Waypoint 101 — Shadowrun: Dragonfall


Dunkelzahn isn’t even the only Great Dragon who dies - I distinctly recall Weisman saying that the events of the SNES game are canon too, which means Jake Armitage killed Drake. Sure, they added the caveat that Drake was supposedly young and underpowered, but you have that, you have the deaths of Dunkelzahn and Kaltenstein, you have Feuerschwinge’s defeat at a time before humanity was even equipped to handle the Sixth World. Would a dragon be so unstoppable in the age of Ares, Renraku and Aztechnology?

Setting all that aside, I’m still not seeing the basis for this comparison - Vauclair’s arguments aren’t gospel, and it’s completely self-serving for him to claim that all dragons are equally dangerous and that genocide is therefore the only option. You can’t extend that rationale to APEX because it’s a singular entity with a singular purpose. It offers no explanation for this supposed miracle of Monika’s ideals somehow overwriting its core programming; it demands you grant it control over a dragon and threatens you if you don’t; and if its actions ultimately protect the Flux State, does that justify the corpses it’s piled up to do so?


How many corpses has it piled up? Alice claims that, over the past sixteen years, APEX has killed… a total of 24 deckers (if we believe she’s using “score” literally). During the course of your own activities as a shadowrunner, your team personally kills far more people than that, in just the course of a week or so. Sure, APEX’s killing of Monika is personal to you and your team - but all the people you killed had families too, so unless you’re going to give them all a free shot a locking up the dangerous shadowrunner…


That was while it was under Vauclair’s control. You take those shackles off, that body count’s going to go up fast.


Is it, though? APEX is designed to be a very effective killer of deckers, as well as a fantastic manipulator of the Matrix in its own right - but that doesn’t mean that it necessarily needs, or desires, to kill deckers constantly, or at a higher rate than it has previously. Obviously, it doesn’t particularly value metahuman life - and admits this to you freely when it discusses that it values the Flux-State in itself, not the particular metahumans which make it up - but “not valuing” is not the same as “maliciously needing to kill all of”. Humans are pretty effective at killing ants, and many humans don’t value individual ant lives much, but they don’t all go around destroying all the ants they see, most of the time.

APEX really doesn’t give us a lot of good signals as to how much it “needs” to kill deckers (due to a built in drive in its programming, as presumably it doesn’t really “need to eat” as it claims when being all creepy and threatening) and how much it is driven by cold pragmatism in killing whenever it’s convenient for a goal. In the latter case, its kill rate might actually reduce now that it’s not driven by an explicit imperative to kill to protect particular secrets.

In any case, it would have to try really hard to beat Feuerschwinge’s kill record over just a few days, so there’s definitely that in its favour…(!)


Why are you phrasing it as a “need”, though? It’s named itself and modeled itself as an apex predator - it could kill simply because it wants to.


Most Apex predators don’t kill just because they want to, though (except social apex predators like humans and dolphins). Apex predators are simply the dominant predators in their ecosystem, which have no predators themselves: bears, coconut crabs, the large sharks, and so on, mostly don’t kill for pleasure. (In fact, killing for pleasure, in social apex predators, seems to be an adaptation of the “play-urge” to practice and share skill at predation with others of your species.) It’s clearly nonsensical to discuss the analogy of APEX having a metabolic need to consume/kill to survive, and therefore the entire “ecological” definition of APEX as an apex predator breaks down. So, the question is: is APEX designed to be an apex predator by virtue of simply being able to dominate and kill anything else in the Matrix, or is it modelled after a parody of an apex predator which wants to kill everything else in the Matrix?


Again, I’m not clear on why “killing anyone” and “killing everyone” are being treated as the same thing here - APEX can still be an intolerable threat to the world without going full Chara.

That aside, we’ve been ignoring the elephant in the room: APEX threatens you if you disobey its “request”, which is enabling it to enslave Feuerscwhinge (presumably condemning her spirit to that mortal body for the rest of its lifespan). Give it freedom and its first act is to attempt to steal someone else’s - how exactly does that square with Monika’s ideals?


In response to your first point of confusion: because there’s plenty of beings that can kill anyone if they want to (including all the other dragons, without even talking about lesser beings), but may not choose to kill people. “Being able to easily kill people” doesn’t seem to be a particularly defining property for APEX which sets it apart from other beings in the Shadowrun setting; plus, your specific concern was about the bodycount increasing, and your skepticism that APEX wouldn’t kill more if unleashed. All my argumentation has been about the fact that the mere ability to kill easily doesn’t imply a desire to kill lots (otherwise, as you note, Lofwyr would have a higher personal set of deaths to his name).

In response to the elephant, yes, I agree, it’s a contradiction - which is why I would have preferred to hand over all of Vauclair’s research (and copies of his refined agent) whilst freeing Feuerschwinge herself. What APEX desires is a means to “moderate” Dragons - a threat it can use to apply influence against them for its own aims - and whilst it desires the opportunity to “perfect” Vauclair’s agent, it should also be happy to have everything but a Dragon in captivity. Surely the point, though, is that “true anarchism”, in the sense of giving everyone free agency , is only possible if power is equally or impartially distributed. APEX would argue that the existence of Dragons - as highly concentrated loci of personal power with a desire for and a talent at collecting more influence around them - is, itself, antithetical to the (dynamic) stability of an anarchic state. (And APEX is correct - Dragon-run corporations do collapse the F-State soon after the plot completes.) The suffering of a single individual - Feuerschwinge - is (in APEX’s view) a tiny cost for the increased freedom of thousands of others.

(It’s also important to note that Monika herself was perfectly happy to kill lots of people over her career, despite her ideals, removing their freedom of action, permanently.)


It’s interesting. I totally fell into APEX’s trap; I didn’t trust the machine, but I trusted Monika. The second I saw the true nature of its values in the end, I realized that I had been fooled.


Oh, another poll!

This is a spoiler for the last scene of Dragonfall.

At the ending of Dragonfall, you meet with a mysterious fellow (who is in fact Lofwyr) who offers you a job. Did you decide to let him talk you into it? Or did you just walk away from the deal?

  • Talk
  • Walk

0 voters

Also, I would love to hear if people have particular reasonings behind their choices they’d like to share!


The game’s tagline is “Watch your back, shoot straight, conserve ammo, and never, ever make a deal with a dragon.” Wise words in this setting. :slight_smile:


I was once told by an author that in a nutshell, stories either are about a protagonist changing, or a protagonist not changing, but learning why. My character was a very “live and let live” kind of person. What he learned during the plot challenged him, but ultimately, without certainty and facing a quite complex decision, he decided that in doubt he must choose to let someone live even if that person may be dangerous.


Yes, this is something the two of us agree on. :slight_smile:


So, I still haven’t finished the game, though I think I’m well past the half-way point. One thing that I am enjoying about this game (which others have already mentioned) is the very fleshed out setting of the Kreuzbasar.

I really enjoy the themes of community and the way the game positions you as filling the hole left by Monika’s absence. This got me thinking about other games that do a good job of building your familiarity with a specific place. Some examples that came to mind was Kislev’s D-Block in Xenogears and Toran Castle in Suikoden.

What makes a place in a videogame feel familiar? What is it that makes the player feel attached to a specific place?

I think one element may be repetition. The game’s structure is designed to bring you back to the Kreuzbasar over and over again, so there is something in that cycle of checking up on NPCs and stocking up that helps reinforce that familiarity. But is it more than just a matter of repetition. What other games do this well?


Hey folks,

Tons of great stuff here. Still aiming to do this ep later this month!

Quick Q: Anyone here play the game with the Steam Controller or joypadder or something similar?


I loved this aspect of the game as well. It was wonderful to watch as the community changes bit by bit, even if you make different decisions that Monika had made.

That repetition explicitly is responsible for that familiarity and attachment. However, the specific attachment is absolutely reinforced by the designs and characters. You revisit places a lot in, say, Metroid Prime. I found that I developed familiarity to some of those locations, often in a, “Remember when I struggled in here?” kind of feeling. Dragonfall, on the other hand, also includes characters that develop and progress to draw you in emotionally, if you want it. I feel that latter part is key. If a player doesn’t care about these characters in the Kreuzbasar, doesn’t interact with them or follow their arcs, that player would likely feel little attachment.

Honestly, i think a significant part of this attachment that you’re talking about is due to interactivity. Whether it’s people, actions, or physical objects, interactivity breeds familiarity and, if the cards are played correctly, attachment. Generically speaking, you’re familiar with this base because you helped build it, you’re familiar with this character’s story because you helped bring them here, etc. I’m not sure if Simmy Kim breaks out of her stupor if you don’t talk with her, but I feel that my character talking with her and helping her along was the critical aspect of that investment.

The instant parallel I see for this familiarity situation is the Normandy in the Mass Effect series or the Ebon Hawk in the KotOR games. The Dishonored games do this as well, often with bits of exploration opening up in the base after each mission. There’s even a smidge of this in Deus Ex Human Revolution, where you come back to the Sarif office and can chat with a couple of your teammates and you get to know them better.


Without spoiling things too much for Hong Kong, I do think setting is quite important for this to work well. The Kreuzbasar works better because, as you note, you’re actually helping a community as part of it (and stepping up like Monika did). In Hong Kong, your relationship to the community is different, and I think it isn’t quite as appealing for that reason.


After finishing the game, I read the Shadowrun wiki pages of some of the side characters to try and learn how does that kind of stuff shake out, and apparently Simmy Kim [spoilers for the end of the game] can die in the attack on the Kreuzbasar if you don’t ask her, in one of your interactions with her, to “be brave in the real world”.

I have some mixed feelings about this: while I really like that your interactions with the community change how strong the community stands at the end of the game (in a way, it’s a more palpable version of what you can do by financing Beckenbauer’s civic center), it does feel like an oversized reward for how much my character actually did to help her. From my side, the conversations with her felt strong and meaningful, but not exactly like the tipping point of her life, which is what they mechanically are, apparently. I’d have loved more time with her to really make that feel earned, but then again, I’d have loved more time with pretty much every NPC in the Kreuzbasar, so I guess that speaks to the game’s strength.


It might be because you’re not starting from scratch with Kim - Monika and Ezkibel didn’t do right by her, necessarily, but they were at least trying to help her. You’re able to course-correct their efforts so they have the desired outcome.


I also get that feeling from games that involve back tracking where you remember the experiences you had the first few times you went through a location. Metroid Prime was great for that. I also would experience that playing Diablo 2. Something about moving back through the trail of corpses you left behind was very evocative (weird sentence). Diablo was another one of those games where the structure brought you back to town repeatedly, but the towns and their denizens always felt fairly static and shallow to me.

Good call about the Ebon Hawk. That is definitely another place that I felt a sense of familiarity and attachment to in a very similar way. One thing that I like about Kreuzbasar in comparison to homebases like the Ebon Hawk is that the people you are getting to know aren’t your teammates and don’t necessarily have anything to do with the adventures that you have when you are out in the world. Getting to know your teammates is always very satisfying (well, depending on the quality of the writing and backstories), but there’s something odd about how they are with you on the missions, but you only have this ongoing conversation around the water cooler.

One thing I like about talking to the NPCs of the Kreuzbasar is the way it fleshes out the world by showing what happens when you’re not around. I like that sense that life continues in this place while you’re out liberating cyborg-trolls from corporations.