Savin’ Makes Me Feel Good
Shadowrun: Returns is one of my favorite Kickstarter success stories. It released around the middle of last year, and was received well by backers and Shadowrun fans. I enjoyed a great deal of it, but the story went to some pretty unfortunate places and it was far too linear for the potential it possessed. It also didn’t allow you to manually save. Shadowrun: Dragonfall aims to remedy this: side-quests, manual saves, choices, and far more opportunities for decking are just a few of the improvements on the base game. It’s by no means a perfect Shadowrun experience, but with a campaign even longer than the original, if you enjoyed Shadowrun: Returns then this is an expansion in the truest sense of the word.
It’s the year 2054, forty-two years after magic returns to the world and a giant dragon ravages a great deal of Germany. Your home base is a small run-down shop in the Kreuzbasar, a kind of futuristic market in the heart of Berlin, a city in a sort of civilized anarchy. The game kept referring to “the Flux State,” and it was unclear to me if it was meant in the metaphorical sense or if it was an actual government; regardless, it’s basically Ron Paul’s America with more magic, cybernetics, and cryptocurrency.
It’s here where Dragonfall shines: from your safe house, you can embark on a number of side missions, sell information you’ve obtained through Decking, and read forum threads (seriously). Early on you’re tasked with accruing an enormous amount of money to pay a mysterious information broker. Most of the money from side missions goes into this fund, and the sense of accomplishment from finishing a job and acquiring a staggering number of credits is a really clever way of making side missions satisfying without empowering the player character too much. These side missions offer a lot of interesting choice: do you control a colossal living weapon and use its power against the mass of enemies that lay between you and your exit, or do you deactivate it, steal it, and try to sneak your way out? Do you set a rogue AI loose to wreak havoc on the enemy’s computer systems, or destroy it and sell its data to other Shadowrunners?
Your crew consists of several key members with more able to be recruited along the way. The main party characters themselves are very well-realized; I found myself talking to them between every mission, something I rarely do in any game except Bioware RPGs. You can also hire other characters for a mission, but I never found this very useful at all, especially since the main party members upgrade their own gear and usually have souped-up versions of regular weapons and armor.
It’s almost unfortunate that Dragonfall doesn’t fix many of the mechanical issues of the base game. Cover is still difficult to find, points of interest still become non-interactive for seemingly no reason, and the AI is still kind of dumb — At one point I avoided an entire encounter because I walked around behind a group of enemies. These are small inconveniences, and after overcoming them in the original campaign, I almost didn’t even notice them.
Overall, if you enjoyed Shadowrun: Returns then this should be an instant purchase. It improves on Returns in almost every conceivable way, tells a far more interesting narrative, and portrays an incredibly well-realized vision of future Germany. I enjoyed it far more than the original campaign, especially since it’s $5 less.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Mac; Developer: Harebrained Schemes; Released: February, 27th 2014; MSRP: $14.99