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The Archetypes Of Shadowrun Returns

by Matt Miller on Jan 02, 2013 at 05:00 AM

For RPG players who have fond memories of the excellent Shadowrun SNES and Genesis games, the announcement last year of a new game in the series was thrilling. Shadowrun is a fascinating setting, mixing the cyberpunk aesthetic with high fantasy elements like elves and dragons, with a result that’s unlike any other game world. Developer Harebrained Schemes is hard at work creating the new Shadowrun Returns, and the team gave us an early glimpse into one of the most fundamental features in any role-playing game: what kind of character you can play.

“Shadowrun is a classless system, meaning that players are not restricted to a single character development path,” explains creative director Jordan Weisman, also one of the original architects of the Shadowrun universe. “Rather, players start with a representative Shadowrun character archetype and are then free to grow their character as they wish, spending Karma points to choose any skill or ability available in the game.” We’ve highlighted each of the foundational archetypes below, but each one is just a starting point. You’ll be able to mix and combine abilities from any archetype you like when you play the game. 

Learn more about your character options below, including extensive insight from Weisman, and make sure to check out our full overview feature article on Shadowrun Returns in the February issue (#238) of Game Informer, where you’ll find detailed new information on the title’s story and gameplay, along with new screens and art from the upcoming game. 


In the Shadowrun game world, Mayan predictions prefaced dramatic changes to the world in the 21st century, and those predictions manifested through the birth of strange races like elves, dwarves, and orks, but also through the innate ability to wield magic by some individuals. These mages can detect the auras of other individuals, even tracking them when they pass behind walls. Mages also detect ley lines in the environment where their magical power will be further enhanced.

Weisman Says: “Mages use hermetic magic to cast a wide variety of spells including Acid Stream, Lightning bolt, Manabolt, Blindness, Confusion, and Petrify. Mages can also enhance other characters’ abilities with spells such as AP (action point) Boost, Aim, Armor, Ignore Pain, Stealth, and Heal. Lastly, Mages can negatively impact others with spells like Slow, Distraction, Disintegrate, Agony, and Mana Static, which makes it harder to cast magic.”

Street Samurai

These powerful warriors are the martial masters of the Shadowrun universe, wielding smart weapons that are directly connected to their bodies’ reflexes. For players who want to slash and gun their way to victory, the street samurai is an ideal starting place. 

Weisman Says: “In Shadowrun Returns, Street Samurai can gain the ability to carry up to three weapons into combat and special ranged skills such as snapshot, armor piercing, and head-shots. In close combat, Samurai can gain actions like slash, stab, and cleave with bladed weapons, and the ability to disarm an opponent.”


The hackers of the Shadowrun World, Deckers utilize cyberdecks to jack into the Matrix (an idea in Shadowrun that predates the popular films) and steal information. The Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics (ICE) that they encounter when infiltrating a system are as deadly as armed guards. Sometimes, facilities have pulled their networks off the Matrix, and a Decker will need to physically get into a building before being able to jack in. 

Weisman Says: “Most facilities have one or more LANs, each with several nodes that control elements of the facility. Using their cyberdecks, Deckers can take control of network-controlled doors, cameras, and even automated weapons. Core LANs may contain the facility’s data stores and CPUs, which the Deckers can hack into to steal data or implant viruses. Deckers use special programs to speed their hacking of nodes and reduce their chance of setting off alarms.”


The mysterious shaman archetype has gained the ability to summon forth spirits into the world. They utilize an aboriginal totem to find summoning points in the world from which they may draw out powerful spirits to harness in battle. Numerous spirit types exist, including nature, elemental, hearth, and toxic spirits. 

Weisman Says: “When summoning, shamans must ‘invest’ their own action points into a spirit to control it. The skill of the Shaman and the level of the summoned spirit determine the base chance to do so. If the player attempts to use more action points than invested in the spirit, the chances of losing control of it go up dramatically. A spirit that breaks free from a shaman is a very dangerous rogue entity with a high likelihood of seeking revenge upon the one who summoned it. “ 


The “drivers” of the Shadowrun universe may not be piloting massive vehicles through the tactical battlefields of the game, but Riggers will manifest their powers through other potent means in battle. Cybertech allows riggers to control different types of drones, completing everything from reconnaissance to bringing heavy firepower into a forward position. 

Weisman Says: “As Riggers advance, they can use larger drones, control more than one at a time, and extend the range at which they can use the drones away from their physical bodies.” 

Physical Adept

Physical Adepts combine martial arts mastery with magical use to dominate opponents in hand-to-hand combat. By melding the physical and magical arts into a unified form, these melee masters can disarm opponents or attack multiple adjacent targets with a whirling roundhouse kick. 

Weisman Says: “Physical Adepts are more than mere martial artists, they are highly specialized spell casters with combat spells such as Killer Hands, Distance Strike, Mystic Armor, Traceless Walk, and Quick Strike.”


After an incredibly successful Kickstarter program last year, we’re confident we’re not the only ones excited about a video game returning to the Shadowrun universe. The game is targeting a release later this year on PC, Mac, and tablets, and you can follow its ongoing development at the developer's official site. You can also pre-order the game here

In the meantime, what do you think of the different archetypes you can play in the game? Which archetype will you be starting with? Share your plans in the comments below.