For many critics, the best DLC of the year may already be wrapped up. And deservedly so. Naughty Dog’s ‘Left Behind’ was a fantastic narrative-focused adventure that had more characterisation in its sub-two hour duration than many thirty to forty hour blockbuster ever manage. In many ways, we’d be inclined to agree with the majority.

But something quite special happened when we booted up Harebrained Schemes’ Dragonfall expansion to Shadowrun Returns. Even though the game doesn’t have a single line of audible dialogue, it appreciates the significant value of the written word within a video game unlike nothing else we’ve seen in 2014.

Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Publisher: Harebrained Schemes
Release Date: 28th February 2014
Format: PC
Price: £10.99

The Shadowrun Returns campaign is a conflicted beast. It’s a great return to form and returns players to a dark, sci-fi, cyberpunk world full of deceit and corruption. The combat works nicely, the graphics are nice to look at, the music is first-class, yet the narrative doesn’t always strike the right chords.

Fortunately, Dragonfall proves these guys also know how to weave one hell of a yarn. The game takes players to Berlin where you and your band of Shadowrunners are hunting for a certain artefact for a client, while also making a bit of coin in a luxurious manor. The mission starts out simple enough: case the joint, take out a few guards, have a nice payday. But things quickly start to deteriorate and go wrong.

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Within moments, the cast of Dragonfall are at the center stage. They’re a mixed lot with their own set agendas and perspectives and each has their story to tell and axe to grind. As you might expect, your character is the outsider and has arrived in Berlin under mysterious circumstances. Your character falls in with this particular band of Shadowrunners as an old-running buddy, Monika, is at the head and knows the kind of quality and ability your character can bring to the group. However, not everyone is convinced.

Unsurprisingly, the mission goes horribly wrong and it creates a real split in the group. Some of them blame your character for gut-reactions in the heat of the moment. Some sympathise. Others have yet to form an opinion. But as you might suspect, this sets up a thrilling playing field of varying plot threads and character interactions that are blindingly brilliant.

There’s a new threat to confront, new enemies to face and some beautiful new backdrops to explore. Futuristic Berlin is mesmerizing and depicted through vast architecture, gritty underground stations, beautiful manors and grimy streets. It’s a varied and violent place, but it is ripe with opportunity and there are various missions you can take on in any order you wish.

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There are also new weapons to use, such as sniper rifles, grenade launchers and even tasers, as well as new game editor features with new environments that can be used, as well as items and characters. There’s even a brand new score from the composer of the original Genesis Shadowrun game.

Dragonfall is a complete expansion. It has a compelling narrative, fast-paced action, some exciting new additions and is arguably the best DLC we’ve seen this year. It’s a story that needs to be heard and a game that seriously needs to be played. Dragonfall goes above and beyond most content, it doesn’t suffer the pitfalls that others fall into. It doesn’t phone it in and create some half-hearted. Harebrained Schemes have genuinely gone back to the drawing board on this one and bar some questionable AI choices during combat sequences, have come out with a better product for it.

Pros:

  • Incredible standard of writing
  • New weapons and additions add a considerable amount to the main game
  • Engaging characters involved in a gripping plot.

Cons:

  • Some questionable AI during combat.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5

Dragonfall is a must-play. An absolutely incredible piece of content that keeps on giving through its 12 hour duration. It raises the bar so high, others will be clambering and struggling to reach it for months and even years to come.