The codenamed "Berlin Expansion" knocks the original game out of the park.
By Toby McCasker on March 6, 2014 at 3:03 pm
Dragonfall sucks, because it’s awesome. Hey, what-who? It does. You know why? It’s so much better than the base game that it should be the base game. It is what everyone’s introduction to Shadowrun Returns should be, such is the intensity with which Harebrained heard the critique and used it to affect improvement in just about every area that needed it. It if does anything wrong, it’s that new players aren’t able to play it straight up, ‘cos it’s DLC.
And what DLC. My goodness. A standalone story, it’s easier now to start thinking of Shadowrun Returns as a (hopefully) limitless collection of cyberpunk vignettes than as a big game with smaller extra bits. To this end, Dragonfall’s narrative has almost no connection to the original’s Dead Man’s Switch, bar some minor cameos and references to tickle existing pundits.
You start a completely new charrie and enter a completely new dynamic in a familiar old-new world. They’re working on the option to properly import your old PC from Dead Man’s, but: Don’t, at least not the first time. Even if they get it to work right, it will totally unravel Dragonfall’s yarn.
Things start in medias res. You’re on a run with your ole chummer Monika and some fellow unsavouries. It’s not long before you’re back in your little slice of hub in Berlin wondering where it all went wrong, which is the first great new thing Dragonfall has going for it: a consistent hub that’s much broader and more meaningful than the Seamstresses Union in Dead Man’s Switch. Everything goes down here, and it is the prime mover for choking the linearity of the base game with its many tendrils. Potential adventures can come out of nowhere in a line of text, and it’s off to the U-Bahn to get those creds.
Let’s talk about the setting, because it is conspicuous and super-important: a counter-cultural future libertine pocket of 2054 Berlin, Germany. Harebrained have been very delicate about not exploiting the country’s checkered history, but they haven’t shied away from placing their dystopia’s testier issues in a place that not so much begs their discussion as provokes it. Racial tensions are a reoccurring theme on every street corner (one literally in particular), and even serve as the basis for some of Dragonfall’s more impactful missions. It can be a striking far cry from the pure neon pulp of Dead Man’s Switch.
Where character development outside your own was a fleeting glimmer in the eyes of Coyote before, now you’re surrounded by a superbly written supporting cast (Glory is especially layered. You can tell who the scriptwriters felt the most connection to, just like how George R. R. Martin clearly loves Tyrion the mostest). Sure, you can still hire faceless runners to come with, but it’s a testament to Harebrained’s fresh zest for characterisation that you probably won’t want to. New faces might show up, and old ones can and will bail depending on what you do, though. Like the hub your crew use for R&R, they too serve as another device Harebrained have used to fix the linear flaws of the father: Choice. Your first choice is pretty clear, even more so if you played and enjoyed the first game: Get this.
If you’ve been seeing Shadowrun Returns all up in your Steam grill every now and again and thought, “Hey that seems cool,” but haven’t committed yet, get it just so you can get this. Thank me later. See you on the other side… the other side… the other side…
- Everything that sucked in Dead Man’s is now diamonds
- Even the writing is tighter and deeper. That’s saying something.
- ISOMETRIC FOREVAAAH.
- Not available without the base game.
- And it’s better than the base game.
- Come on, Harebrained, you presumably like money and fame, right?
Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall is available for $14.99 on Steam. The base game is required to play.
The reviewer purchased this copy of the game at their own expense.