Waypoint 101 — Shadowrun: Dragonfall


Having watched playthroughs of the endings, including the consequences of the decision to side with Vauclair and kill the dragons, I came away with the impression that the game devs ended up adding a Deus Ex Machina to their “bad ending” to make sure everybody was clear that they’d made the objectively wrong decision. Specifically, so far as I can tell there’s little warning earlier in the game that the dragons are an important part of the magical ecosystem and have a role in protecting the Earth; neither the player character nor Vauclair have any reason to suspect that killing the dragons might have world-ending consequences.

I wonder if the dev team was uncomfortable writing a scenario in which making a “ends justify the means” decision (which, to be clear, is genocidal) turns out any way other than unambiguously bad. And the most cynical part of me wonders if was considered possibly too controversial to have an ending in which our leftist hero kills off all the billionaires and in fact the world becomes a much better place. On that note, I think it might have been more compelling to have the bad ending just be “the dragons die and all their wealth is absorbed by the executives and top shareholders of the megacorps. Everyone is still poor and fucked. Congratulations on exterminating a species and burning a major metropolis to the ground for nothing.”


The player character maybe not, but the player might well do if they have been through the first game.


I ultimately had an arc of experience with Shadowrun. I started off with a fairly blank slate, and quickly grew fond of the combat and story. I created a melee decker who only ran with the original team the entire way through. This ended up being a fantastic move for me in general, since I had a variety of ranges and abilities. I feel like decking using Blitz would have been a bummer since I’d have to kick out one of the main cast, and honestly I think having the main character be a decker makes the most sense. You command your own team in the Matrix, are able to access significantly more lore, and get more dolla dolla bills y’all. I honestly got a bit excited when I found new things to hack into.

I enjoyed the combat throughout the game, and felt a decent amount of challenge playing on Normal difficulty. As a fan of XCOM 2, I feel like many of the strategies came fairly naturally to me, and I was able to heavily route my crew to be a bit overpowered by the endgame. However, the combat lacks the sightlines and impact of the aforementioned game, leading to frustrating strings of misses or strange angles on attacks. I felt kind of bad being a melee character, since they swing soooooo sloooooow. Glory’s attacks felt fantastic, but every swing of my katana felt hopeless.

The writing in this game is beyond phenomenal. It hooked me in immediately with the banter in the crew, and the flavor text of each area set the mood. I significantly enjoyed the individual missions compared to the overarching story. The idea of being a shadowrunner and pulling off these unique heists made each challenge stand out. Small touches of background art, details, and characters fleshed out each area. Here the flavor text and dialogue shine. I got a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of text at times, but a small break generally kept me ready for more. By containing many of the other side characters to the Kuelzebaar (sp?) there are many smaller arcs that can be viewed if you are willing to check back in regularly.

I honestly had a lot of fun and am going to check out the other Shadowrun games!


Absinthe spells it out pretty clearly. Well, as clearly as she can, anyway.

Megacorps like Saeder-Krupp existed before the dragons, though. You’d have no reason to believe that wiping them out would somehow abolish corporate structures themselves.


Well, the thing is that if you know your Shadowrun lore, the twist isn’t really a twist (plus a TON of characters warn you about it). It’s just like the ghost bugs in Returns. They sort of pop out of nowhere in context of that game, but if you know Shadowrun lore, then you’ll notice how the time period matches up with their later appearance in another city.


Additionally, if you talk with Absinthe in the magic shop, she tells you about an extra-planar threat that she suggests the Dragons exist to fight.


I think if something as gut punch-y and unintuitive as that ending relies on the player knowing lore from outside the game in order to make sense, then that’s a major failing of the writing. Honestly, same deal if the “hints” were either so hidden, so oblique, or so rare that a significant number of players didn’t notice them.


That’s a bit naive, I think - Dragonfall is both the second game in a trilogy and part of a pre-existing franchise. You might as well take the first Baldur’s Gate to task for not completely explaining everything about the Forgotten Realms.


As long as you regularly talk to the people in town, which is how you get a lot of extra information and side runs, you’ll be aware of why that plan is bad. Its side info, but the game trains you early on to always talk with the town, even down to the main themes of family, community, and communication.


If there’s significantly more to hint at it throughout than just the Absinthe talk, than that’s fair, and I’m just remembering wrong. (And more than vague thematic throughlines; I agree they’re there, and that’s good writing, but I don’t think you can use theme to make this type of plot swerve feel good.)

This, on the other hand, I completely disagree with. First, it is emphatically not the second game in a trilogy; it is an entirely standalone game, set in the same universe as some other games. Second, I’m not expecting everything about the universe to be explained in-game, just the stuff that is absolutely crucial to the primary plot making sense.

And besides all of that, I agree with some of what’s been written above: the beat itself just feels bad. In the sense that it feels out of line with the best stuff the game has to say. Like, the game spends all this time and effort showing the oppression of small people by the powerful, the importance of community and solidarity among those small people, the value in fighting back against oppressors, and the fact that dragons and corporations are fundamentally different from people and necessarily always oppressive, and drawing these really clear parallels between the two. It makes it clear that, even though it’s not always the right move personally (because you might die, your family or community may suffer retaliations, you might just need a paycheck to survive the week, etc), hurting these powerful entities is in fact a net positive, and the world would be better without them. Then to see the game turn around and say “oh, actually, dragons have been good all this time, they’ve been protecting the rest of us” feels to me like the game undercutting itself.

The fact that it, to me at least, seems to come out of nowhere, greatly accentuates that feeling. And I think that, done well, it could potentially have done the opposite. If, instead of hitting that ending and thinking “wow, I did not see that coming, and I don’t think I could have,” I hit it and thought “oh damn, I didn’t expect that, but thinking back on xyz, I should have,” the whole thing could have reinforced some entirely different themes rather than undercutting these ones.


Honestly? That sounds like a misreading of the text: at no point does the game say that “dragons have been good all along”. They’re part of an ecosystem that keeps worse things out, but that doesn’t make them heroic or redeem the harm they cause to the population. Feuerschwinge’s massacre isn’t instantly forgiven because she turned out to be some mystical guardian of nature, and the game makes no moral judgment if you decide to kill her because of her crimes. Vauclair’s plan isn’t about “hurting” powerful entities - it’s about exterminating, to the last, an intelligent species. Hardly an action that merits a shiny happy ending, I should think..


Exactly. Dragons aren’t good, or evil. Dragons are dragons.

Part of dragons being dragons is their protecting their bit of the wider reality from Horrors (but probably mostly because Dragons want to protect their stuff, not out of “being good”). Just as killing off wolves in the UK had a series of knock-on effects resulting in us needing to cull deer often, otherwise they’d cause various problems, including seriously impacting new growth in forests. Killing off Dragons results in Horrors having no counter, and metahumanity suffering.

(One can imagine a hypothetical future - perhaps in the 8th Age - where metahumanity’s understanding of both science and magic means that they don’t need Dragons to control invading Horrors. But, not now.)


And that’s something you already know about Vauclair going into that scene: he approached the problem of dragonkind from a purely scientific position, without ever consulting someone like Aljernon who could’ve provided magical insight. It’s a line you can use both against him and with Lofwyr at the end: it’d be impossible for any one person to accurately predict what a full-scale genocide of a magical species could do to the world.


Man, I warned you all at the top to be magic so you could talk to Absinthe.

This thread is clearly too considered and mature for my shallow ass playthrough of this game. Killing Feurschwinge? Killing all the dragons? Having a sketchy artificial intelligence jack the aforementioned dragon. Man, I’m not doing any that, not even for anarchism. At least that was my thinking until I read every post in this thread and realized you are all making much smarter more considered decisions than me giddily going oh my gosh, dragons!

Still, I’m the person who’d rather save lions than the tribes that hunt them because they kill they’re livestocks. Don’t even think you could convince me to kill the dragon that’s on the same level of irrational conservationism as me.


Heh, you’re not alone in that - my choices were more character-based than abstract/ideological: I fried APEX for killing Monika and all those other deckers; I shut Vauclair down because he was basically acting like a dragon and didn’t have a leg to stand on; I let Feuerschwinge go only because Dietrich was telling me there was more to the story than what my decker character could figure out, and I trusted his input; and I told Lofwyr to go screw himself because rule #3 of Shadowrun is never, ever make a deal with a dragon.


I really don’t get frustrated at games, but ‘Bloodline’ is really compounding all of my frustrations with the game in a really frustrating way.

Making me send my main character (a decker) to a terminal to be told “oh, you need to jack in” (to a point on the other side of a terminal which takes a turn to run around while on a term timer) is incredibly obnoxious. The fact that I wasted 1AP on another character to read it and be told “oh, main character needs to read this” is incredibly grating.

Sorry for interrupting the good lore chat, I just feel like the rust on this game really shows sometimes.

(P.S. Weapon accuracy has been perfected in Mario + Rabbids and the way this game works is honestly kinda obnoxious to come back to)

I’m leaving this unedited but wow this post is phrased poorly


That’s one lesson they definitely learned and implemented in Hong Kong - your teammates can perform skill checks in and out of combat scenarios.


Funny how games work. I didnt even engage in combat until the very end of the mission. And even then i just left.


Me too. It does need a bit of luck, though.


Super deep reply here to note that I just did my first bit of hacking in Shadowrun: HongKong, and the realtime “stealth” bits do make me sad. It would be a little better if they gave you direct control of the decker when moving in realtime, but honestly, it would be even better if it was either realtime-with-pause, or just not realtime at all.