Discussion The Patient Gamer - Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Dungeons and Dragons meets Cyberpunk


Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
There really is something to be said about building a world and setting for a game to take place in. I'm an old man by gaming standards now and I've seen a lot of gaming worlds: the clean sterile future setting, the post apocalypse, every imaginable iteration of the high fantasy setting, colorful forests, bland deserts, concrete jungles. A well designed trope is always appreciated, but like an addict searching for his next fix, sometimes I really crave something I haven't seen before.

Enter the world of Shadowrun. Its a really basic concept actually, one that I am frankly surprised I have not seen more of (and maybe I'm just not looking in the right place, last thing I remember that was even marginally similar was Arcanum). Magic returns to the modern world, as do magical creatures and metahumans (Dwarves, Elves, Orks, Trolls, etc...) which naturally results in a radical collapse and rebirth of society, as well as huge advances in modern technology aided by magic.

Shadowrun is a cyberpunk high fantasy dystopia (how's that for a genre?) that excels because it has fun with organically playing with these disparate themes coming together and walking them to their logical conclusions. Dragons in high fantasy are traditionally extremely intelligent, magically powerful, long lived schemers and hoarders. So what does Shadowrun do with them? In the modern world, they quickly rise to the top of and found mega-corporations that take over and acquire their competitors, crushing all competition in their path until they've hoarded all the wealth of the world. Elves, naturally beautiful, wise and graceful, also outpace and out perform humans at their own game. Orks and Trolls, physically grotesque, are often relegated to the lower classes and menial work in society. And humans are trapped in the churn of it all, feeling like they've had their whole planet robbed from them.

Dragonfall is the second in a "trilogy" of modern turn based Shadowrun RPGs made by Hare Brained Schemes (who gained some popularity for their recent Battletech Turn Based Strategy game) and is largely considered the best starting point for people unfamiliar with the world of Shadowrun. Although I have not played the other games in the series, my understanding is that Dragonfall is the most "punk" out of the games, has a very solid cast of supporting characters (each with their own side mission to complete), and the story and core conflicts of the game draw heavily from the primary overarching themes of the Shadowrun mythos.

Its an isometric RPG, with combat handled in a very yeomanlike manner. If you've played essentially any modern turn based shooter (think Xcom) then you will be right at home with Dragonfall's combat. The RPG elements are nicely handled, especially some of the choice/consequence in the gameworld. It doesn't always come across through branching gameplay, but has a heavy effect on the dialogue (nothing is voiced in this game, there are reams of dialogue to read through, but luckily it is all excellently written) and will effect some of the ending options available to the player. The game also has one of the best "bad" endings I have ever seen, which branches off the main plot and heads off in its own direction if you make the appropriate dialogue choices.

The game also handles a number of different core systems really well, whether it is combat builds, hackers, mages, summoners, the interaction of cybernetics with magic, charismatic characters that talk their way out of bad situations. There are a lot of character build options and from what I could see, they were all handled with some respect and care in how they compliment each other.

Be warned, however, that the game does have a bit of that indie jank to it. Some interface decisions really get you to scratch your head (cannot transfer items between squad inventories after a mission has started, so if my main character cannot carry any more medkits... off to the stash they go rather than to my squadmate with 4 open inventory spots). There are no true cutscenes or voiced dialogue, everything is in text with the old school character portraits. Personally I enjoyed this kind of story telling, but it can really slow the pace of the game down and you can find yourself easily going 30 minutes or more between actual missions just reading and catching up with the world state when in the hub. The game's upgrades also sort of run out of gas about 3/4 of the way through the game, where you find your character effectively maxed out and forced to spend upgrade points on various side skills.

All in all, I'd honestly have to say that Shadowrun Dragonfall is one of the best iso-RPGs I've ever played. As with any RPG in this genre, its really about not completely screwing up the combat and actual gameplay mechanics (HBS came through solidly in that regard) while providing the player a rich and detailed world to explore and an intriguing central story thread to follow, which Dragonfall delivers in spades. Its the kind of game that would get you thinking about it at random times during the day whether its on how to kit out your character, how you would have made some decisions differently, or just the moral implications of the modern world turned upside down when fairy tales become reality.

If you like the genre, you will find something to like in this game. Dirt cheap, buy it.


No Lifer
Jul 15, 2003
i was gonna respond and forgot.

Theres three good Shadowrun games on Steam.
Do not play the Boston one. its garbage.