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