Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall Review

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I must admit i didn’t know much about Shadowrun Returns before I jumped into the game for this review, outside of vaguely remembering the Kickstarter during its run and the 2007 game which I’d also not played. Doing a little wiki while downloading the game I came to the conclusion I was going to play a techno based tactical game like Fire Emblem mixed, with some tabletop role-playing elements mixed in.

Shadowrun Returns Video Review 

I can quickly say that my expectations were blown out of the water when I realized it’s more Xcom Ala Final Fantasy XII… in that you can freely wander around and as enemies appear you instantly switch into turn based battle mode. But it flows so well in the same way FFXII did with its MMO inspired gameplay, and the battles themselves feel fast and flow well despite being turn based; something a lot of other tactical games can’t seem to do. Now I jumped straight into Dragonfall to start with, the campaigns are separate and bare no relation to each other however I felt the need to go into the original campaign a little later in hopes of getting a tutorial or explanation for all the stat choices you’re bombarded with at the offset but you receive the same guidance either way, there’s menus full of explanation that are hard to read through but do aid you if you put the time in. It’s not overly necessary however as the game is easy enough to pick up and play with some experimentation uncovering everything the tutorials will teach for the most part. Really all it did was gave me a frame of reference for just how much of an improvement Dragonfall is over the original campaign in pretty much every way. The original campaign Dead Man’s Switch has a much slower story pace compared to Dragonfall which if you play it second is immediately obvious by what quickly felt like a shoehorned in flashback battle at the start of the game to make something interesting happen to offset the following slow-paced progression. Dragonfall is balanced, jumping you straight into something more interesting and you quickly get caught up in the more interesting caper. Dead Man’s Switch just isn’t as exciting and lacks the flair that Dragonfall has. Dragonfall primarily has 2 main forms of game play, the interaction side and the battle side. The battles are fun and even on easy do provide a challenge, if you want to survive on higher difficulties you’ll need to play more strategically and make the most of whatever cover you can get yourself to. You have a variety of guns to use, or if you prefer you can focus close combat, magic or even summon as a shamen. I generally focused on pistols in one campaign and rifles in the other as they’ve always been my weapons of choice in most games. You create a character fresh for each campaign, you can customise both looks and skills so you’re free to play around and become whatever kind of person you want to be. It’s this perhaps where the game is at its best… it actually feels like a tabletop RPG, from how you view and play the game to how the dialog is delivered. You can detail descriptions the echo what you’d like here from a Dungeon Master if you were sat around a table and I welcome it, keeping things fresh and new for me as I’ve not seen it done before. This freedom doesn’t extend to the other characters however, the game walks a line between your typical Bioware game where you can customize every character to your liking, essentially being a game where it’s truly all about you. A little extra freedom for your party’s customization would be nice, and it may happen but it doesn’t truly hurt the game. However unlike Mass Effect you’re rewarded for keeping in character, much like how you would play a tabletop RPG, act in the manner of the type of character you are and you’ll receive bonuses which greatly reinforces the role play aspect, as long as you go in knowing who want to be. The isometric display works pretty well except a few issues when characters are obscured by walls… it’s an unfortunate staple of the semi 2D nature of the game. I generally kept away from obscured areas and the computer usually would follow suit to keep within a combative range, narrow areas however cause this to be a more frequent issue and its one of the few problems I have with the game. The expansion makes a big deal out of a new save system allowing for much more freedom when you save… not having played the original however I can only guess how annoying restricted saving is for some of the harder areas of the game. Perhaps the biggest issue newcomers will have with Dragonfall is that it’s an expansion. Being of a higher caliber then the original campaign it would have been nice for the game to have been standalone release. I’ll likely play through the original campaign eventually but the it’s hard to shake the feeling that you need to play more than you need to get at the best experience Shadowrun Returns has to offer at the moment, especially when the campaigns are unrelated to each other. In all Shadowrun Returns is a great game, but Dragonfall is a brilliant expansion that as a combined offering raises the whole package to a greater level. I can’t help think that it’s Dragonfall that should be the base campaign and not Dead Man’s Switch, however if the bar will be raised this much with each expansion then I really just can’t wait to see what comes next… and I wish I’d backed the original Kickstarter! David Ryatta