Monday 18 July 2022

Shadowrun: Dragonfall (Switch)

Starting out as the first major piece of DLC for the original Shadowrun Returns, Dragonfall went on to get a fully functioning solo upgrade of its own soon after.  It changes the setting of our murky world of magic and science to the streets and shadows of Berlin and 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 in 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.

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 and uninspired. These needed a complete overhaul from pretty much the first day of the PC release and have got no better with age. 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.

On top of this the Switch version has some quite nasty bugs. From our experience these seem to be mainly restricted to the hub area between missions, but we wouldn’t bet on everyone saying the same. The frame rate skips badly here, and players seem to teleport around. You also lose the lock on information for both objects and people which then involves a little dance as you try and interact with what you want to. The game also locked a couple of times when changing areas and once we completely lost the camera which just refused to follow our movements. We should highlight this was restricted to the hub area, during missions we found this didn’t happen which at least meant we never died because of it but maybe that’s just us. It also suffers a bit from handheld play with some small text and no improvement with regards to colourblind users since the original game, something that was always a bit of an issue.

Dragonfall 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 does need a patch though as the hub area does just about all it can to break the immersion currently. If you can put up with that there’s still a lot to like about Dragonfall, it’s just not the game it was on PC currently.

Overall 7/10

*since this review was written a patch has been issued which does stabilise the frame rate. 

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