In Now Playing articles PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today, Samuel Horti pushes the boundaries of his conscience in Shadowrun: Dragonfall.
Four hours ago, I mugged a homeless old man for his battered DVD player. I didn’t even need to: he would’ve handed it over for a hot drink. But the only shop in town that sells proper, Turkish coffee—he’s fussy, apparently—is on the other side of town, and I needed the tech sharpish.
"I won’t forget what you’ve done here today," he says, "and you shouldn’t either." A comment I’d pay no notice to in any other game. But in Shadowrun: Dragonfall, it’s the kind of thing that festers at the back of your mind. From that moment on, I’m constantly getting pangs of guilt thinking about Schrotty Buchman, the old man who lives in a junkyard in Berlin, cobbling together scrap just to get by.
In fact, my character, a sharp-talking elf, has turned into a bit of a monster. I’ve shipped a cyberzombie—a troll horribly mutated into a killing machine—to a morally shady organisation just to get a few extra Nuyen in my pocket, when I could’ve put the poor thing out of its misery. I’ve sold the names and addresses of members of a political organisation to anonymous bidders through a pay phone, and I’ve put a bullet in the head of an innocent, unarmed man just because the goons that hired me told me to. "That’s a little cold, boss," Dietrich, one of my companions, says.
Each time, I’ve felt genuine remorse. Other RPGs give you tough choices, but Dragonfall makes them tougher than any other I’ve played. It’s got more heart and more atmosphere than most AAA titles, thanks to its blunt, poetic writing.
That writing has made me feel a part of Dragonfall’s dystopian vision. I’ve been able to justify all the terrible things I’ve done by pointing to my ultimate goal: I need to raise money as quickly as possible to pay an information broker for details about Feuerschwinge, a human-dragon hybrid about to wreak havoc on war-torn Germany.
I’ve just finished one of the crucial missions, blowing up the HQ of the world’s second largest corporation, Aztechnology. If I’m bad, then they’re worse: they’re cloning humans, in vats, to conduct blood magic experiments. I’m feeling pretty good about myself, and I’ve now got enough money to mount my final assault.
I head back to the safehouse and flick on the computer. One unread message. It’s from Maliit, a blue-haired dwarf who’s been rescuing corrupted DVDs to help piece together the story. "I’ve recovered one last DVD for you," it reads. "Actually, that’s a lie. I was forced to subcontract."
And who could this mysterious subcontractor be? Who else? "Schrotty is very good with old things such as this. All credit where it’s due."
I run back to the scrapyard to find the old man, to apologise, to help him find a new DVD player, to buy him a coffee—anything. He’s still there, but his back is turned, and I can’t talk to him. It’s too late. My chance has gone. A story in just two scenes has had more impact on me than other games’ entire plotlines.
Well played, Dragonfall.