There’s an unspoken rule these days when it comes to games writing – do not, under any circumstances, compare something to Dark Souls.
While often feeling appropriate, it’s become a reductive comparison that’s been overused to the point of being meaningless. Sadly, there are many out there that never got the memo, peppering headlines with “[Thing] is just like Dark Souls and [other thing]”, which ironically leaves the reader even further from understanding what it is you’re talking about.
Going back to Shadowrun on the Genesis, I immediately started to think about how easy it would be to take that shortcut; finding myself in a hostile environment without any sense of direction. Within my first 30 seconds, I was mugged and killed by random thugs in the street. When I respawned, I ran to what I thought was my destination… and then it happened again, my bullets being completely ineffectual against whatever random passerby that wanted to rough me up. It was around this point that I remembered why I never finished Shadowrun – it’s an outright bastard of a game.
But like that game I’m not going to compare it to, those initial challenges make the accomplishments all the more satisfying. It gatekeeps the good stuff from those that don’t have the patience to continue engaging with it. Once you get over that hump, Shadowrun opens up and becomes a cyberpunk playground for you to explore. It was overwhelming to me in my youth and that hasn’t really changed. Often NPCs will reference a location, but you have no idea where it is or how to get there. Stumbling around to find it will inevitably lead you into another quest, turning into a Russian nest doll of objectives that I certainly had no chance of overcoming on a single Saturday afternoon.
All that said, there’s an appeal to that freedom, especially considering that it existed long before open world games were such a common thing. I certainly prefer it to the slow-paced SNES version with its awkward point and click interface. I haven’t kept track of the current meta on Shadowrun debates, but I want to say that more people have come around to my side over the years, appreciating just how ahead of its time it was in a lot of ways. At the very least, we can agree that both are better than the 360 game.
I am now required by law to take you into a room and erase your memory for daring to mention that thing. I’m sorry.