by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Being that Dragonfall was initially a non-stand-alone expansion to Shadowrun Returns, it shouldn’t be surprising that the core gameplay remains largely unchanged - save for a few nice user interface changes. The game is a turn-based isometric RPG. Think XCOM. Each player on your team will have a turn in which they move, attack, use an item etc. Then the enemy characters get to go. Repeat until you’re out of combat. The system favors positioning and cover management over fast-twitch reflexing, making for a slower, methodical, yet intensely exciting system. To succeed you’ll need to utilize the games five main classes (The same present in the core game’s release) that each specialize in some aspect of combat.
Street samurai sport Deux Ex style body augmentations, adepts use magic to make themselves faster and stronger, deckers can hack and perform actions in the matrix (online world) and so on. You won’t be able to have them all on your runs, so making sure your party is versatile enough to adapt and execute isn’t only recommended, it’s mandatory. Most importantly, perhaps, is that each class is fun to play. I did my main playthrough as an adept specializing in melee combat, did some additional time as a mage, and played through the original Shadowrun Returns campaign as a pistol wielding street samurai, and none of them felt boring or underpowered.
There are a few changes to how the game works, mainly concerning the user interface. Differences are subtle, but the way certain powers and enemy armor are displayed just make things more clear. The armor display on enemies could be a bit difficult to read, but the new display makes it much easier to quickly determine what kind of protection the baddies are rockin'. Spells, items, and normal attacks aren’t clumped together any more, but are instead split across the bottom of the screen. It smoothens the experience and declutters the action tray a bit.
Stick With Your Team
One of the draws of the Shadowrun intellectual property, and a big reason it’s been such a popular tabletop rpg for the last 25 years, is that it’s basically one giant, crazy, magical buddy cop movie. It’s not really about the end goal or stat sheets as much as it’s about the awesome communal surge that comes from each team member pulling off their special role just right to do something awesome, then passing around a slew of high fives and reveling in your awesomeness. It’s about the bonds you make with your fellow runners. This element, however, is something that both the 2007 first person shooter and the initial Shadowrun Returns campaign missed the mark on.
Dead Man’s Switch had a number of characters that were present in the small hub area that stuck with you for most of the campaign, but you’d largely leave them behind to do runs with a group of strangers that you wouldn’t interact with at all outside of combat. Dragonfall, much to my appreciation, fixes this. Though at times you’ll want to switch out a teammate for a runner with certain specializations or replace any fallen members of your squad, the game can and should for the most part be played with the team you start the game with. By letting you stick with the same group both in combat and out adds depth of characterization far beyond what was available before. Combat is also a bit more open thanks to giving you control over the gear your teammates gain, letting your utilize a more synergetic approach to challenges. It doesn’t open it up as far as I’d like - complete control over skill points, abilities, gear, the whole shebang - but it’s closer.
Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall- Director’s Cut is the best available version of an already great game. Available as a stand-alone experience, it is definitely the place to start for new players looking into Shadowrun Returns. Dragonfall is an immersive, fantastically written adventure that supports itself with engaging gameplay while only being moderately brought down with its underwhelming audio and visuals. Anyone who enjoyed the initial campaign, who’s a fan of isometric rpgs, or just enjoys a good story shouldn’t hesitate to grab their gun, sword, rig, or spell of choice and get ready for the drek to hit the fan.
Balanced classes, better sense of “team”, top notch writing, and a more narratively open campaign.
Some visual and aural elements fall short.