The Cyberpunk Stylings of 'Shadowrun: Dragonfall'


#1

Content warning for abuse, starting at 1:07:18 in the episode.

Welcome to the shadows, in Waypoint's deep dive on Shadowrun: Dragonfall. Austin, Rob, and Joel dig into the game's aesthetics, politics, characters and scenarios of this cyberpunk RPG. Joel and Rob are newcomers to the world of Shadowrun and encounter a lot of surprising heart and humor. It's still pretty weird, though: Rob makes friends with a king, Joel fights the Devil.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/wjkm85/the-cyberpunk-stylings-of-shadowrun-dragonfall

#2

Kinda sad Danielle didn’t get in on this one, would’ve loved to hear her thoughts too. That being said, great 101! Loved the descriptions they gave for their characters


#3

Same. It would have been worth it alone for the inevitable crush Danielle would get on Eiger.


#4

Fiyaschvingah!

I totally enjoyed this and I hope Rob and Danielle and everyone else eventually completes the game. Would love to hear them dig in to the endings.


#5

Do the Waypointeers take requests for the 101s? I don’t think they do but I would love for them to take a deep dive into Morrowind. I know that sounds huge and scary but if you mainline it takes like 10 hours or so. Or they could even just explore the world and look up the main quest afterwards. I just want to see folks dig into all the lore and world-building thats in that game that doesn’t seem to get talked about outside the teslore subreddit.


#6

There’s a thread on the forum where peeps have been discussing Waypoint 101 games for the future. Check it out!

I really like the crew mentioning how resources and upgrades are specifically limited in the Shadowrun games. It’s weird how much I like that aspect as I usually prefer grinding to an overpowered state in RPGs. It helps reinforce the cyberpunk ethos of the individual only being able to do so much in a deeply troubled world. What did everyone else think about that? Was it immersive or frustrating?


#7

Since this was my second, “bad” playthrough, I actually always had a ton of money. Being a decker/pistol toter is a pretty efficient build, and I was on normal so I didn’t bother gearing up my team (the game also makes that relatively difficult iirc). By the end game I was more machine than woman, and was opting out of pistol upgrades because I liked my gun so much.
My original playthrough was super different though. As an Adept I had to juggle magic, weaponry, and armor upgrades, and because I was inexperienced I missed a fair few side missions / objectives (and failing to recruit Blitz meant no paydata money either). Even on normal that run had me making tough choices; I can imagine higher difficulties really amping up the money restriction factor, making stuff like donating to Samuel and refusing the Lodge’s offers much harder.


#8

I definitely think it’s a plus to have to make difficult cash decisions. More in-theme, for sure, plus it forces you to make choices about what you really want, like Sid Meier’s definition of “Interesting Choices” (I think): you have to be forced to say no to something you might want for a choice to actually be interesting. And in Dragonfall that absolutely is true, there’s so many ways you can go with your character, or with approaches to a situation, and generally they all can succeed. As Austin illustrated when he listed all the options Rob had in the Lodge mission to escape.

(sidenote: I found that extra interesting - to hear what can happen and all the different ways you can deal with it - because in my playthrough I just immediately aced James and got the fuck out)

I really think Dragonfall nailed the feeling of difficulty and scraping by in a world that doesn’t give a shit about you, while still making it a game you wanted to continue playing.

I find Hong Kong so disappointing in comparison. I am sure mechanically it works fine, but the writing doesn’t feel like it’s on the same level at all. Andrew McIntosh seems to have written all of Dragonfall himself. Which is wild. That man should get a box of awards. He was also on Hong Kong, but leading a writing team rather than by himself. (He also led the Battletech writing team, I just realized.)


#9

All of the talk about the Lodge mission reminded me of something you can get from Hong Kong’s special addition.

Hong Kong actually has the option to turn on “developer commentary” for more or less every area in the game. What this means is that, at the beginning of most maps, there is a dialogue option on a random object that will spool up several minutes of developers who worked on this map or related elements talking in detail about what went into a specific mission, character etc. It’s fascinating stuff that I wish more games bothered with, but probably best to save for a second playthrough because they’ll spoil the fuck out of any mission that they’re talking about (the menu to enable this warns you about this when you enable it). Or you can do what I did the first time, and just temporarily reload a save from the beginning of the level as soon as you finish each mission.

Anyway, the first one of these talks about how feedback from the Lodge mission as well as the opening of Dragonfall shaped a lot about how they handled the opening of Hong Kong. Not so spoil things too much by going into specifics, but originally that game opened up with you going on a run, things going south very fast in a way you can’t control, and the character you spend most of the game looking for just being taken from you out from under your nose.

How this relates to those Dragonfall missions is that one consistent point of feedback about both the opening of Dragonfall and the Lodge mission is that things go really wrong in a way that the player cannot correct and it made a lot of players feel bad and incompetent. They don’t want people to feel like superheroes all the time, and in the case of the Lodge while that mission is super frustrating I think it works to good effect, but they wanted to sell the urgency of that initial situation in Hong Kong without making the player think they were a terrible at this right out of the gate.

Dragonfall is a fantastic game, but I narrowly prefer Hong Kong over it. The UI is massively improved on the leveling screen, mechanics are tightened, I love the visuals, and it’s really interesting in contrast how they very deliberately went for such a different feel with your crew and especially your fixer. Kindly Cheng was deliberately created to be the “anti-Paul Amsel”. The way you achieve the best ending is also feels great. Not to mention the post-campaign, where the map designers just had an excuse to go wild with the tactical difficulty ramp-up and a “moral choice” at the end that might be my favourite one in any game, despite having only highly personal stakes on the line.


#10

I’m probably alone in this, but I was kind of let down by this episode (mostly in comparison to the deep, comprehensive discussion on the Wolfenstein games) - I was so looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on the midgame attack on the Kreusbazar, the Loose Ends mission, Eiger’s sidequest, and especially the endgame and how all those choices are connected. Plus, I know Blitz is a contentious character because he comes in late and decking is really more of a PC thing for this game specifically, but he got pretty short shrift here, didn’t he?


#11

I think the problem was that Austin and Joel were trying to avoid spoiling too much for Rob / having discussions which Rob couldn’t participate in? A lot of the “meat” of the discussion of Dragonfall needed all the members of the discussion to have gotten to the endgame (even if they didn’t complete it).