By – Jarrett Riddle

Boston Lockdown PC Review He

A cyberpunk universe where guns, magic, and technology are not only common, but are often a necessity to live from one day to the next. Groups of mercenaries called shadowrunners roam the dark streets, looking for and carrying out illegal missions against the mega-corporations that rule over much of the world. This is Shadowrun Chronicles – Boston Lockdown from Cliffhanger Productions, who have worked night and day to bring this tabletop classic to a virtual, online world. While originally planned to be a full-fledged MMO, the game eventually became tactical RPG with optional online co-op. Even with this seemingly heartbreaking change of direction, is Boston Lockdown worth checking out?

The leather district; home to the Red Sox, Radio Shack, and most importantly, the beginning of the player’s journey in this cold, futuristic setting. After a brief stint of breaking out of a medical facility and learning the ropes of navigation and combat, our anti hero is thrown onto the streets with fellow online runners. Here several central characters are met, such as Smedley and Jane. Smedley is a Mr. Johnson, which is shadow-slang for a shady employer who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. The woman known only as Jane is a decker; that is, someone well-versed in the ways of hacking into computers and electronics. Both prove to be valuable allies, and in the world of Shadowrun, reliable contacts can be more important than the pistol at your side.

You may be giddy to receive your first run from Smedley, but first some character details need to be supplied. These include metatype, background, portrait, and physical appearance. Metatypes are the various races of Shadowrun, which range from the thin, pointy-eared elves to intimidating, towering trolls. Each type has its pros and cons, with modifiers such as having a higher movement rating, but fewer hit points. Backgrounds offer further tweaking to starting stats without affecting the look of the character model, which can be adjusted with further options like hair, beard, and skin color. When this is done, the player’s created shadowrunner can be outfitted with different sets of clothes ranging from cool and professional to silly and comical. Overall, protagonist generation is a well done, time-consuming feature of the game that allows for most any runner of your imagination to come to life. The biggest downside, however, is that the portrait selection is a tad lacking. This means it’s a rare occasion when the hero’s actual appearance and the portrait match.

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Now we’re ready to roll! The first job offered by Smedley involves shaking up a local gang of ruffians known as the Dragonslayers. For this mission you’re only allowed to bring one fellow runner, but the somewhat seasoned PayDay comes along as well to make sure you know what to do. This is the the first opportunity presented for managing a team in combat, as well as inviting someone to fill in the second slot of the group. Though the player had to shoot their way out of the medical facility before, this is where battling mettle is truly tested.

Boston Lockdown uses a two-phase turn-based, strategy-oriented combat system. For optimal results, runners will need to run from one cover to another, flanking the enemies when possible to increase hit chance. Range of weapons equipped and learned skills should be factored in as well; using vital time to reload an assault rifle may not be worth it when a ganger can be sliced with your katana instead. This ability to carry two different weapons into a fight is possibly the greatest advantage a player can have against the AI. Though the effectiveness of the two allowed tactical items, such as grenades and med-kits, is difficult to dispute as well.

If none of your friends are online, or you simply don’t feel like playing with real people at the moment, a nice pool of henchman can be browsed through to aid in a mission. Their stats and skillsets vary, so certain mercs will be more useful according to what the job entails. As henchmen never carry more than one weapon, nor any tactical items, using them exclusively can make the game more difficult. Some may prefer this method, however, as it allows the player to control the whole team’s actions, rather than just the character they created.

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Once the Dragonslayers have been dealt with, Smedley will provide you with the rewards of a hard, not-so-honest day’s work. If you’re expecting a hearty handshake and hug, however, best look elsewhere, as karma and nuyen are the names of the game. Karma is Shadowrun’s name for experience, and nuyen is the main currency used to purchase equipment and stat-enhancing cyberware. The player can use earned experience anytime to upgrade attributes and skills. Characteristics such as mind and body, along with talents like various gun proficiencies, decking, rigging (drone control), and spirit summoning can be invested in. Each level purchased with karma grants both an increased chance of actions from that particular field being successful and oftentimes a new ability to use in battle. Earned moves such as the dash, which lets the player attack after sprinting in the same turn, allow for a thicker layer of strategy in the ever-increasing difficulty of shadowruns. Eventually, when a four-person team is used for a mission, having a full group of real players with a healthy variety of abilities can really send the enemies scampering.

Along with combat-oriented skills, various loot-based actions can be earned as well. Lockpicking, demolishing, hacking, and organ harvesting abilities can be learned to access item containers and hidden areas along each map. Gear found in this manner can be particularly useful, as not only is it free, but is sometimes an expensive piece of equipment that may not even be available in stores yet. A well-rounded group will often have most, if not all of these talents to ensure that every nook and cranny of a mission area is explored.

Shadowrun Chronicles may be set in a gritty, corporation-run version of Boston’s leather district, but don’t expect a less-than-colorful palette. Neon signs glow brightly in the dark alleyways, accompanied by charismatic billboards and apocalyptic debris, all illuminated by the screens of wrist-fitted cyberdecks and rigging remotes. Boasting an impressive 3D engine, the game is displayed in an isometric perspective and can be rotated 90 degrees at a time so your runner is never caught behind scenery. When scoring a particularly nasty blow in combat, the camera can also shift to an up-close, cinematic view of the action that adds a nice visual flair to taking down foes. Many mainstream resolutions in both windowed and full-screen modes are available, such as 1920×1080 which was used for this review. Overall, Boston Lockdown has a clean, attractive appearance that is especially admirable coming from a smaller indie studio.

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Music and sound effects don’t disappoint, either. Background music is repeated often, but consists of a nice range of deep synths and action-paced techno-based tunes. All of the main characters are fully voiced, including your own. While some lines may come off as a bit cheesy or forced, the voice acting is mostly wonderful and definitely helps to immerse the player in the setting. I think Jane especially excels at providing her technological expertise in a sarcastic, Boston accent-laden voice that totally suits the situation. Weapon, magic, and item sounds are pleasing to the ears as well; I can never get enough of hearing the shlick of assault rifles and pistols being reloaded.

Boston Lockdown suffered major lag when performing actions in its earlier days. This drove many players away with intentions of coming back later when the game ran correctly. Thankfully, as of version 13.14.12184.158317 the issue has been completely resolved, and the game plays smoother than an ork’s behind. Now both single player running with henchmen and grouping with other folks play out without a hitch. The dedicated team at Cliffhanger Productions slaved away for many moons to eliminate this delay, and even offered several valuable in-game items as an apology to players who waited out the ordeal.

In earlier versions, it was not uncommon to be booted from the game suddenly for a server restart or technical problem. And though I’ve seen a few comments here and there in the global messaging system about the game crashing, I myself have not been disconnected or thrown out of the game since the lag disappeared. In fact, other than a few mishaps such as enemies standing in the same square as a team member, the whole experience has been smooth as silk for me since the newest version was released.

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Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Shadowrun Chronicles – Boston Lockdown is not the open-world, true MMORPG that many people expected. The game in its entirety can progressed through solely by a single person with hired henchmen. However, the inclusion of real-life teammates speeds missions up considerably, and can add a layer of fun and excitement that playing by one’s self can’t compete with. The thrill of wiping out adversaries, uncovering dirty secrets of the mega-corporations, and completing shadowruns is worth the $39.99 price.

Shadowrun Chronicles – Boston Lockdown Technical Summary:

Boston Lockdown PC Review Sum

  • Time Played – 22 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – Few
  • DRM – Steam
  • System Specs – 3.7 Ghz AMD A10-6700, 768MB Radeon 8670D, 8GB RAM
  • Control Scheme – M/KB
  • Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam
  • Demo – No
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