I originally found out about Shadowrun from a friend who saw this reboot of an apparent 90’s classic on Kickstarter. I’ve gotta say games like this make me love kickstarter. They made the first Shadowrun game from their money made and have released EVERY DLC and update as free for all backers. That’s amazing. I’ve gotten 2 full games out of a $15 kickstarter donation. Works for me! The game can also be found on Steam, for dirt cheap during the semi-annual sales. So lets get this Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director’s Cut Review underway!
So far I’ve plugged in about 9 hours of gameplay on Dragonfall, and through that time my experience with the game has grown. There is not a lot of action in Shadowrun Dragonfall, but just not in the standard in your face way. You can get pretty worked up over fighting in this game, but its a totally different breed of game dynamics then what I usually post about on here. This is a Turn Based Strategy game. So what is that? Well, you have control, of say 5 guys, on the screen. The floor becomes a gridded pattern and you can only move so many squares per move. With that in mind you have to strategize as to what’s the place to go to? Some places have cover, other’s don’t and it all effects how good, or bad, your fight will go. The best way to think about how this game works, is to think its not a video game at all, and instead that its a board game. Every time you make an action (shoot someone, move, grab an object, etc) you roll a dice. You don’t physically roll one, or even virtually on screen in the game. But in the background a dice (probably 20 sider) has been rolled for you. Based on your character’s attributes, such as strength, willpower, and more, this will determine your chances of succeeding in the action you are attempting to perform. Either be it a hit, a dodge, magic spell or summon a demon. Depending on the outcome you either make a hit, a critical hit (more hit points taken), or you miss completely. Its like a video version of Dungeons and Dragons. If that scares you, then this game is not for you.
However, if playing a great looking board game is appealing to you, without the messy pieces and setting up a board, then I say go for this! Your actions really do make a big difference as sometimes I try a little different tactic in battle and I die, go back and try again, and either make it work or try something completely different and have a much better outcome. That’s the key to the strategy part of this game.
This is also a very story rich game. While wondering the streets of your local neighborhood you can chat with sales characters that will offer you weapons, medical equipment/implants, magic… generally the basic weapons and gear for fighting in each genre that is allowed by characters in the game. Its great. One thing that kind of sucks in this regard though, is that so far I can’t change the clothing on any of my team members. And I purposely bought one of them an upgraded jacket, for better armor and willpower, as he’s a mage, and I can’t put it on him. Bummer.
The story is told in text only. There is never a narrator for this game. Even stuff that appears on computer screens and terminals is just displayed as plain text. Some of you, looking for the game to do all the work in building an exciting interaction, will find this boring. However, I find it a fresh throwback to days of past that pulls me in like a book. Sure, they show you the fight, your enemies and the basics of the surrounding areas, but you can still add so much more with your imagination, and that’s a big draw for someone that doesn’t mind reading a book for the story.
I’ve outlined most of them in the gameplay section already, but the story does really suck you in, like a good book. Its well rounded so far, and everyone you talk to in the game has a reference to something that has previously happened. Its the master of tie ins, and that’s a good thing! Also, the conversations you will have with other people will have added options if you managed to get more information out of previous characters. Sometimes that just means some more dialogue, which is OK, but others it means sharing useful information that will get used again later in the game, and that’s just awesome from a standpoint of how dynamic the gameplay experience can be.
As far as the controls are concerned, you only need a mouse to play this game. You don’t even need the keyboard. Although you’ll get a hint or two about keyboard shortcuts, they are NEVER needed. And I don’t see why you’d bother. Especially if you’re playing on a bigger screen and have a wireless mouse. Just kick back and play the game. Its such a light interaction that you don’t even notice yourself getting sucked into the game. No button mashing here, this one is fun for your brain.
I played the original Shadowrun when it was released on Kickstarter, about a year or even a little more ago. It was alright, but it never sucked me in like this new iteration (Dragonfall) has and I even got to a point where I saved over my own save game at a spot where I couldn’t win. Effectively I killed the game on myself, or was it bad game design to let that happen? Well in a game with such diversity, I guess that’s a two way street. Its the game’s fault and its my fault. I will likely, however, go back and play the original again after this run with Dragonfall because the changes they made that improved gameplay (better battle math, less chance of getting into a bad logic loop, etc) was also applied to the original game as well. So what’s the drawback? Well this is just a setup for those…
Saving the game at the right spots is crucially important. I can’t stress how important it is to try to save the game before making any major decisions in the game. If you just go on autosaves, or save willy nilly to your own save file then you’re running the risk of getting a savepoint that you can’t live through, or get out of. In fact, have multiple save files. One save file before you start a mission, the next can be all the little spots inside that mission that allows you to save. You can’t save while in a battle and that makes sense.
Knowing how to spend the “karma” that your character earns is also vitally important. The game references the idea that “a jack of all trades is a master of none” and they are right. You see this on the loading screen as a tip. Its true, and I think that’s how I played the first go around. So I had a super well rounder character who wasn’t really good at anything in particular. And that’s bad, lets face it. However, if you’re new to this genre of gamestyle then there’s nowhere to really learn this except the one tip in the loading screen. And before you clue into what they’re saying it might be too late, so please heed this warning!
This game is growing on me, just like how the characters are growing with each successful mission. The story is getting thicker and I’m much more engaged with the gameplay then ever before in an turn based strategy game. This could be another game I play to completion. Which doesn’t happen every day. Its a good game that can draw me in like that.
Update: My oh so long save game got to a point where I can’t win the battle I’m in. I find the game can force you down a path a bit, in the sense that you can’t pass time to get new characters, or heal damaged ones, but you MUST complete the next mission. As a result, I’ve got a useless save game that puts me in a fight I can never win. Its a bit of a let down to be honest. I don’t like the idea of either making a million saves while I play, I want to get sucked in. Alternatively, having to start over again from scratch sucks, for the same and other obvious RPG reasons.
A great game, until your infrequent saving kills the fun. Man, what a buzzkill. Regardless, its great to pick up, and the turn based action makes it more like a board game then a video game. Which is perfectly fine!