Waypoint 101 — Shadowrun: Dragonfall


#262

OK, finished this last night so here are my thoughts (spoilers inside the clickthrough) (its very very long)

Summary

I first played this 2 years ago, after several nonstarter character rolls. I’m pretty bad at tactical rpgs so even on easy I frequently struggled. I overcame this by rolling an adept ork - I had a high enough Body that I wasn’t burning through BuMONAs too quickly, and between me and Glory “cover” was a pretty laughable concept. I ended up dropping Eiger for Alnur (the way Blitz is introduced feels really weird to me - I only got it on this playthrough because I was making “bad” decisions like working for the Lodge) pretty frequently, and eventually took Dante everywhere I could. The game was fun, and I looked forward to going back as a Decker so I could ferret out the secrets.

On this playthrough I thought I would go “bad” - only to find that the game doesn’t care about letting you do that. Sure, there are decisions you can make that harm people, but you’re not rewarded for just being a jerk all the time. I found it actually really rewarding to be the person who takes dirty money from Luca Duerr, then turns around and gives it all to Samuel Beckenbauer.

Taking the hint from my previous playthrough, I rolled a pure decker. This means that I got much, much closer to 100% this time - I missed a check on the Humanis run because I dared up my quickness instead of getting Decking 3 or 4, and I accidentally blew myself up a few times messing around in the Matrix too long, but overall I was richly rewarded for revisiting the game. The themes really shine through when you take a no nonsense attitude towards everyone. I loved the game the first time, but this time I really got to appreciate how excellent the writing is. Every character has an arc, and while I’m sure I missed some stuff, I found it worthwhile talking to everyone, addressing their problems, and then fitting that stuff into the overall mission.

I had three big changes between playthroughs. The first, and most surprising, was Lucky Strike. This playthrough, I was able to talk to her semi-regularly, and if I had allowed myself to break up the core group - which I never did on this run - I think I might have been able to recruit her. This is a 180 from the only dialogue I got from her last time - something to the effect of “Do you really think you an replace Monika? You will never be her. Get out of my sight.” That really drove home what every interaction with Eiger already said - you can’t make everyone happy. This is the cyberpunk future of the shadows, not Tomorrowland. Not getting that dialogue this time implies that despite her protests, Lucky Strike is really invested in the fate of the Kruezbasar.
Change 2 was a result of being “bad.” I freed APEX. I think this made the final mansion run slightly easier, but I ultimately regretted it. I even played it both ways, but the game lost my save from killing it and I didn’t have the heart to go through a 40 minute mission for a third time. I’m a little disappointed that it doesn’t change your ending, at all, unless you also hand over Feuerschwinge, but I think it is interesting that this is one instance where your character knows the nature of something, and has to decide whether that’s acceptable or not. It’s not the pure evil of blood magic, nor the ambiguous “way of the world” of the dragons.
The last is - I save scummed the ending. I think originally I just left - I was roleplaying as a pretty impulsive fighter, and I really had trouble with the last fight. I was ready to be done with the dragons, etc. etc. (pretty close to what Eiger says at the end). This time my “canon” ending was blowing everything up. I was astounded to learn that the “good” ending (and it’s definitely arguable that it’s good) is freeing Feuerschwinge. I think this was the first time I saw the dialogue from her - “what do you get from watering a sapling.” That really hit home - you’ve made all these “hard” choices, and here, finally, is something that is unambiguously kind. Not just “the best option,” or some sort of long term investment. I ended up missing the part where you talk her down from burning down Germany - I thought I knew from the APEX conversation what a “show of faith” was. So if the good ending is “kill APEX, free Feuerschwinge,” that paints Dragonfall as a pretty pessimistic endeavor. Dietrich asks “what it all was for,” and there’s no solid answer to that. You saved Berlin from one awful fate, but it appears that things still go down the drain from where you are. The best case scenario appears to be undoing as much of Vauclair’s plans as possible. That’s pretty grim, especially after pushing so hard in your crews loyalty missions to make marginal improvements to the world. I don’t think grim is an inappropriate tone for cyberpunk, but after how swimmingly improvements to the Kruezbasar go with just a little cash and a little muscle, I wonder if that’s the intended message.

RE: Aztechnology Blood Magic: Last playthrough, having no decker, I never even got my hands on the data. This time, I was going to delete it no matter what, but I did consult Aljernon. Based on his actions in the ending, we know he’s just metahuman, but he is also very powerful, and his level of mistrust in Bloodline cleared it up for me. Shockwellenreiter may be politically effective - or maybe not, (again, the ending texts low variance makes it difficult to know if you’re really changing anything) but they are, just like APEX, relatively amoral. The preservation of the F-State is, I guess, the “good” alignment for the main character, but I stand by the fact that enabling covert murders is dangerous territory. I like Lofwy’rs point in the ending train ride that any line you draw is arbitrary - but at least for me, that’s OK. I can have “really big gun” be fine for a character and "blood magic’ not be.


#263

I wonder if I will come back and read all these spoiler-tagged posts when I finish the game, long after the 101 podcast is published.


#264

I want to ask about hopelessness in cyberpunk, reacting to thoughts from @doctorcat and some related posts from the thread on Cameron’s cyberpunk article, all quoted below:

From the final thoughts section in @doctorcat 's big post

…Or is it saying, perhaps unwittinglying, that despite whatever pretenses we have to the contrary, we reproduce capitalism, we reproduce the structures of our own oppression, and we dare not escape them? It seems like this could be another example of the tough pill to swallow that Cameron Kunzelman wrote on cyberpunk a few weeks ago: “there is no hope for large, structural change” in the heart of cyberpunk. You can make it better for yourself and your friends, or maybe your little community, but you are absolutely excluded from really changing the system.

From the 'Where are the Radical Politics of Cyberpunk?' thread

This is the thing I get hung up on with these cyberpunk critiques. Cyberpunk isn’t supposed to be aspirational anymore than 1984 is supposed to be aspirational. It’s not a roadmap, it’s a warning sign…I actually think stories like The Three Body Problem are more spiritual successors to Neuromancer than most modern cyberpunk: for the characters in the book, it’s already too late. But we’re not in the book. It’s not too late for us.
I know I’m a little late to this thread but this really crystallized for me why my favorite dystopian fiction (whether it’s cyberpunk or otherwise) is utterly hopeless. The naive individualism that a single hero can take down the megacorps is such a jarring disconnect from a setting that should be distinctly materialist. The circumstances are such that the forces of evil (capitalism) have become so powerful that there’s no longer a way for them to be overcome. It’s an upsetting but effective warning to make sure we recognize the signs and stop them before they become real.

First question: isn’t the idea that you’re better off just looking after for yourself and the people you care about because systems of oppression are inescapable fundamentally regressive? Like, isn’t “The world’s always gonna be a shitty place, I’m gonna take care of me and mine and screw everybody else” basically the philosophy of American suburban conservatism? Maybe we should separate the descriptive statement here (“systems of oppression can never be overthrown because they are too powerful and/or we always recreate them”) from the normative one (“therefore struggling against it is pointless and what you ought to do is take care of yourself and the people you care about”). The former can simply be a true statement, but the latter seems not only overtly nihilistic but… evil? It is the exact sort of zero-sum, nature as an insatiable struggle for survival worldview that people use to justify abandoning the idea public good and community. It is a philosophy whose vision of investing in the future is making sure your kid doesn’t end up poor rather than making sure being poor in your country isn’t a death sentence.

Second question, specifically regarding the idea of cyberpunk as a terminal endstate that never be recovered, only ever avoided: as works of politic/polemic, do cyberpunk’s cautionary tales have any value in 2018?

At least to me living in America today, it distinctly feels like we past the point of no return for escaping hypercapitalism / fascism months or maybe years ago. Voter roll purges, ID laws, gerrymandering, and the electoral college are effectively suppressing liberal voices at the polls. Major federal regulatory agencies are run by executives from the industries they’re supposed to regulate. Government services with private competitors are being starved and dismantled. The political power of labor unions has been neutered; instead, campaigns are anonymously financed by ultra-rich businessmen and corporate lobbying groups. Every branch of our government run by far-right capitalists, and the opposition party is largely run by pro-business centrists who offer little more than lip service to the idea of providing basic government services to ensure a safe and dignified life for every citizen. We’re about to spend the next 20 years having our nation’s laws interpreted by a Supreme Court more interested in the rights of Nestle and Phillip-Morris than women or black folks.

What is the point of stories warning us that the cyberpunk future would be an irredeemable dystopia when we’re already at a point where America 2018 could be a Shadowrun sourcebook? Isn’t this the time when we need fiction that looks for a way through, a way out?


#265

I hear your points, and definitely have had my fair share of frustration with nihilism in storytelling, but this idea just doesn’t do too much for me. Fiction can be good at imagining the place we can get to once we’re through all this (Ursula Le Guin was a real one), but I’m not sure it’s ever going to be able to “find” the way out. I don’t mean to sound demeaning or anything, I’m pretty sure we’re in agreement in this, but I think every movement of positive change in our history so far has found its way out through the doing of it, through a myriad of semi-failures that amount to something, and parts of that have been inspiration in fiction, but the role of even the greatest work of leftist fiction is probably always going to be very limited compared to theory, let alone direct action.

There was a guest lecture Austin Walker gave in the NYU Game Center earlier in the year (it’s in the Waypoint Radio feed) that talked about this exact situation, and at the risk of misremembering/bastardizing his points, the thing I took from it is that the idea of “games as vectors of change” has always been somewhat flawed, partly due to an eagerness to disconsider the darker underbelly in games culture (be them the toxic communities that coalesced around GamerGate, the intense corporatization of gaming’s most popular works, or everything in between) and partly due to, well, they were realistically never going to find the way out. If I recall correctly, at some point during the lecture Austin says games “can’t lead us out of Hell, but they can be in Hell with us”. That’s where I’m at, I think. I’m all for games that show a light at the end of the tunnel, that articulate what we’re hoping and fighting for, but sometimes I just feel like looking at a piece of art that articulates all of this well, that makes me go “holy shit, I thought I was the only one who was feeling this way about all this bullshit”. That’s why I’m on Twitter so much too, I guess.


#266

So I’ve gotten two missions into the game as my human Shaman support/tank, and I have already gotten to a point where I’m not sure who I want to keep in my party! So far, I really really like the team that you start with and have started getting used to their synergy. However, I just got Blitz and really need a decker on my team. Dietrich seems to be the overlapping character my player character, but he’s also my favorite character so far as a cool punk shaman friend. I guess I may just spec him into a more damaging shaman since I’m doing support or maybe a hybrid so that our team always has support? I’m still really early in the game, but I’m enjoying the story bits but worried that the length of the game will stop me from playing it out.


#267

My advice would be to rotate them based on the mission descriptions - you can usually tell where there might be a need for magical interference versus runs that will definitely call for a decker.


#268

(ive missed a lot of conversation here hi hello)

I’m wondering, regarding the mission “Trial Run”: Did anyone here take the route of killing James and dropping the job? I know a lot of people here tend to go with more pacifistic/moralistic runs.

I wanted to voice some thoughts on the outcome of that run, so spoilers for the mission “Trial Run”:

I found that I was surprisingly affected by the ending of this mission but in a weird way. James is, obviously, a hatable character who I didn’t really mind offing. (Looks like he’ll be… late for his meeting… amiright?) But what I found kind of tugged at me was Jana. When we’re first introduced to Jana, the electrician, I liked her. This probably because I’m extremely sapphic and just like girls and want them to be happy and yeah, but she also was a genuinely likable character, which is often rare in the world of Shadowrun, and especially the Flux State. Regardless, I spent the mission trying to be nice to her and support her and make sure she was safe. She seemed like a good person, and we needed her. We get caught, and James is about to kill an innocent man, the “foreign elf” lunges at him. Jana tries to stop the elf, saying we need James to finish the job, but she fails. I wasn’t going to let James kill him (even if he was a bougie prick) and the elf. I have no choice but to turn on him. I fought through the level and kept the foreign elf and Jana alive. On the train platform, Jana tells me she’s going to die, that the Lodge (the organization that hired us) is going to kill her, and that its all my fault. The foreign elf comforts her, and tells her he can help her flee the country. And she accepts, tearful but desperate.

Jana says to me: “You ruined my life. I hope you know that.” Then she leaves. Riding home on the U-Bahn, I can’t get that out of my head. The disdain on her tongue, the look of hate. I ruined her life. I tried to do the right thing. I did what I believed to be the most moral thing I could do. I tried to be the best person I could be, and I ruined her life. I tried to look for the right thing to say, click the right option, something I could do to help her, to make her understand why I did what I did, to make her hate me less, but there’s nothing I can do. I did the right thing, what I thought what was the right thing, and what I still believe to be the right thing, and I still hurt her. I still had to hurt people.

I know this was a just a small side mission, but something about that little bit really stuck with me. It reminded me: you are a shadowrunner. You can’t fix the Kreuzbasar. You can’t fix Berlin. You can’t fix the whole world. You can’t save everyone. You can’t help everyone. You can’t be liked by everyone. You can’t avoid hurting people. Because you aren’t a hero; no one is. You’re a shadowrunner, and this is the life you’ve picked. And sometimes, there won’t be a happy ending for you.

But you can still try.


#269

So: firstly: yes, I took that option too.

I think this is an example of the writing and presented options, again becoming slightly more obvious. (As with some later missions, which I won’t spoil here in case you didn’t get to it.) It feels to me like part of your issue here is really that you aren’t allowed to choose an option where you spend more time talking to Jana - so some of your feeling is surely outside of your narrative control.

Secondly, though: I think you’re right, but also Jana is being unfair, due to fear and lack of information. Jana thinks that you ruined her life - because you failed a job for an evil organisation that wanted her to do a “favour” for them, and this is her first experience of the shadowrunning “criminal” underworld. You’re allowed to point out to her that she’s wrong though - that even if she’d done this job for the Black Lodge, they’d have just come back with more jobs later, and things would hardly have been better for her; and that she’s unloading all this guilt on you as a way of avoiding looking at the true horrific situation she was in. Whatever you did, Jana would be hurt eventually - either by you right now, or by her realisation of what dark stuff she’s entangled in several jobs down the line - and hurting her right now is the best option for everyone. This is a trolley problem - and Jana, like most people, is judging action as morally inequivalent to inaction, despite them both having similar negative effects.

I like to believe that, eventually, Jana comes to realise what a bullet she dodged, and “forgives” you for your actions. But, in a sense, it doesn’t matter - one of the points of the narrative threads is, surely, that sometimes you can do a thing which is morally “right”, and be judged negatively for it by other people, because their knowledge is different or incomplete.


#270

Hmm. I struggle with this question a lot: “isn’t looking after yourself and your loved ones, and ignoring wider problems, shitty and bad when looked at in a wider political view?”

The purely theoretical side of me wants to say yes. Absolutely. This is the actual tragedy of the commons - we want society to be better, but capitalism encourages (or almost requires) us to ignore bigger problems and just concentrate on getting a job, keeping a job, making sure your family is safe.

But practically, and I know this from experience and I’m sure lots of us here do, you do start at home. I’m not donating to Jeremy Corbyn if my mom can’t buy groceries, no matter how much I would like him to win. Or even to a charity that had the express purpose of ensuring (for example) elderly widows aren’t starving. Despite the fact that that problem is insane to me and should never be allowed to happen in any society. Some larger, abstract movement is way too indirect and slow when you personally are faced with real, tangible, immediate emergencies.

Practical action has to start somewhere by necessity, and (as you hear often now) you have to care for yourself before you can care for others. It isn’t selfish and I think it’s very important especially in 2018 that we don’t let ourselves start thinking that starting small, at home, or in a small community is somehow not anti-capitalist, that it somehow is self-defeating in the same way that Cameron described cyberpunk.

Maybe this is the seed at the core of cyberpunk stories that we can grow stronger as the genre evolves. It’s certainly there in Dragonfall too.


#271
contains endgame spoilers

I didn’t even notice this before, but the way you’ve described that mission really demonstrates how the game puts you in the position here of being just like APEX and the dragons. Maybe Jana hates you, she thinks you’re evil, but you can think to yourself: it’s for your own good.

And you’re making this decision for a nervous, unassertive, female dwarf; then you go and take it upon yourself to decide the fate of the world.

One of the things APEX-Monika says to Glory (I think), early on when you’re horrified at its killing, is “oh yeah? And how many children have you made orphans on your way here?” (At least one, herself… :sweat:)

Man, I hope we’re not going to have to wait for months for the 101 show on this. :slight_smile:


#272

Or if we do, hopefully it’ll be because they all made it to the end. :slight_smile:


#273

Fairly significant and frustrating bug for folks who don’t save during combat: there’s a late game, critical path mission with an extended combat section. The mission is Apex Rising. Depending on the choices made, you can gain control over another persona in the Matrix. If the IC take this secondary persona down during an enemy turn, it will get stuck on that turn, forcing you to revert to an earlier save. It’s not framed as a mission failure by the game and doesn’t prompt you to do anything.

I lost an hour of game time because of this (it’s a LONG combat section), so just keep a few hard saves at different points of the fight.


#274

I am playing a shotgun-and-grenades-bullet-sponge-cyberware-troll called Tall Order. He used to work in security for a corporation but discovered that he isn’t that much into hierarchies.


#275

My key worked and I started playing last night! The prologue was great and I even managed to survive that crazy opening battle. I’m a charismatic elf decker/rigger named Orchidae. Had to stop before I got to anything meaty but I can’t wait to play more tonight!


#276

Same thing happened to me last night and also when I played the game two years ago! The first time it happened I didn’t come back to it for like a year or so out of frustration until I saw some mention of the game, might’ve been on Waypoint, and settled on finishing it.

hot tip: F5 to quick save immersive sim style


#277

I think that the implication cyberpunk often revels in is that things are so bad politically, that you can trust no one and only serve yourself at the cost of everyone else.


#278

General question about this and the other Shadowrun games: How much should I be RPing the dialogue with my party members? I know that there’s supposed to be some interesting side stuff with those characters, but I’m not sure if this is the kind of game where I should be exhausting any and all dialogue options regardless of context or if I need to be as selective with what I don’t say as I am with what I do say.

For example (and I’ll keep this vague), if you ask a character about their past and they say “It’s none of your business, I don’t want to talk about it”, am I generally supposed to…

  • …keep pressing them on it until they open up to you?
  • …respect their boundaries and drop the subject?

I guess I’m just unclear whether this is the sort of game that is more likely to say “you missed this side quest because you didn’t ask this character enough questions” or “you got locked out from this side quest because you asked too many questions and the character hates you now”


#279

More of the former, I think. There are consequences to pressing some people a bit too heavily, but they don’t usually come in the form of missing side quests, more like side quests ending in a way you perhaps didn’t prefer. Also, I’m pretty sure I know exactly what you’re talking about, because I had the exact same question until I read @Jacobkosh’s guide up top. Pressing that character works out fine.


#280

Awesome, thanks. After posting the question, I realized another way of thinking about it would be “is this a LucasArts adventure game or a Sierra adventure game?”

Context for folks who haven’t played too many old point and click adventures:

  • LucasArts generally made adventure games with a guiding principle of “you can’t die.” The games would (almost) never punish you for trying anything, and accordingly expected the player to try everything no matter how silly or seemingly illogical.
  • Sierra made/published adventure games that were more than willing to let the player die, or worse, put the game into an unwinnable state, if they tried the wrong thing.

#281

I don’t think anyone makes Sierra style games anymore, in that sense. At least not deliberately. But I ended up playing this one like a Sierra game (F5 constantly) because I played on Hard and you could really get thoroughly fucked up if you got blindsided, and I definitely did get blindsided occasionally. (The world felt satisfyingly deadly, though at some point maybe I should have cranked it up a notch to keep the tension up.)

There are irreversible consequences to conversations, but you’ll never be stuck because of one. Unless you include stuck because you can’t decide…