Monday 17 March 2014

Shadowrun: Dragonfall Review (PC)

The first major piece of DLC (you’ll need the original game to play it), for the recent Shadowrun Returns changes the setting of our murky world of magic and science to the streets and shadows of Berlin. A standalone campaign set around the same timeframe as the original game, Dragonfall does things a little differently than before and is all the better for it.

Having fled Berlin after a betrayal, your new character soon finds themselves on a job described as a ‘milk run’ with an old friend. In Shadowrun things are never usually as simple as they seem and predictably things go wrong quickly and keep getting worse. You soon uncover a dangerous secret and by then it’s too late to back out. Just remember – never cut a deal with a dragon.

One of the areas where Dragonfall differs from the original game is that you now have a consistent pool of runners to choose before going into each mission. This means that the writers have been given more scope to build up the personalities of your team who occupy the now expanded hub area. More team members can be picked up during missions as well and it means players are rarely faced with situations that they are completely unequipped for. Instead, the missions become more about how you want to go about completing them which removes a lot of the frustration found in Shadowrun Returns where you could find yourself grinding through with a poorly chosen team.

Another major addition (which has also been added to the base game), is the ability to save anywhere. Having to repeat large sections of dialogue or dying at the end of a mission and having to restart an hour’s worth of play are now long gone. This may remove some of the tension but it helps the flow and pace of the game no end, something that should be celebrated in what is a story heavy affair. 

The mechanics themselves are pretty much the same as before. The core rule set of the original game was always decent and here you get to see how flexible it can be as you now have specifically designed characters to use in levels created for their skill set. Level design is also of a higher standard for the most part with more optional objectives and a better way of picking up and identifying side quests that helps to build the illusion of player freedom.

Unfortunately, the matrix sections are still dull an uninspired. Without a complete overhaul of how these play we can’t see how jacking into computers will become more exciting in the future. The series really would benefit from taking these sections back to the drawing board though as they seem to drag on endlessly and lack pace and excitement. One other minor criticism is that Berlin looks an awful lot like the Seattle of the first game. It would have been nice to give it more of a visual identity as it’s certainly an iconic city.  People at least talk in a German accent for the most part.

Dragon Fall is basically more of the same but refined and improved in a number of key areas. If you liked Shadowrun Returns then you should love this as just about every aspect from story to mission design is improved. It’s a highly promising start for the first piece of DLC and it makes us genuinely excited about the potential for more in the future.

Overall 8/10

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