People on NeoGAF (a popular gaming message board) said that Shadowrun Returns was more of a prototype for the supposedly better games that followed: Shadowrun: Dragonfall, and Shadowrun: Hong Kong. Well, I can’t speak about Shadowrun: Hong Kong (though hopefully I will soon), but Dragonfall I actually found to be at times less enjoyable than Shadowrun Returns. What I like so much about Returns is it’s Philip K. Dick-esque story. In Dragonfall, the story takes a backseat for more of an action focus. The action is great, and it’s a solid package for it’s $15 asking price on Steam, but the game could have been perfect if the story was as good as the rest of the game.
To sum up Dragonfall’s story, you are basically a team of Shadowrunners collecting bounties on anything that will net them money. You’re accumulating money to gain information from a supercomputer to help you avenge your friend’s death. That’s about it for three quarters of the game. Your team needs a lot of money, and you’re taking on any mission that will help you earn it. Though the story gets more focused later, It pales in comparison to Returns’ story.
To make matters worse, the writing is often lazy, resorting to using the F-word on multiple occasions. I know I’m being very hard on this part of the game, but I want to be clear: the story and occasionally the writing are the only bad parts of the game. It’s disappointing, but I guess the previous game’s writing and story are difficult to top.
The combat once again is a high point in this Shadowrun. You develop strategies as you go. Having a decker on the team is always good for hacking computer terminals or entering “the matrix”. Having your team dispersed across a room makes it less likely for a grenade to damage multiple allies. Winning battles results in karma points, which can improve your skill with a weapon, in ranged combat, or boost your intelligence, to name a few examples. Even battles you lose a couple times are still fun, because you develop new strategies when you restart the match.
Something nice is that your teammates never actually die. They go back to headquarters and get treated for their wounds. This is in contrast to Returns, where once someone dies, they’re gone for good. There are also a lot of opportunities to pick up items, keeping a full stash of useful goods for battles.
The most disappointing thing about Shadowrun Returns was a lack of side missions. Well, they corrected this mistake in Dragonfall. There are quite a few side missions, earning you currency and easing the difficulty level by granting you more karma points. It also adds an extra ten or so hours to the game which certainly adds to the value. I didn’t do all the side missions, but I really liked the game, so I might do them on a second playthrough.
Shadowrun: Dragonfall is the most fun when you’re in combat. Sadly, the story is highly uninteresting, but that’s my only real complaint about it. Harebrained Schemes created a fantastic RPG again that’s worthy of mention when talking about the CRPG revival that’s currently ongoing. I really hope HBS keeps making Shadowrun games, but it seems they’re moving away from it with their newer titles. Regardless, they created two great games in the series, and more than likely it’s three great games. I just haven’t started Shadowrun: Hong Kong yet.