Waypoint 101 — Shadowrun: Dragonfall


I guess it feels like I wanna experiment with the combat but that desire is conflicting with the writing/world and it’s frustrating. Also I feel like “turn-based tactics” needs more specific subcategories because I’ve played a ton of Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem (and now Into the Breach) and this is new and hard in ways that are a pain to learn with so little onboarding.


Specifically, this is a turn-based, squad-based tactical RPG, like the recent XCOM games more than Fire Emblem.

There is an unfortunate learning curve involved. I feel like it’s the kind of game where you almost need to go for a build that’s… deliberately easy/non-complicated on your first run. Someone upthread mentioned that playing a magic user is hard in this particular game compared to the other two just for how the encounter design works out, but pure hermetic mage with enough charisma to get by is actually quite a simple thing to contend with when you’re just learning. You dump a lot into Wisdom and Spellcasting, then use anything left over to get a bit of charisma or something else that seems fun. The games are also really reluctant to fill this role – Deitrich and Gobbet from Hong Kong are Shaman/Mage hybrids with an emphasis on the former. Magic is almost identical to buying new weapons, except they have more versatile effects.


I think there isn’t a charisma check higher than 6, but if 6 is your cap you can’t get more than a handful of etiquettes, which is another way the game puts checks your way so that ends up being pretty relevant.

Also I have way too many hours in XCOM for my take to be representative, but I did find the mage build with a bit of charisma relatively easy to parse (find cover and blast the best spell you have off cooldown) and helped with the party dynamics. I bet a street samurai would be fun to play, but I’d feel so bad leaving Glory at base more than normal.


You’re right, you only get 3 and miss out on another possible 3 (only elves can get all 6 normally). Three etiquettes and 6 charisma is a fairly respectable amount but it’s not as good as what an elf gets. Unfortunately, while it’s better than Returns about this, some ettiquetes are much better than others. Hong Kong handles that a little better.

In terms of taking Glory’s combat role, I find that they try to give the companions enough customisation duality that you can mitigate that a bit by like… focusing on being a ranged street samurai, or trying to focus on her combat medic track. Glory in particular has a fairly unique build that’s definitely the most interesting out of the Dragonfall characters (cyberweapon specialist with an AP boost ability who can also heal).


Yeah there’s really no indication of what simple and uncomplicated builds work though, which leads to me burying myself in wikis and walkthroughs and is something I’m just less willing to do these days. I’ve long had a sneaking suspicion that XCOM type games aren’t really my thing


XCOM at least has a pretty rigorous tutorial section. DF is like “eh we have a manual sink or swim.”

Basically, though, look into builds that require the least number of ability tracks being managed at once. Pure mage works, as mentioned before. Same with pure rigger, which is a lot simpler than you’d think – everything they care about is under intelligence. Once you start dipping into hybrid stuff that requires a lot of different abilities in completely different categories it starts to get a lot harder. For this reason “street samurai with gun and sword” is more complicated than you’d imagine given that it’s the Shadowrun version of a fighter, more or less. You’re right about the game being bad about letting you know anything like this.


Couldn’t agree more. I know that the “Waypoint 101” moniker isn’t a rigorous branding exercise, but I’m starting to get a little frustrated at how many games in this series lean towards grognardy / time sink / slog. I’ll keep reading the discussions and listening to the podcasts, but I don’t think this particular “book club” is for me.


They have some excellent high level discussions but I’m intrigued none of them struggled with the lighting or mechanics, I would have liked to have one host on each 101 panel who is relatively unfamiliar with the genre for some perspective.


I gave up on Dragonfall and am going for a Hong Kong run. The gameplay generally feels like it has matured a bit in that there are fewer confusing elements in combat. However, I’m not a fan of the updated hacking since it runs in real-time which is completely different to the turn-based nature of the rest of the game. I’m totally using console cheats to skip those sections.

I wouldn’t mind seeing another campaign from Harebrained, but that would take away from the great work they’re doing with Battlemech. Not sure if any fan-made campaigns really hold up.

My current runner is a total bastard in more ways than one. I’m trying out a shaman-summoner who is going full cyberware and assault rifle. The accuracy bonuses are stacking up from the cyberware, and when the fights get stacked away bit out of my favour I just pull a demon from the air and demolish a couple of their pawns. My runner is also just a bit of a psychopath who is entirely charming but more than happy to mow people down if they get in the way.

Kinda fun, though taking Racter and Wu along as well means that with 2 extra units on my side, plus the full-auto flushing of the double ARs, it feels stupidly easy on normal.


I know I’m late here, but I just listened to the podcast and wanted to add something about Glory’s quest.

If you talk to Aljernon, the magic merchant, after Glory has given you her whole backstory, you can ask him for advice. According to him, “The Adversary” that the cult leader follows is not actually the Christian Devil, but just another Totem like Dragonslayer or Rat. He specifically represents rebellion and opposition to power structures, so like, he’s a pretty cool guy.

The cult leader, however, is a “toxic shaman,” basically a shaman who inverts the positive aspects of their totem and corrupts their message for evil. This, combined with Glory’s strict Christian upbringing, led her to interpret The Adversary as the actual Devil, when the cult leader is the real source of evil here.

This casts your choice during the final mission in a different light, as well. If you decide to save the kids rather than kill the bad guy, either you or Glory say something about how the devil would just get a different asshole to lead his cult, so why bother killing him? But if “the devil” isn’t real, and this all begins and ends with this one, human asshole, killing him really is saving people in the future.


Except that to do that, you have to sacrifice everyone in the house - essentially trading them for his hypothetical future victims…


I see what you’re getting at, but I feel like the sentiment still sort of holds up because there will always be another asshole with power because that is the way the world is not because there is a literal devil corrupting people and granting them power.


Oh I still don’t think its like, the morally correct choice, and the fact that Glory literally gets possessed by an evil spirit as a result kinda emphasizes that. I just think there’s more ambiguity there if you get the additional perspective from Aljernon.


This is also true. I suppose that’s really the point of the additional info on the quest, that there is not singular entity you can blame for the evil in the world.


Finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to finish Dragonfall any time soon (1 failed tutorial attempt so far) and listened to this. Great episode, as always.

Some of the dragons-as-corporations talk made me think of the Robocop episode of an excellent podcast by some internet friends, The Shadow Trap. http://shadowtrap.libsyn.com/case-16-the-corporation-feat-robocop-1987

The podcast’s starting point was for each episode to investigate a monster of the popular imagination via a specific (movie) text. In an incredible move, the monster they chose for the final episode in that format was The Corporation. Highly recommended.

Back on-topic: having been thoroughly spoiled on Dragonfall… I probably want to play it slightly more, now.