Shadowrun: Dragonfall (Director's Cut)
I was eagerly expecting Shadowrun Returns, in my opinion one of the most promising games around and with -finally- a fresh and interesting setting. When I finally completed it, I wasn't completely satisfied: the game was good and very enjoyable (even if a bit too easy), there is no denying that, yet it wasn't as great as I felt it could have been.
Shadowrun: Dragonfall has surpassed its predecessor and given me precisely what I was looking for in Returns.
In Dragonfall, you ran the shadows with Monika Shafer's team; with your incomes, you are managing both to live decently yourselves and to sustain the Kreuzbazar, the Berlin Kiez you live in and one of the most prominent examples of the experimental “anarchist” Flux-State.
Alas, due to your employer's deliberate silence on certain information, in the beginning one of your runs goes tremendously bad and you end up being chased by a very dangerous organization you inadvertently crossed. Trying to solve this problem, you will soon start to discover that whatever is happening in Berlin is much bigger than you thought.
The narrative department is way more than solid: not only the thrilling plot is relatively complex and with several brilliant twists, but this time the choice and consequence aspect matters a lot, making for huge differences especially during the last half of the game; also, unlike in Returns this time you have a full team of characters with well-developed personalities, so your companions will have a major role both inside and outside combat (paid mercenaries are still there though, in case you need to cover a particular role or you simply don't like the other characters).
Under the gameplay side, everything you saw in returns is back, only much more refined.
The combat is based on static turns, with the characters moving on a grid and covering behind objects for different degrees of protection, like in the Original X-COM.
Your characters can cover every field as you see fit (choosing freely among combat, magic and technological skills) their effectiveness is determined by how they spend Karma points, needed to upgrade the six main attributes (Body, Quickness, Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma) and their derivative abilities.
Each time you want to raise your level in one of them, you need to spend the same amount of Karma points as the level you want to reach; to be able to to increase an ability, you also need its ruling attribute to be equal or higher than the level you want to move on (for example: I have all my melee attributes at 7, and I want to have 8 in Melee Weapons: first of all, I will need to spend 8 points in Strength, to increase my hit chances and unlock the specific disciplines, then I will need to spend another 8 in Close Combat, to increase my power, and then I'll proceed to spend 8 more to Melee Weapons, to increase my critical chances).
The choices are many, yet the limited (around 200) Karma points you can gather during the game strongly encourage you to create a specialist character. To compensate this, you can also decide to use augmentations, in form of cyberware or biotech. Both of them can hugely increase your character's power, yet they come with a price: not only they cost a lot, but they also drain “Essence”, the parameter controlling magic effectiveness that can only decrease, leading you to have less spell slots and massively increased spell cooldown, making them a bad choice for spellcasters.
Unlike in returns, now all classes are more or less equally useful (deckers -still almost useless in combat but essential due to the increased use of the Matrix, a separate virtual reality you can use to hack systems, adding another layer of gameplay- have been especially reevaluated), and if they seem weaker in the beginning they will catch up after a bit of experience (like my Ork Physical Adept, not very good at the start but overpowered in the end, he could cover the entire map in a turn, kill two or more enemies in a round and paralyze the rest). Also, attributes, skills and etiquettes (unlockable via charisma) are wisely used in dialogues, often allowing to have multiple choice with similar of different consequences based on your approach. For example, in the same situation you could talk your way out a problem with Charisma or intimadate someone with Strength, draw your weapons faster with Quickness and gain a bonus turn, resist mind control with Wisdom or recognize if someone is telling you nonsenses with an high scientific knowledge.
The map design and the enemy tactics have also been hugely overhauled, making the whole combat system a much better experience when compared to Returns, showing the progress of the developer team over the years.
Graphically, there is no difference between this and Returns -nothing strange, since Dragonfall was an expansion pack before gaining the right to be a standalone title. It would be enough to say that if you are looking for a cyberpunk vibe, you should look no further; though simple, the graphic department masterfully executes its job, a simple glance to the image gallery on the store page is enough to see it.
Summarizing, Dragonfall is definitely one of the best games I have played this year and one of those I have enjoyed more, definitely worth its price and deserving of the praise it gets.
I rarely award five stars and seals of approvals, but Shadowrun: Dragonfall rightfully gets them both.
I cannot recommend it more, and even if coming from a low-budget campaign (another reason to admire the result) it could easily qualify as RPG of the year 2014. Play it, you won't be disappointed.
In one mission, namely the APEX one (don't go around searching what "APEX" means or there will be heavy spoilers, just save this information in your memory for when you reach that point), after a very long battle your main character might freeze in place, refusing to follow your orders.
Many thought this is a game-breaking bug, but in truth it is not: when you issue an order, your charcater will execute it if you open and close the character stat sheet with "c". i have no idea why, but it works for me. If you happen to be in that situation, just click the exit door and then "c". Your PC should then exit the room, and everything should go back to normal.
That was my only issue with an otherwise perfect game -still, that bug has been around for months and Harebrained Schemes should definitely fix it.