Through a happy accident, DanW played Shadowrun:Dragonfall and shared his first impressions over on the Shadowrun.com forums. Spoiler-free, of course!
Take a look and see what he thought and then head over to the thread if you have any questions for him.
Road Movie To Berlin
(One Fan’s Semi-Official Preview Of Dragonfall)
“Drek, what was his name…Candy…gum…spearmint, peppermint, wintergreen. Wintergreen!” Kilim entered ‘Green Winters’ into the hotel data system’s keypad and sighed in relief when it kicked out ‘Room 405’ and a few notes. “Got you now, chummer. Time to roll!”
Don’t Let’s Start
A few weeks back, I logged into Steam to play a little Shadowrun Returns (I just noticed I’m at 544 hours played on Steam, not to mention the time spent with the DRM-free version and the editor!). As I was signed up for the public beta, I wasn’t too surprised when it began downloading a new version. Thinking it would give me a chance to see how the new save system worked in Deadman’s Switch, I opened the game and found Dragonfall!
Of course, I started a campaign with my trusty decker/assault rifle archetype. Immediately, I noticed that the mage had throwing knives, the weapons troll had a sniper rifle, and AoE effects showed the number of targets affected (no more fraggin’ my teammates!). This was all before the heavily-armored troll with a minigun appeared…
There were a lot of rough edges and bugs in the build, but the basic gameplay was definitely an upgrade from DMS. Instead of just one teammate with a story, there were now three (soon to be more). Instead of one (unnecessary) side run, there were multiple run choices with multiple objectives and multiple ways to accomplish them. I completed one run without any combat, and another with so much combat that my team suffered four deaths total (two of them my PC). Fortunately, the DocWagon-type item is now automatically used if it’s in a character’s inventory when they die. I was having a blast. I even posted a thread on the SRR forums about some bugs.
And then it went away. I guess someone noticed that a developer’s build had escaped and shut the metaphorical door. I shrugged my shoulders and figured that was the end of it. But then I received a message from developer Mitch Gitelman. “Thanks for the positive comments about the Dragonfall campaign! Please send me your email address, Dan. I’d like to chat with you in mail about something.”
“Eiger. Grenadier, 11 o’clock, 50 meters. Mage, 2 o’clock, 35 meters. Geek the mage first.” Three shots echoed through the courtyard. Even suppressed, the sniper’s Ruger 100-S had a distinctive sound. Even more distinctive was the Humanis mage’s head disappearing in a flash. The ork with the grenade launcher was luckier—or had better armor—but the two shots forced him to drop his weapon and grab his chest. His escape was short-lived, though, as Glory materialized next to him and slit his throat with her hand razors.”
A Harebrained Scheme
(That’s Eiger on the left and Glory on the right.)
And so this past Sunday when a developer’s preview build appeared in my Steam account, I was ready to go. I decided that it might be fun to play a new character I had been wanting to try, a build that would have been hard to implement in DMS. Meet Kilimanjaro West, infiltration specialist. Human decker, high charisma, skilled in unarmed combat. With minimal headware and a touch of bioware, my concept for him was someone who could slide past metal detectors and magesniffers to pass as a wage slave. Get in, get the goods, get out. Null sweat.
I fired up the game and lost myself in the story. If you enjoyed DMS at all, DF will be right up your alley. A lot of the pain points have been smoothed over. I’ve already mentioned the automatic resurrection that works if your character dies, the new save system works smoothly, and there is now auto-heal after combat where your healer will heal the most recent wound of each character. (I think you need a magical healer for this, but I didn’t test it out. Too busy playing.) Thrown weapons and unarmed combat are much more viable, and now shaman have a weapon spell just like those hermetic weenies. You have additional choices for your team, but I stuck with the crew I knew and the more I ran with them, the more I knew about them. It felt more like the tabletop game, which was my introduction years ago to the Shadowrun universe—and the reason I backed this Kickstarter.
“Keeping an eye on the security cam feed, Kilimanjaro West counted down the seconds. “15…10..5…Left, left, then right. Go!” As the security guard’s patrol turned the far corner, the team broke for the door. One more guard to bypass and the prototype would be in their hands…”
One of the best things about DF is that I felt that my decisions were having an effect on how the game unfolded. There was humor and sadness. There were NPCs who would threaten or cajole. Runs could be all guns blazing, or a quiet sneak past security. Playing on Hard, combat was challenging and often required a bit more strategy than DMS. Certain enemies had to be prioritized. Positioning (no, the cover mechanism hasn’t changed) could greatly influence the course of the encounter.
It just felt like Shadowrun should. You can read board chatter that sometimes refers to your own exploits, adding to the SR feel. The highest praise that I can offer is that the plot actually caused Kilim, in character, to change his modus operandi. At the point in the game roughly equivalent to the cemetery scene in DMS events made things very personal. After having passed up the lure of cyberarms numerous times, he sought out the street doc to get them so that he could more effectively achieve his revenge. (As an aside, my SR characters have a history of things like this. Ask the other players who were there about the incident involving a river, captive alligators, and the gator shaman who couldn’t swim. Did you know that Alligator mississippiensis can be used as a flotation device?) And during the marathon endgame equivalent to the Bug Hunt in DMS he was glad he had done so.
And that point in the plot? As I texted my friend, “Drek just got real.” It was surprisingly nail-biting for a turn-based game and I found myself deeply engaged. If it weren’t for work and a missing thyroid, I would have played continuously.
Now I’ll admit that Dragonfall is not perfect. Some things remain as annoying as they were in DMS: the limited inventory slots with the random (?) display order, the ridiculous (to me) stat-boosting outfits, and the inability to tailor your teams’ inventory beyond a few consumables, to mention a few. Also, some bugs remain (only one I ran across required a reload) but if this were all I got from the Kickstarter campaign I would still be one very satisfied chummer.
TL;DR: So if you have the means, I highly recommend picking it up. And if you already are getting it through the Kickstarter, you won’t be disappointed.
Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them, though I won’t have access to the game until after work tonight (6 PM EST). There are bonus points available for good questions/observations. Double bonus points if you knew right away where the thread title and first header came from. And, triple bonus points if you knew where my character name came from.
Bonus points redeemable for DanW’s goodwill, subject to applicable state laws.