Dragonfall is an expansion pack for Shadowrun Returns and requires the original game to play. This new campaign builds upon the gameplay of Shadowrun Returns through a new storyline.
As all Shadowrun games, Dragonfall is set in the Sixth World, a cyberpunk future where magic has returned to the world. More specifically, Dragonfall takes place in Berlin, in 2054. A long time ago, in 2012, the rampaging Great Dragon Feuershwinge ("Firewing") was shot down by the German military, an event nicknamed the "Dragonfall". The player is the next recruit of an hardened team of shadowrunners, clandestine operatives doing the dirty work of megacorporations and other power players. Soon, the team gets caught in a web of intrigue and conspiracy that seems somehow linked to the death of the Dragon, 42 years earlier.
New gameplay features in Dragonfall include the ability to save anywhere, a greater emphasis on playing a team of characters with different personalities and backstories, and more freedom for the player to choose his missions, using the city of Berlin as a hub. The add-on also features new environments, new character portraits for both the player and the NPCs, and a new soundtrack.
Credits (Windows version)
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Average score: 81% (based on 9 ratings)
Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 9 ratings with 1 reviews)
When Shadowrun: Returns (S:R) came out I was hoping for a cyberpunk/fantasy experience of navigating a complex web of intrigue and plots put forth by greedy corporations, mighty dragons and a multitude of smaller powers in a dystopian world. Instead I got a linear tech demo with all the personality of a stale biscuit. Apparently I wasn't alone in this assessment, so the developers put forth an expansion to address that critique. All aboard Shadowrun: The Apology!
The vanilla version was functional, if uninspiring, squad-based tactical game. The main concerns were the bad story and a railroading campaign. Fixing the story was a number one goal and it certainly shows: Despite having about as many characters as the vanilla version Dragonfall goes a long way to establish the mood of this dystopian world and the personalities and lives of the everyday people that try to survive there.
Your base of operation is a Kiez in Berlin - a neighborhood tuned anarchistic commune, a perfect place for a lawless Shadowrunner. Right there is the first major improvement - Dragonfall has a very realistic view of Shadowrunners. Instead of the "Dick Tracy standard archetype #23" which was the protagonist of S:R, here they are nothing more than mercenaries. Some use magic, some use tech, some are circling the drain while others take an active role in leading their community, but all are deeply troubled individuals, far removed from the lives of both ordinary people and cooperate employees. The most notable one is the one that dies at the very start, Monika Schäfer.
She was leading your Shadowrunning team until she was killed in the prologue part of the game. When you return to your Kiez you need to figure out why she died, while still continuing your Shadowrunning operations. This may sound similar to the premise of S:R, but the similarities are superficial at best. Unlike the easily forgettable murdered "friend" in S:R, Dragonfall is quick to establish that Monika was a big deal. Most people in the Kiez will describe her as a local patron saint, helping those in need and protecting the community from external threats. Even your own group will have trouble working with you because of her role as a natural leader (and you being that not-really-wanted replacement). Speaking of your group, Dragonfall has gone the way of Bioware in terms of NPC development. Your party members have their own stories which will be slowly revealed throughout the game. What's the deal with the gruff troll? Why is she mad at you so? Does it have anything to do with the recent war? Who is the petite woman turned cybernetic horror? That shaman is a bit old for a Shadowrunner, what's up with him? These and other major NPCs (two more party members could be recruited later on) form the closest thing you have to a family, but are also a window into a post-modern world shaken with new awakened magics.
Your Kietz has all the basics needed for a good Shadowrunning operation - a bar for picking up gossip and job offers, a bio-mechanical infirmary for your implants, a magics shop, a drug dealer and some weapon and armor smugglers. Ordinary, right? Not so. In Dragonfall you get the feeling that they're all run by real people with their own goals, their own eccentricities, their own secrets small and large. In addition to them you get the regular people: a drug addicted prostitute, an orphan turned errand girl and petty spy, a massive troll war veteran who can barely stand on his crippled legs. Simple people, but with their own stories that are revealed slowly over time. What is the relationship between the prostitute and the drug dealer? Why does she try to escape reality? What does a doctor of this caliber doing in a run-down Kiez? And most importantly, what was Monika's role in the Kiez and what secrets did she leave? What's hiding under the surface?
I could talk forever just about your starting location, but your missions, and the NPCs you'll meet while doing the missions are equally noteworthy, though I'll be brief here for fear of spoilers. They touch the drug trade, immoral experiments with technology or forbidden magic and even the racial tensions between the humans and the new meta-human races. And that's not even mentioning the main plot, the identity of Monika's killer and the reason why the game is called "Dragonfall". The entire story is written like a good book and is always gripping, regardless of your playing style. If you want to explore the deeper story you can, or you can get straight to the action - the choice is yours.
Speaking of choices, the lack of thereof was the second big problem. While it wasn't addressed as well as the story, the improvement is huge compared to S:R. The game is broken into two basic parts - the mission part where you're bypassing, stealing info and shooting baddies, and the intermediate stage where you can buy supplies and talk with NPCs. Dragonfall allows you to pick your missions for yourself - you need a set amount of money to buy information leading to Monika's killer, but how you get the money is your own business. All missions have extra goals, items or other option for earning a quick buck to go into Monika's fund, and all of them tie in some way with people you've talked to in the intermediate stage. If you're on good terms with a mysterious anarchistic decker group you'll get one avenue for profit, if you talk with the people in the local bar you'll get another, a third comes from browsing job proposals on your computer. In some missions you can satisfy every buyer, but in others you'll have to choose, and some customers don't take kindly to being deceived or turned down (though others have special rewards to those who stay loyal to them). Throw in some ethics into the mix (brought up either by your own group or by the Kiez NPCs) and you'll get multitude of possible actions and solutions. Eventually you may not only avenge Monika, but truly take her place as the leader and guardian of the Kiez.
How you deal with the antagonists of the main plot, who will you kill and who will you align with are yet another set of choices to make. These aren't last moment kill or save choices either! You'll find Monika's killer a couple of "missions" before the final showdown. How you act towards that killer will determine how the final mission will commence. While not really open-ended and far from being non-linear, Dragonfall made every attempt to give you an illusion of freedom which S:R clearly lacked.
Dragonfall introduces a few new weapons, magics, armors and implants (some only available if you solved certain NPCs' problems or stayed loyal to certain customers). The greatest change goes for the shaman class who now have their own magic attack, making the class more viable. Better yet, your skills have more use than ever! Etiquette and charisma are checked much more often (allowing you to resolve peacefully hostile interactions even in the endgame), but other skills (even easily overlooked ones like Biotech) get checked as well. Your companions are more than simple fighters - in some cases they may solve a skill check for you (though the result will always be inferior to you succeeding the skill check by yourself), which adds another twist to choosing a proper party for any mission.
Last, but not least, the game adds a proper save option. It saddens me that I even need to mention this, but it took the developers quite a long time to understand that autosave is no substitute for a manual save feature. The option doesn't work very smoothly, but it's functional and this is the case of better late than never.
The story was great, and the attempt to add more choices was admirable, but there is still a long way to go in the latter department. It was nice to be able to pick the missions I want to go to and in what order, but it would have been even nicer if there were more than five or so optional missions. Hell, even then the missions aren't really optional since some missions will only appear once you've done a mission already, and if you invest in shaman fetishes or other costly items you'll need all the money you could get. Besides, with such a small number of missions why would you even want to skip any of them? This expansion is as big as the original Shadowrun: Returns, but it's still very small compared to any big name RPG, let alone an open-world behemoth like Skyrim. It's about as small as the quarter of the first Baldur's Gate, in terms of missions, NPCs and playable content. You could argue that it's not a valid criticism against an indie game, but, yet again, it's a criticism that the developers share - a Director's Cut standalone version of Dragonfall is being released with five new mission compared to this version!
Beside that, there is very little to say against Dragonfall. It mostly accomplished what it set out to do and apart from above, the only shortcomings are related to the vanilla S:R that came before it: You still don't know how many Karma points you'll get for each mission, making long-term character development a pain. It's not entirely obvious how much money from each mission is given directly to you, how much is payed to your companions and how much goes into Monika's fund. You still get access to higher equipment only after certain points in the plot. The shaman class is still, by far, the worst character build available - even with the added weapon, the powerful new totem and more choices for charisma-based characters you'll still wouldn't want to waste your precious points on summoning and spirit control (though having a shaman in a supporting role in the party is now actually helpful).
Hmmm... this seems about it. It's a rare day when I can't think of bad things to say about a game, so... I guess this makes it an excellent expansion. Well done, developers. Here's hoping for more games like this.
The Bottom Line
A must have expansion. Dragonfall offers one of the best stories I've seen in an RPG for quite a while. It has a dark and gritty, yet still optimistic, environment, enough mystery to keep you guessing, and well developed female and male NPCs, both within your party and without. The game is well paced and well balanced, can be as difficult or easy as you'd like and offers a good illusion of freedom despite having a relatively small number of locations.
While there are still problems, this time they are minor ones and relate to vanilla Shadowrun: Returns it's based of and the short length of the game. But, to be honest, being short is hardly a problem for a good game - it means it leaves the player thirsty for more!
Windows · by Alex Z (1852) · 2014
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Pirou Julien.
Linux, Macintosh added by Sciere.
Game added March 19th, 2014. Last modified November 13th, 2023.