Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall - First Impressions: Better Than The Original
[Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher for the contents of this article]
I haven't beaten Dragonfall, yet. It's the new $14.99 expansion from Harebrained Schemes for their successfully Kickstarted isometric, cyberpunk RPG, Shadowrun Returns. I'm still early on and I'm still getting into the thick of things, but I've played enough to at least compare the expansion (and it is an expansion) to the original, and so far it's doing a lot more and better things than the original outing.
In Pete's original review of Shadowrun Returns, he expressed discontent with the game's shallow interactivity and lack of deep customization for anything outside of the main character. The customization part doesn't really change, but the interactivity takes a turn for the better in Dragonfall. The expansion kind of feels like the full game that the original could have been.
The expansion takes place in Berlin, a far cry from the Seattle setting in the Dead Man's Switch story. The other thing is that Dragonfall gets into a lot of the potentiality of Shadowrun Returns very early on, opposite of the Dead Man's Switch, which was a lot more on-rails. For instance, you get to jack into the matrix within the first 30 minutes – something that didn't happen until much later into the story of Dead Man's Switch, so those of us playing as deckers felt pretty useless early on.
Now, once again, I haven't finished Dragonfall but already the game starts off and maintains a pace that I feel is a lot more cohesive to what the true Shadowrun experience is all about. That's not to say anything against Dead Man's Switch, but for most people who go into Shadowrun Returns, I would suggest that you probably start with Dragonfall if you're already familiar with turn-based strategy games and have a sound understanding of isometric combat tactics. The story will easily and quickly reel you in and it's hard not to be engaged right from the start.
Dead Man's Switch is a bit different insofar that it feels more like an episode for a procedural rather than a grand adventure. So anyone new to Shadowrun will probably want to do something that feels a bit more main-line and then proceed on toward the side-quest style campaigns thereafter.
Also, I can't stress enough that Harebrained Schemes really took their time with this expansion (from what I've played so far) and added in a lot more interactivity into the environment and setting as opposed to making it just an straight-line affair, which was probably one of the more grating aspects of Dead Man's Switch. While the game's original campaign outing was pretty to look at and offered a fair amount of narrative and interesting characters, it lacked a lot of interactive charm. You couldn't really click on much and there wasn't much to do when you did click on anything. As Pete mentioned in his original review, it was more-so an on-rails experience with little to do outside of following the carrot.
There are a few instances where you can make some choices in Dragonfall that feels as if they might actually change what happens, and this has already prompted me to want to re-roll a new character and try the campaign again (after I finish it, of course).
If you have no interest in Shadowrun returns or the nerdy wares of cyberpunk storystelling, this expansion isn't going to change your mind. However, if you enjoy old-school point-and-click RPGs from the yesteryears of gaming, with an ample helping of textual cyber-talk and futuristic fantasy elements, Dragonfall definitely starts off on a better track (and in a better way) than the original Dead Man's Switch.
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