Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall reviewed – Everything the base game should have been

Shadowrun Returns Dragonfall

By 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…

Good:

  • Everything that sucked in Dead Man’s is now diamonds
  • Even the writing is tighter and deeper. That’s saying something.
  • ISOMETRIC FOREVAAAH.

Bad:

  • 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.

11 comments (Leave your own)

Having to buy a bad game to get access to a what sounds like a good game feels annoying :(

 
Toby McCasker

makena,

It’s not a bad game, bro! It just got better the second time around, is all.

 

makena,

The original wasn’t a bad game, it just wasn’t great, t was .. ok.

 

Sometimes mediocrity is worse than being bad, that’s why Shadowrun Returns was a bit of a miss. I was going to jump in the KS for it, but something held me back. TBH I’m glad as Dragonfall is definitely more my cup of Earl Grey ;)

 

Sounds good, might grab the double pack next Steam sale.

 

RSOblivion,

Man of taste and class. Earl Grey is my favourite Tea.

 

kinkykel,

I think it tastes a bit like detergent. Prince of Wales all the way.

 

makena,

I have a dlc code for free if someone wants one.

 

aetius:
kinkykel,

I think it tastes a bit like detergent. Prince of Wales all the way.

The gloves are off.

 

ISOMETRIC FOREVAAAH.

I giggled like a schoolgirl.

 

It’s really very entertaining, the writing is superb (as was the original) it captures Shadowrun so well. Dragonfall is a much tighter story experience it doesn’t really drag anywhere and the side missions are more interesting and that game on the whole feels, or at least gives the illusion, of being more open. My gripes are that it seems to have more bugs than Dead Man’s Switch – mostly the occasional CTD and freezes.

The characters have much more depth to them this time and it really makes a difference in how you select your team, there were times when the logical part of me thought, ah I don’t need a Street Samurai for this, but because Glory is a very interesting character I brought her along anyway.

The game still suffers from linearity though, in the end. It would be wonderful to have more of a sandbox like experience in this setting, but that makes the narrative harder to control.

Edt: the new patch 1.2.4 introduces some nasty bugs, mostly to do with character retrieval not working correctly +

 
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