Shadowrun: Dragonfall fixes some of the problems of its predecessor without compromising the series’ vision and that’s an achievement in itself.
Shadowrun Returns was a pleasant surprise. Although the crowdfunded title seemed promising right from the get go, its concept sounded too good to be true. The game was supposed to be a traditional tactical role-playing game with high-definition visuals. Sounds simple enough, but a lot could have gone wrong. Luckily, Shadowrun Returns delivered its promise and proved that classic tactical RPGs can still be made in this day and age without dumbing them down or compromising what makes them so entertaining and rewarding in the first place. Shadowrun Returns was so successful that it encouraged its developers to work on an expansion. But can Dragonfall deliver another solid campaign while also retaining the essence of its predecessor? The answer is an emphatic yes.
Unlike Shadowrun Returns, Dragonfall is set in the city of Berlin. After creating a character according to your preferences (which will determine not only your appearance, but also your attributes and skills,) you can start exploring Berlin’s underbelly. Basically, your character wants to start a new life in Berlin and soon after arriving in the German capital, you run into an old partner-in-crime who invites you to join a team of hired mercenaries.
Most missions start in the same way: you talk to members of your team, select lines of dialogue, travel to hostile places, a fight takes place and you select commands until you defeat a group of fierce enemies. But while this structure tends to be the same, the combat always keeps you on your toes. The turn-based combat is easy to understand, but hard to master and there’s an array of options and variables to take into account at any given time.
But while some aspects of Dragonfall suggest that this is an accessible take on the tactical RPG genre, nothing could be further from the truth. This is still a hardcore Shadowrun game and one single mistake could mean failing a mission and playing it again. On top of that, the artificial intelligence is merciless, so you always need to focus on the task at hand .
Unlike its predecessor though, Shadowrun: Dragonfall offers more freedom. First, you can undertake most missions in the order you prefer and apart from the main missions, there are some optional side-quests where you can get extra cash and weapons. Second, some missions can be finished in different ways and while these depends on certain factors (such as your characters’ attributes, for instance,) it’s great to see specific dialogue options for specific characters.
Like in Shadowrun Returns, your attributes affect how some conversations unravel which is an interesting approach. Threat people with physical violence to elude fights, hack terminals to avoid certain parts of the mission and so on. This was one of Shadowrun Returns’ best features and it’s great to know that it’s still a prominent part of this expansion.
This expansion comes with many new features as well. For starters, you can save whenever you want which already fixes ones of Shadowrun Returns’ most serious problems (read: the archaic save system.) It’s worth pointing out that this functionality was made available on the original via a patch, but most people who bought the game day one didn’t go back and replayed the entire game to use it (I certainly didn’t,) so it’s great to know that it’s available here right from the beginning. In terms of new content, there are also new character portraits, enemies, weapons, items and many small improvements.
The expansion’s graphical aspect is still impressive. Visually, the game hasn’t changed much and that’s great news. The environments are simple, yet detailed. The character portraits give the different characters personality and the hand-drawn high-definition graphics make the game look refreshingly unique without compromising its humble roots.
In the end, Shadowrun: Dragonfall is a terrific expansion because it fixes some of the problems of its predecessor without compromising the series’ vision. Of course, if you don’t like hardcore tactical RPGs, Dragonfall won’t change that, but if you do, you’re in for a treat.