Originally released as the first slice of DLC expansion sweetness for 2013's Shadowrun Returns, Shadowrun: Dragonfall sees players return to an all-new adventure with a brand new set of protagonists taking to the deadly streets of near-future Berlin, where a botched data theft has left one of your team dead as a legendary dragon, the Firewing, rises from the ashes.
In many ways, Harebrained Schemes' second bite at the Shadowrun cherry is exactly the game that fans of the Shadowrun universe were hoping they'd get with Returns. This is a deeper and more rewarding experience than its predecessor, with a less linear feel to its campaign and more freedom in how you go about tackling its main missions and side stories. It retains, and even improves upon, the high standard of writing found in the first game too, serving up another highly enjoyable and delightfully pulpy campaign stuffed full of interesting characters that affords you more opportunity to find alternate routes through its chaos.
It also manages to do all of this without getting bogged down or becoming tedious, retaining that easy-breezy feeling that distinguished its predecessor with a running time of around fifteen hours and a setup that whips you from mission to mission, never wasting your time or holding you back — it's another perfect slice of RPG action for newcomers to the genre, and a perfect fit for quick portable gameplay sessions.
Combat remains much the same as that found in Returns. However, you now find yourself in the position of being leader of a band of mercs, and so every battle here is waged with your own personal squad rather than a makeshift group that you've just hired from a menu, and the stakes feel higher as a result. There are other slight changes too, such as ley lines scattered around arenas that boost magic attacks, and even a few missions that mess with the standard battle template, giving you escort jobs and time-based shenanigans to worry about. For the most part, though, the action here is the same as ever and makes for an engaging and delightfully throwaway accompaniment to the game's excellent narrative core. The Matrix/hacking sequences from the first Shadowrun also make a return but, thankfully, they're now mostly optional, allowing you to fish for bonuses in missions rather than being forced to endure what's easily this trilogy's worst aspect.
With a steady stream of engaging, entertaining, and ever-escalating missions to get stuck into, a delightful cast of main characters to get to know, and lots of opportunity to affect conversations, relationships and other outcomes through dialogue choices, Shadowrun: Dragonfall manages to find a super sweet groove that offers up lots of narrative twists and turns whilst also keeping you thoroughly engaged through its knockabout turn-based battles. It's a game that we absolutely adored the first time we played it back in 2014 and we reckon it's probably the best entry in Harebrained Schemes' excellent trilogy overall.
However, this is a game that has arrived on Switch in a mess. Yes, as much as we want to wax lyrical, to witter on and on about just how good this second Shadowrun adventure is at drawing you into its world and serving up an RPG experience that we rank alongside some of the very best in the genre, well, what's the point when it's been served up in this state?
Here we have an eight-year-old adventure, a game we originally played without issue on our mobile phones, stuttering and stalling with almost every step you take across its wonderfully atmospheric, hand-painted world. An eight-year-old game with overly long loading times and one that, more importantly, often fully freezes and requires a full restart when you interact with data pads or computers that bring up the internal Switch keyboard to have you enter information (some of these incidents occur at story critical junctures too, so good luck with that). It's a mess; a janky old port of a game that should be running perfectly on Nintendo's hardware and an experience that we can't recommend you dive into in its current state.
If it gets a patch that fixes the performance issues and most egregious bugs then you're looking at one of the most entertaining RPGs on Switch; it's that good. For now, however, we're left shaking our heads and wondering why on earth Shadowrun: Dragonfall has been re-released in this state.