I was a big fan of Shadowrun Returns and its pitch-perfect presentation of the rich cyberpunk-meets-magic universe of futuristic Seattle. Even with some limitations on player freedom enforced through a mostly linear story, the game offered fun battles, great characters, and cool powers.
That’s why the impending arrival of the follow-up, Shadowrun: Dragonfall, is so exciting. I asked Harebrained Schemes executive producer Mitch Gitelman to tell me more about the upcoming expansion, and he had lots to share about the game’s structure, including some big changes that distinguish Dragonfall from the initial release.
Is Dragonfall an expansion to the existing Shadowrun Returns game, or a separate stand-alone product?
Shadowrun: Dragonfall is an expansion for Shadowrun Returns featuring a brand-new, full-length campaign that takes place in Berlin. We want to show that the world of Shadowrun is filled with diverse and fascinating stories, plots, and characters, so the “Dragonfall” storyline is completely separate from our first story, “Dead Man’s Switch”.
To make it easy for new players to enter the shadows, we’re also releasing the Shadowrun Campaign Pack so players can get the original game and the Dragonfall expansion in one package.
Shadowrun Returns has been out for a few months now, and you’ve probably had the chance to get some feedback on how the game was received. What criticisms and praise have you taken to heart, and how will that be reflected in the new Berlin project?
We’re pretty passionate about our jobs and tend to take everything to heart: the good and the bad. Shadowrun: Dragonfall reflects quite a bit of feedback we received since the launch of Shadowrun Returns.
First and most important, Dragonfall has a more flexible story structure than the original Dead Man’s Switch campaign. Players will have the ability to choose which runs to complete first and a larger assortment of side missions to select from. In addition, you can complete optional objectives for factions in the story with their own agendas.
We felt that the Seamstresses Union location in the Seattle campaign provided an effective base-of-operations for the player, but it also wound up feeling restrained and a bit claustrophobic. In Dragonfall, we're providing the player a full Berlin kiez, or neighborhood, to operate out of. You'll be able to explore and interact with a variety of residents and merchants in the area, head to the street doc's office for some new chrome, or retreat to your hidden safehouse to plan your next move.
To support the new structure of the Berlin campaign, and in reaction to audience feedback, we’ve expanded the save game functionality to allow you to save your game at any time.
One of the things we really enjoy in RPGs is interacting with a team of interesting, nuanced characters throughout the campaign. This was something we didn't get to do as much as we wanted to in Dead Man Switch, though we were happy with where we were able to take a couple of characters, such as the bartender & aspiring shadowrunner, Coyote. In Dragonfall, we're introducing a full team of runners with their own backstories and motivations that players can get to know and choose for specific runs, rather than hiring random mercenaries who feel disposable. Each of the characters has a unique set of skills, abilities, and equipment and is designed to play a role on the team.
Overall, we received the highest praise for the look, the writing, and the tone of Seattle, which many players told us was what they’d always seen in their heads. With Dragonfall, our goal is to make Berlin feel like a new and distinctly European location with its own vibe, yet clearly set in the world of Shadowrun and consistent with the themes of the Berlin tabletop RPG sourcebook. To that end, Dragonfall features new environment art, a large new cast of characters, and a new soundtrack.
And, of course, we can’t ship an expansion for a tactical RPG without some new weapons like a sniper rifle, a grenade launcher, or a stun-inducing taser.
Beyond what we talked about above, what gameplay and technical features are changing in the new game?
In addition to the new story campaign and enhanced saved games functionality, Shadowrun: Dragonfall features enhancements and improvements to several character archetypes, new outfits, new character portraits, and new enemies - including new magical creatures. Plus, Dragonfall expands on and extends our game editor feature set, based upon feedback from the user-generated-content community, which allows for a host of new options for designers. These features appear in the Berlin campaign, and while they sound like relatively humble improvements, in a clever designer’s hands, they can have a powerful impact on the play experience - things like being able to keep track of objectives in the main game UI, exploding barrels, and the ability to enter keycodes and custom text strings in conversation.
What can you tell us about the storyline of the Berlin scenario? Who do you play? Who are some of the characters you meet? What sets it apart from the Dead Man’s Switch campaign?
Storywise, the Berlin campaign should provide a very different experience from the Seattle campaign. Where Dead Man’s Switch embroiled you in a noir-like mystery - a lone runner with a job to do - Dragonfall places you at the head a team of runners caught in a dangerous plot, and struggling to stay alive in a European city rife with conspiracy and intrigue. You’ll take jobs running against ruthless megacorporations, furthering the goals of shadowy factions with their own agendas, and coming face-to-face with some of the deadliest opponents the Shadowrun setting has to offer.
Forty-two years ago, the Great Dragon Feuerschwinge was shot down over the SOX, an irradiated wasteland between Germany and France. This event - the Dragonfall - has been all but forgotten by the world at large. But now, the people of Berlin are about to receive a grim reminder of the past, and with it, one of the greatest threats of the Awakened world.
Why choose Berlin as a location for this new entry in the Shadowrun story? What is Berlin like in the Shadowrun universe?
Our Kickstarter Backers told us that Berlin was the location they most wanted to see after Seattle when we ran a survey after our Kickstarter campaign closed in 2012 and it’s easy to see why they chose it. Berlin is a fascinating location in Shadowrun because it’s an experiment in “stable” anarchy often referred to as “The Flux State”.
Public life in Berlin functions fairly smoothly, though no one really understands why. Political interest groups, policlubs, gangs, and megacorp lobbyists abound - all part of the mysterious, amorphous power structure that gives the Flux its name. Unlike most political organizations, which seek to establish and preserve the status quo, Berlin's anarchist groups work to keep the power structure in a constant state of change. Whenever a shift in the power structure seems likely to establish a status quo, the rest of Berlin's powers-that-be spring into action to eliminate the threat and even the megacorps’ broad powers are held in check - for now. Obviously, this type of lawlessness and disorder suits shadowrunners just fine...
When are you hoping to release the Shadowrun Berlin game? Will the game come to both PC and iOS? If so, will those happen at the same time?
Shadowrun: Dragonfall is targeted for release in January 2014 for PC, Mac, and Linux. iOS and Android tablet versions will be released at a later date.
Are you exploring any special pricing or other benefits for players who already own Shadowrun Returns? How about any special deals for players who don’t yet own the first Seattle installment?
Yes, the Shadowrun Campaign Pack allows new players to experience Dead Man’s Switch and Dragonfall in one package for one low price. That price also includes the Shadowrun Returns Editor and unlimited access to all the cool User-Generated Content available via Steam Workshop now - with more stories added all the time.
Anything else you’d like to share about this new project?
Thanks to a new agreement with our partners at Microsoft, Harebrained Schemes is pleased to be able to release fully DRM-free versions of Shadowrun: Dragonfall along with Shadowrun Returns in select stores. More release details will be announced soon.