Once upon a time, games weren’t supported by a constant slew of expensive post-launch DLC.
Instead, they were given notable expansions that looked to expand and iterate on an original experience, increasing a title’s shelf life by months instead of a couple of afternoons.
That’s the treatment 2013’s Kickstarter-darling Shadowrun Returns receives as its first expansion, Dragonfall, finally arrives – offering a vibrant approach to storytelling, engaging characters and a fresh approach to gameplay that make it feel more like a fully fledged sequel than anything else.
Moving the action from the sights of Seattle to the magic-drenched streets of Berlin, Shadowrun: Dragonfall succeeds in every area that its predecessor failed. Thankfully, it still offers an accessible gateway into the fiction of Shadowrun – whether you’re familiar with its legacy or new to the universe entirely. It’s doing the franchise a disservice to describe it as a cyberpunk take on D&D, but it works fairly successfully as a elevator pitch.
Magic has re-emerged in the 21st Century; shotgun-wielding elves slice computer mainframes for a living, as ork mages and dwarf hackers rise up against evil corporations run by dragons. This isn’t your typical take on fantasy, and that lends Shadowrun an ever-inviting edge.
Thankfully, that edge also extends to Dragonfall‘s sharp isometric roleplaying gameplay and turn-based tactical combat. One of the biggest changes this time around is the focus on building a crew of shadowrunners. Taking a cue from BioWare’s Mass Effect games, it’s simply more satisfying to tackle objectives with a team of eccentric characters that you’ve become friends with and helped guide over the course of a couple of hours.
While the combat remains largely unchanged, the linearity of the original has been replaced entirely. Beyond your hideout, you’ll now find a neighbourhood bustling with vibrant characters and side-quests to explore between missions. Interestingly, most of Dragonfall‘s missions can also be tackled in any order, giving you free rein to approach the game in any way you see fit.
Dragonfall is everything Shadowrun Returns should have been. Sadly, the original is a required purchase if you want to enjoy this expansion – but don’t let that put you off. Dragonfall isn’t a revolution, but it is an incredibly entertaining and surprisingly deep-RPG experience that we won’t soon forget.