Shadowrun is the first game that my group started playing together and has held a dear and special place in our hearts since 1989. No matter what games we branch off and play, we always come back to Shadowrun. It's very hard not to come at this review from an emotional place, but I will try to be as objective as I can.
ART - While I really like the Technomancer archetype, the Troll Street Samurai just looks horrible. That's not a troll. It looks like Henry Cavill (complete with super hair curl) with horns and some tusks. What happened to the Orks and Trolls as "trogs" idea from every previous edition? They even have a pretty good looking Ork as the Face. It breaks from the background of the world. Orks and Trolls are not pretty and that's a HUGE part of the history of the world. On page 56, for example, the text refers to orks making people nervous with just their presence and trolls as "the walking embodiment of everyone else's nightmares." The art doesn't represent that. There are one or two good pieces of art in the book, but the rest just doesn't stand up to the quality of previous editions. The "magey" person on page 91 looks neat and dynamic. The dwarf (?) person on page 110 looks amateurish at best. They've pulled a "scratchy' aesthetic into the art that just doesn't scream "Shadowrun" in tone or feel.
RULES - The rules are a disaster. They're inconsistent and, despite the claim of simplification, made complex by that inconsistency.
- The book is missing important facts (like unarmed damage).
- Systems that were made simple by similarity in earlier editions are now needlessly complex. For example, the split of how mages handle spirits and technomancers handle sprites means you have two disctinct rulesets for thematically similar characters.
- The expanded EDGE rules seem like something that could have been great, but are just unfinished and unrefined.
- Editing is inconsistent throughout the book, with references to rules that don't exist, and the rules seem rushed and as if the developers ignored playtester feedback.
- Cyberware and gear all do the same thing, giving you EDGE, but you cap at TWO EDGE per turn. And you can earn EDGE circumstantially or through roleplay. So don't mess with your character's Essence but adding machine to the meat! There's no need.
- While I agree that the Initiative Pass system needs an overhaul, the switch to one Major action with a gaggle of Minor Actions just doesn't work. It's almost an action point economy system that just misses the mark with the Major/Minor split. You need to have a chart on hand to figure out what you can do in a turn. They should have just said speed enhancers give you extra action "points" per turn and it takes so many action "points" to do a thing. That idea needs refinement, of course, but the 6e action system is nearly incomprehensible. I need to spend a minor action so that I can attack more than one target with a major action? But I can throw a grenade or an AOE spell and I don't have to spend that minor action for multiple targets?
FEEL - One of the core concepts of Shadowrun has always been the juxtapose of the modern world (represented by Seattle) being surrounded by the "nature-friendly" world of the Native American Nations (represented by the Shamans and Tribesfolk in the game). This has been phased out over the past two editions. 4e had the radical eco-shaman and 5e's occult investigator and street shaman at least had some tribal elements in the art and mentor spirits. That's all gone in 6e. I can't even find a reference to the Great Ghost Dance or the Treaty of Denver. The game world feels like I'm playing Cyberpunk in Mega-City One with elves and sexy trolls. It's too bad. Shadowrun has faded into the genre where it used to stand out. I can play the new Cyberpunk edition and it feels like the same game.
FINAL - Overall the game feels rushed. I think that the developers saw the minor peak in interest in the genre (via the success of Altered Carbon on TV and the hype around the Cyberpunk video game) and tried to capitalize on that. They bought into the D&D 5e hype that simple equals "accessible" and tried to simplify the game with inconsistent results. Any game where you're playing with decimal points worth of increments (i.e. Essence loss to enhancements) is not going to fit into a "simpler is better" format. If they had stuck with shortening the skill list, clarifying how deckers and technomancers participated on runs, and refining EDGE it could have been better. With all the inconsistencies between functions (combat, spells, technomancy, decking, etc.) it feels like we're going BACK in time to an era where you had multiple game systems under the hood to just play one game. I think that Shadowrun 6e is a step back. It feels like an experiment with no hypothesis to guide it. Or a project that endured dramatic scope creep.
I apologize if I slipped too much subjective opinion into this review. I tried to lay the facts out as objectively as I could. Shadowrun is an important "world" for me and mine, so a little emotional coloring will bleed in. I sincerely hope that this edition will be seen as a "beta" version of the game and the developers will come back at us with a complete product in the near future.
Thank you for your time.