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Review: Shadowrun: Dragonfall

Mar 13 // Alasdair Duncan
Shadowrun: Dragonfall (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Harebrained SchemesPublisher: Harebrained SchemesMRSP: $14.99 / £11.99Release Date: February, 27 2014 [Full disclosure: I was a Kickstarter backer and received the Dragonfall expansion free as part of my backer rewards.] Dragonfall moves the action from the rainy streets of Seattle to Berlin, part of a splintered Germany. In 2012, the age of magic began again and a great dragon Feuerschwinge devastated much of the country. Now in 2054, the city is controlled by an anarchist flux state and it's here that your Shadowrunner has fled after a botched job. Hooking up with an old friend, you're immediately on another run but one that ends in tragedy; now with a new crew in tow, you'll seek to uncover the reasons your arrival in Berlin has been a traumatic one. This expansion mixes up the formula from the original Shadowrun Returns campaign, Dead Man's Switch, in a couple of ways. Right from the start you'll be working with a fixed crew: Eiger, a troll and former soldier; the punk shaman Dietrich; the heavily-augmented cyborg Glory; and the wisecracking decker Blitz. Dead Man's Switch had you using specific characters in certain missions and recruiting other Runners to your team when required. The option to recruit new team members is there but you'll only really use it if one of your team is killed in action, or you feel you need a certain role to help with an individual mission, like having an extra street samurai if you're expecting plenty of trouble. [embed]271790:52947:0[/embed] The other big change is the introduction of a fixed hub area, dubbed the Kreuzbasar, as your main base of operations. From here you can access the subway to get to mission areas and there's plenty of shops and characters in the area to interact with. Early on in the game, your crew needs to amass money, and lots of it. So instead of taking on a linear path from mission to mission, you're free to choose between a number of side jobs each with their own dangers, rewards, and repercussions. Complete enough of these and you'll make enough money to get you moving onto the end game.  There's a nice sense of constant progression from the start as your character is left with an inherited crew, some of whom are wary about your leadership, and just a few clues as to who is behind things in Berlin. Whereas Dead Man's Switch started off as a murder mystery, Dragonfall's story has a bigger sense of scale as there's the troubled history of Germany and the distinct characters of the Flux states. A steady ceasefire between gangs and factions holds the region together and you'll get your chance to meet them in some of the side missions; whether your choose the diplomatic or violent route is up to you but there's no overarching faction system so you don't need to worry too much about your actions carrying over into the main story.  If you had played Shadowrun before, you'll find that there's no real mechanical differences in Dragonfall. There is one major addition and that's that ability to save your game at any time outside combat. This is a big change and it reduces the amount of frustration you would have felt in Shadowrun before, where dying or failing a mission had you replaying almost all of it. It's a big improvement and something that the main game needed. There are some elements that haven't been updated in the expansion -- the isometric viewpoint can still make it hard to identify cover and getting your characters to the right spot is still tricky. Having a regular crew is definitely a plus but outfitting them can be a drag; your team will restock supplies but unless you make the effort to go around all the shops in Kreuzbasar, you'll be left lacking some vital supplies. Whilst you can usually choose up to four out of your five regular crew members, it would be nice if there were additional clues as to what you're about to face. Sometimes the term "heavy resistance" might be mentioned but you can often find yourself outgunned three to one on what should be a fairly simple mission.  There's some other elements that would have made a nice addition to Dragonfall. For instance, your crew will level up and gain new skills and abilities but this is all done automatically -- there's no way to customize each member of your crew, to tailor their abilities to compliment your playstyle or tactics. Also, issuing your crew with new equipment is a bit more difficult than it should be; an option to buy gear and have it sent to another character straight away would mean you were going into missions with a better idea of who can bail you out with a medkit when you need it. Shadowrun: Dragonfall doesn't drastically change the mechanics or systems that were introduced in the main game, which is slightly disappointing as there could have been improvements made but the addition of the new save system is a big relief. The writing and story remains the same high quality from the main game and feels a bit more cohesive from Dead Man's Switch; that story took a lot of twists and turns but Dragonfall feels more focused by giving you a personal connection right from the start. If you enjoyed your first taste of Shadowrun, then Dragonfall should be an immediate purchase.
Shadowrun: Dragonfall photo
Improves on the original, but still has frustrations
Shadowrun Returns was released last year after a successful Kickstarter campaign and seemed to please fans and backers alike. In our review, Fraser Brown commented on how the toolset provided with the game would provide plent...

FFX/X-2 HD content photo
FFX/X-2 HD content

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD has Eternal Calm, Last Mission

Content previously not released in the US
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// Steven Hansen
The perpetually not-here-yet Final Fantasy X and X-2 HD finally have a Japanese release date of December 26, along with a variety of buying options (bundled on PS3/Vita or separate on just the Vita). Meanwhile, we patiently w...
Kickstarter photo

Nine-year-old girl Kickstarting game development

And she's not just doing it to prove her brothers wrong
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// Ian Bonds
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E3: First look at Divinity: Original Sin

Jun 05 // Jim Sterling
Fans of Divine Divinity have a lot to look forward to with Original Sin, as Larian is intent on finishing what it started with Rivellon's original story. I was told that the studio felt it had to abandon Divinity II's style and return to its roots in order to provide the experience that it almost got right with Divine Divinity, but never quite perfected. Original Sin is an effort to achieve perfection, and the effort is hard to miss.  Those players simply glancing could easily mistake Original Sin for a Diablo-style hack n' slasher, but the differences are made abundant within seconds. For a start, the ability to rearrange the environment is back, with barrels, tables, and chairs all ready to be chucked about with some simple mouse clicks. While good for a laugh, there is a lot to strategy to be had with this feature. Item combination also plays an integral role. Dozens of items can be collected and used in inventive ways -- for instance, you can combine a poisoned mushroom with your sword to create a poisoned weapon, or mix an apple and a potion to create a detox potion. Homes and dungeons are full of these bits of rubbish, and experimenting with them ought to yield some fun results.  Up to four players can adventure cooperatively, and will each take part in dialog with NPCs, able to agree, disagree, and disrupt the conversation. They can also work together in some very unique ways. For instance, one player can try to pick up items in an NPC's home, lowering their trust and causing them to tail the player suspiciously. Meanwhile, the rest of the group can use the distraction to rob the poor NPC blind. Little touches like that make the difference between a shoehorned multiplayer mode and a true co-op experience.  Dialog feels dynamic and can be used to both instigate as well as avoid conflict. One group of suicide bombers can be convinced to blow themselves up, but if the co-op players don't all agree, they can ruin the plan and go against whatever resolution the others might be planning. There's a lot of scope for potential outcomes with the dialog, and I hope Larian expands on it further as time goes on.  As one might expect, the battles are no less strategic. Turn-based conflicts were decided upon in order to emphasize the need for strategy, and otherwise difficult fights can be made far easier with a little forward planning. One presented scenario involved a room with a giant skeletal robot, and healing shaman, a gang of skeleton warriors and suicide bombers. One player snuck around the group while the other shot an oil barrel with a fireball. The barrel exploded, causing the suicide bombers to blow up and take out half the opposition. Then he shot an electric bolt at a puddle near the skeletal robot, but the puddle was too small to reach it. Cue the second player, who cast a spell that made it rain, extending the reach of the puddle and bringing it to the enemy's foot, which was then stunned by the current running through the water.  Needless to say, I was quite impressed.  Original Sin will also ship with a full editor (extensively pictured in our attached gallery) featuring all the tools -- tools built for designers rather than programmers. Users will be able to build their own worlds, dialog, and quests in order to share them online. Which is very nice.  Using the environment to one's advantage, truly working together, and dominating opponents by playing smart is what Original Sin is all about, and it seems to be a cocktail of ambitions that will pay off. Original Sin is exciting me, and I am going to keep my fingers crossed for what should be a beautifully designed, tactically satisfying, and bizarrely amusing little PC game. Make sure to remember it!

Before E3, Larian Studios announced Divinity: Original Sin, a return to the isometric roots of Divine Divinity after the third-person action RPG that was Divinity II. The team was on hand to demo the game, showcasing its new co-op dialog options, turn-based tactical combat, and bug-eyed skeletons with comical bombs strapped to their backs.  In case you were wondering, I'm all about it.


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