I have a great deal of love for Shadowrun. My background with its world actually comes from pen and paper roleplaying. My first ever Shadowrun character was a dwarf named Deter Pinklage who was a famous actor. I was fifteen at the time, you see, and hadn’t yet realised I wasn’t funny. After lots of growing up surrounded by buckets full of classic cyberpunk fiction, I came to fully realise just how much I loved the world, the politics, and the aesthetic.
Harebrained Schemes, the studio that makes the PC games, was co-founded by original designer Jordan Weisman, so they unsurprisingly capture everything about Shadowrun tremendously well. While there were shortcomings in Shadowrun Returns, they’re made up for in its second campaign, Shadowrun: Dragonfall. It takes us out of the neon-noir city of Seattle, and pops us down with a brand new character in the Anarchist flux state of Berlin. It’s a place in the history of Shadowrun I didn’t know much about, but this setting allows the story to explore some interesting political concepts.
The Director’s Cut, released as a standalone game, is what I first played. It came with a few different things: the ability to save at any time, combat improvements, five new missions, and new music by composer Jon Everist. Three of the new missions are akin to Mass Effect’s loyalty quests for your shadowrunner crew. These characters are some of Dragonfall’s greatest strengths, each with an earnestness in their writing that makes them feel like real, messy, complicated human beings (and metahumans). Another mission which isn’t new but sees the addition of some new options, Lockdown, is sodding hilarious.
You’re sent to a building run by Sutterlin BioScience in the Adenauerplatz to recover some experimental bioware. Once you get in using one of a few different methods of entry, you come across Philip Rex, the Knight-King of Sutterlin. See, Philip’s been stuck in this lab for a while now, forced to eat lab-grown metahuman meat and consume hours upon hours of the same five episodes of a really bad Slovakian TV series. If you’re a good decker, you can undo the quarantine on the building, give the Knight-King the last episode of his show, and when you’re met with armed guards from the Shiawase corporation (who are angry at the patent infringement the bioware you retrieved represents) Philip Rex dispenses a squad of drones that make wiping out the corps much easier, all accompanied by some inspiring music from his TV show. Absolutely outstanding.