I feel like gushing on good writing.
I have a distant memory of my older brother and a cousin-of-similar-age-to-my-brother looking through a thick book. It said 'Rulebook' on the front, but had very interesting cover art. The two of them seemed to think it was the coolest thing ever. I asked if I could read it, but of course, being the little brother, I wasn't allowed to. I wasn't cool enough, apparently. (how can someone tell if someone else is cool enough? Is there a unit of measurement...?)
For some reason, this moment stuck with me, as did the name of the book; Shadowrun.
So, years later, when I was getting into emulation, I chanced upon a game called Shadowrun. I downloaded it (not something that could be done too lightly, this being on dial-up) and loaded it up.
What unfolded was an amazing game experience. The vague imagery I had of the distant past cover art for the rule book finally made more sense. I was getting a feel for the setting, its people, the lingo, the weapons, the laws... I was becoming immersed into a fictional world in a way that wouldn't compare for many years. (see: Deus Ex: Human Revolution) I was playing the game so much that after a bit I was writing my own stories, set in this lush world. (Well, knowing Shadowrun, perhaps lush isn't the perfect word choice here...)
And nearly all of this was done through the use of writing. Because, as it happened, I was playing the Genesis version of Shadowrun, which has rather minimal graphics. Sure, the graphics aren't bad, they get the job done, but it's certainly not as impressive as the SNES version of Shadowrun. (which I tried after loving the Genesis version, and to this day I haven't been able to get into it) The overland graphics are, well, minimal, and serve mostly to show what's attacking or approaching you. When dialogue opens up, there's a small box devoted to a character portrait of whomever you're talking to, but honestly, beyond a nifty-looking intro scene, this game never really wowed me with its visuals.
But oh, the visuals in my mind.
The strong sense of setting here is brought about entirely by the writing. Nearly every bar in the game uses the same tilesets to show the lay of the counters and tables, but each and every one of them feels unique and different from one another despite this, all through the small description given about the bar when you walk in. The temperament of the barkeeper, the cleanliness and level of hygiene, the denizens within it... Each one sparkles with individuality.
Naturally, this carries over to every location throughout the game. From dank caves, abandoned buildings, broad forests, to shamanic villages, slummy avenues and sprawling cityscapes. The variety in visuals varies extremely little, but from the short description once you arrive somewhere new breathes so much life into the game.
The same follows, as well, to the characters you meet. There's a deep and interesting lingo used in Shadowrun, and the makers of this game carried it over perfectly. There's variety within the same lingo as well. Each Johnson you meet speaks differently, with some more relaxed and some much more professional. Their dialects range so much that they are very memorable individuals, even though every single one of them has their portrait picture used elsewhere. (at best there will be a pallette swap when used elsewhere)
Gushing onwards, even the manner of speech used between the different races speaks volumes for their general temperament. The orcs speak in very direct and brutish fashions, while the elves give a very strong sense of 'holier than thou' attitude and supreme confidence. Casual businessmen often act scared of you, corporate leaders barely acknowledge your existence, and local law enforcement almost always eye you with suspicion immediately upon meeting them.
Oh yeah; there's gameplay here too. It's, uh... It's alright. Well, that's a little unfair. It's a bit clunky and could have used a bit more polish and shine before it shipped, but it's still very serviceable. You walk around at a fair clip from a top-down birds eye perspective, which helps give a good view of your surroundings. Combat is functional; when a fight begins, you automatically 'lock on' to one target, which you can shoot at at your liesure, you can press a button to switch between targets, and you can walk around. That's uh... Kinda it. Sure, there's some little intricacies that you can learn to help you along the way (like moving diagonally. For some reason, it really helps to put distance between your enemies), and cover is an important thing to have in a firefight, but a bit detrimental when the enemy is charging at you for a melee attack. You can shoot with guns, punch with your fists (of which there are upgrades), you can use magic to cast spells with various effects, and uh.... That's kinda it.
Well, it all mixes and works fairly well, especially once you get the hang of it. And it's totally worthwhile,
So uh, yeah. Good game. Try it out!