores and numbers. /clap.

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B1ank

@lambazelda: Do you even read why he gives it that score? Or are you just scrolling to the bottom?

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PutASpongeOn

@lambazelda:

They rarely give 10's, those games are just exceptionally perfect.

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AAKn

@lambazelda: are you the dev?

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DEVILTAZ35

@lambazelda: Or it could just be this is a really bad game and they just saved people from wasting money :)

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Altazen

@lambazelda: /facepalm.

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Nyukn

@lambazelda: bayonetta 2 is a hack n slash masterpiece and witcher 3 is an RPG masterpiece, so what is the issue here?

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neo-rtsd

@lambazelda: While I get what you're saying, and to some degree agree with you. The Witcher 3 was one of the games that actually deserved it in my opinion, for multiple reasons. Although, I doubt that this game is really as bad as a 3.

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khankalili

@neo-rtsd: While I agree that Witcher 3 is a good game, if you have actually played it you also know that it is still a bug riddled nightmare. I'll be the first to admit that it is worth sinking a ton of time into, but it is not a 10/10. Maybe when they patch all the uncompletable quests (why can't I start the horse race? and why did that one quest fail even though it was complete just a second ago?), all the inescapable places (having to reload because I suddenly can't get out of a ship/house/endless-falling I easily got in), all the monsters that don't spawn correctly (seriously why is the griffon circling the tree endlessly?), the shopkeepers I can't talk to because they are endlessly doing something unimportant (why can't I interupt them?) and the weather that because of simple sidequests is suddenly an endless storm even though you just did the quest to STOP the storm. Or what about the music bug (why does that one track override everything else) or the cameraview bug (why am I suddenly in Geralt's head, but only in that one area). Not even starting about the sorceresses that suddenly have fire or lightning in their hands all the time because they never stopped casting (for some unknown reason), and definitely not going anywhere near the 'it's an RPG' argument even though you have a predetermined role (hint: leveling and skill points do not make something an RPG automatically)... oh wait, I just did anyway.

In short it did not deserve the 10/10 at all... yet. I do wonder how many patches it will take though. Hopefully not too many.

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neo-rtsd

@khankalili: I don't doubt that you had any of these issues, although myself, after almost 80 hours of play so far, the only real bugs I've come across are minor clipping issues during certain talking scenes. Everything else has worked, all of the amazing amount of quests, all of the merchants, races, boxing, crafting, swimming...Everything. So I'm sorry to hear that you've had those issues. Did you play on PC or console?

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khankalili

@neo-rtsd: Yes I played on PC, and a whole lot of other people experience the exact same problems. One glance at any of the bug reporting forums confirms it. It all comes down to it not being worth 10/10... yet.

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Tr4newreck

to think they cut the sp game short to work on this... waste of time and money, they should of just made a great sp rpg game

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Darkeus

@tr4newreck: Wrong company.

Harebrained Schemes makes the Shadowrun Returns, Dragonfall and upcoming Shadowrun: Hong Kong games.

This was a different company. And it is not a 3 either. not that bad of a game.

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MigGui

@tr4newreck: great single-player RPG shadowrun games are being made by the ones who can actually make it: the devs of shadowrun returns, shadowrun dragonfall and the upcoming shadowrun hong kong

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Pierce_Sparrow

That's cool. I, however, have been enjoying the game. It doesn't matter what it could be or what one thinks it should be, what it is is a fairly fun online game set in the Shadowrun universe. Yes, it needs work, but it's still rather enjoyable. It's not better than Returns or Dragonfall, but it's still much better than a 3.

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Gr3gSolidus

@Pierce_Sparrow: Given what evidence? I like how people discount reviews but rarely give reasons to the contrary beyond "it's good because I like it".

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Pierce_Sparrow

@Gr3gSolidus: Well, considering reviews are opinions, I can't say they are wrong. But the game has a mostly positive accumulation of reviews on Steam, and that isn't from just a few. But it also IS a game with a legitimate place in the Shadowrun universe. And to hold it up to some standard instead of just reviewing it as the game it is is kind of silly. As a game, it's enjoyable and has fun co-op. No, it is not as deep as either the table top game or even Returns. But it is fun and it is interesting. The story is actually pretty interesting to follow and I have no idea what the complaints are about the voice acting. But really, what evidence can be given on whether a game is good or not? You either enjoy it or you don't. I just think this review was rather harsh to a game that isn't nearly as bad as the review makes it out to be. Look at reviews for the game on steam to see any counter opinions you might want.

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Tr4newreck

@Pierce_Sparrow: yeah well steam reviews should be taken with a grain of salt... if its 90%+ chances are it is good... anything mixed... or mostly positive... can range from good to bad ...and having played some of this and the previous sp game, its not great... the GS review is more less spot on, especially when it comes to comparing this game to its decades old predecessor... its not excuse for how poor this game turned out to be, no excuse! if it cant compete with its own iteration from decades past! that is shameful imo, i liked the original ...this is trash

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Darkeus

@tr4newreck: That is your opinion though, the thing you seem not to understand. You are just one person in millions of gamers.

And no, Steam Reviews give a good indicator. And this has a good rep on Steam.

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NightWeaver

@Pierce_Sparrow: You summed it up nicely! I agree with how you stated that it's not better than returns or Dragonfall but is a fairly fun game set in the shadowrun universe. I might add that this game is bound to get better as updates and patches come out but to give it a 3 is over the top!

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dani_i89

....you all do realise that there is something out there called "The Witcher 3"? Why waste time on this garbage?

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xantufrog

Just picked up Dragonfall on the GoG sale, looking forward to a solid Shadowrun experience!

Moderator
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Billzihang

Was this the one that was previously called Shadowrun: Online?

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Darkeus

@billzihang: Yep.

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NightWeaver

I'm sorry, I have to agree with the game's Dev's here. The review is totally unfair and not BALANCED at all. You mean to tell me the only thing good you can say about this game is it's soundtrack..cmon! This feels like the reviewer did not play the game long enough to give a true in depth review or as the Dev mention is vengeful for some reason. The other thing that kind of ticks me off about this review is that I've come to GameSpot just about everyday to finally see a review on the game. I got tired of waiting so YESTERDAY (keep in mind the game was released 4/28) I reviewed the game myself on the fan review tab. Now ALL OF A SUDDEN, this review pops up! Feels like...oh go review that game real quick and put something out there! I've ALWAYS looked to GameSpot for good and honest reviews, so much so that they actually impact my game purchasing decisions. In this case, this seems way off the mark ( a freakin 3). Whatever happen to Kevin reviewing the game since he did an actual Let's Play segment with the devs. For a TRULY BALANCED review on this game please go to IGN http://www.ign.com/videos/2015/05/05/shadowrun-chronicles-boston-lockdown-review

Avatar image for deactivated-5a5f623fa2551

@NightWeaver: IGN reviewers are usually kinder to games than GameSpot reviewers are.

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NightWeaver

@IceJester45: Not sure I agree with that but even if that is the case IGN 6.5, Destructiod 7.0, Metascore 63 ( I might add that Game Spot's review brought it down to 63 and is the only one that is the lowest of the reviews tallied) Game Watcher 5.0, Softpeida 7.0, Entertainment Buddha 74. In order for someone to challenge a review you have to have something to measure it by. In this case, this is a selection of the reviewer's peers ( competitors). They all can't be wrong! In my opinion, this reviewer was asleep at that wheel on this particular review (He's only human). Heck most other reviewer mentioned the game's character customization as positive where this guy only list a freakin soundtrack. Sounds like he loaded the game..... played for 10 minutes..... and reviewed it.

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@NightWeaver: It's hard to say any of the reviews are wrong based on the score. Unless there are claims about the game that are straight-up factually inaccurate (for example, "X game doesn't have multiplayer," when it clearly does), then the review is an informed opinion that simply differs from yours.

When I challenge a review, I tend to focus on the review itself rather than it how it compares to its competitors. Comparing numerical scores across publications is almost always folly. Different sites use different scoring systems and criteria. Even numerical rating systems that look similar are usually different (an 8.0 from Game Informer is less impressive than an 8.0 from EGM, for instance). Further, there is nothing that says a reviewer's score has to approximate those given by other publications. We expect outliers, both high and low. Hell, I even like to read some of the reviews that really praised or trashed a game before I make a purchase.

As far as character creation goes, some of the other reviewers might have seen that aspect of the game as a positive. The GameSpot reviewer clearly didn't. Again, reviews are mainly opinions, so aspects of the game that are important to one reviewer might not be as important to the other.

With regard to the difference between IGN's and GameSpot's reviews, GameSpot isn't as harsh as it used to be now that it has jettisoned some of its most demanding reviewers. Still, I think IGN as a whole tends to pass out slightly higher scores than GameSpot does (if comparing numerical scores matters to you).

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jwsoul

Ouch does the name no good with a bad release different Dev or not.

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SingletreeAve

I thought the next Shadowrun was in Hong Kong. What's this nonsense?

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lambazelda

@SingletreeAve: this is/was their attempt with multiplayer then turned into this.

Hong Kong is coming

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SingletreeAve

@lambazelda: Cool. Thank god.

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Darkeus

@SingletreeAve: Don't get confused. This is not from Harebrained Schemes.


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Balthrus

@SingletreeAve:This used to be Shadowrun Online (Cliffhanger Productions) and was in the Kickstarter at the same time as Shadowrun Returns (Harebrained Schemes). Different devs same IP.

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naomha1

Man, I'm glad I missed this one. Was on my wishlist and I kept checking it out. I never put stock in Steam users "reviews" or ratings so I usually pass on what the minority might think. However, I was worried that someone else using the Shadowrun license was gonna f it up. Guess they did too. The other Shadowrun games are fairly enjoyable. Definitely looking forward to Hong Kong when it's released soon. Looks much bigger and badder than the previous 2 installments, and that's always a good thing.

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BrunoBRS

so wait, this has nothing to do with the shadowrun returns games that came out a while back?

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DanCStarkey

@BrunoBRS: Nope. They share the same universe, but that's it.

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Darkeus

@DanCStarkey: Actually they share the same universe but are at WAY different timelines.

This game, Shadowrun Chronicles takes place in 2074. I think they are that far. It is a Fifth Edition game and actually has a corresponding campaign book for the tabletop game.

The Shadowrun games made by Harebrained Schemes takes place in the 2050's, during what would be the second edition of the Tabletop Game.

Avatar image for BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

@DanCStarkey: huh. i was under the impression it was another expansion to shadowrun returns, for some reason. maybe my brain couldn't fathom that someone else had the rights to make a turn based tactical RPG based on shadowrun at the same time :P

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Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown More Info

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  • First Released Apr 28, 2015
    released
    • Android
    • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
    • + 3 more
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    Shadowrun Online is the second Kickstarter video game project set in the unique world of Shadowrun.
    4.4
    Average Rating9 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown
    Developed by:
    Cliffhanger Productions
    Published by:
    Cliffhanger Productions, THQ Nordic, Nordic Games Publishing
    Genre(s):
    Strategy, Turn-Based
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Blood and Gore, Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence