For those of you that are Fans of the RTS genre I’m sure you get the greatest of pleasures creating a bunch of troops/cannon fodder, building your base, and raining great destruction on your foes as you conquer them. That’s war in one perspective. Other perspectives would show you from the meat shields point of view, the leader of a squadron sending his men into war and, of course, the ever overlooked diplomatic and political side. But what if you had you had them all together, in one game? Well, add all that to the cauldron throw in some fantasy and steampunk into it and I’ll present to you, Divinity: Dragon Commander.
Divinity: Dragon Commander starts itself with the narrative of an old wizard who helped forged the land/country the game is set in. He, the players farther and someone who is only called the Alchemist, helped bring the Steampunk to their land except they’re called “machines of war” and are only used to kill people and rule all over the land instead of presenting good fashion sense. Your father, the king, is then murdered by his own children, not you of course, for reasons unknown and all hell breaks loose trying to take control of the throne. This is where you come in, the half human half dragon bastard child of the king taken from your loving home to wage war against your brothers and sister and claim your right to the throne, because you are probably the only one who won’t mess it up.
During the campaign you spend most of your time aboard the Raven, a powerful airship made for you. The menu in Divinity: Dragon Commander works the same way as Starcraft 2 does, you go to an engineer bay to build new units or enhance them, there’s a tavern to talk with NPC’s, and a room for you to enhance yourself with your newly found dragon powers.
Many people would say that Dragon Commander is trying to rip off Starcraft 2 with their interactive menu. True, it looks on par with Starcraft 2, but I would say that Dragon Commander was inspired by that game.
Gameplay works in two parts. The first part is set out like a board game, similar to that of Risk or Civilisation, where you have to take over your opponent’s citadel. You and your opponent each take turns to move units across the fields trying to take over that country which will give you the option to build an enhancement to that country like a war factory for more units or a gold mine to produce more money per turn for an example. If your units or your enemy units already occupy a space on the map a battle will start, however, rather than a battle starting you have to choose between one of your four generals, the imperial army, or yourself. Choosing anything other than yourself will act out an auto resolve based on your chances of winning.
If you chose yourself this is the where the RTS element rears its head. Like all RTS games you are thrown into a space where both armies are on opposite sides and you begin construction on your factories or recruitment centres for more men (Which acts as your currency for troops) How you don’t pick a spot and build what you like, you have to use the provided grounds given to you and around you as long as you own that particular territory. It works almost like supreme commander where you have small units, medium units and large units but you have to buy those large and medium units from your ship before you can rain down death on your foes. You can also change the gameplay so that you, the player, can charge into the fray in dragon form jetpack and all to get a hands on approach to slaying down enemy meat shields with your dragon powers. In this mode you can still control your troops while flying around which is something that reminds of Brutal Legend, but it’s still a nifty feature all the same.
The politicians and your generals are what give the game life. You interact with them and talk to them about their problems outside the battle field or send them to deal with issues that don’t require you to summon an army for. Here is an example; One of my generals is a Major Misandrist, (and she does not keep that a secret either), who discovered that the women who were working for me were not getting equal pay and demanded it to be fixed. Now this is where you are given the choice on whether to change the pay rate or not, your choice on this matter can affect how you fair in the game.
If I were to make the changes I would have pay more money to use my female generals to win this generals approval or I can save my money for more soldiers to put on the field and lose her favour. Whatever choice you make there is always a consequence. Each character has their own charm and they are very well voiced with brilliantly written dialogue and it’s always a joy just clicking on them listening to what they have to say, even if they repeat themselves.
The political side is no different. You have to speak with the ambassadors of each race, this is fantasy remember, we aren’t all human, to deal with certain situations or ideas proposed by one of the ambassadors. There are five races to deal with, the religious Undead, the flawless Elves, money grubbing Dwarfs, territorial Lizardmen, and the strange but quirky Imps.
Each one of these politicians will give you law to change or create and you give it the go ahead or not, but it is best to speak with the other ambassadors on whether they are for or against the idea. When you’ve made your choice you will gain and lose your relationship with the ambassadors this relationship will help you in the campaign depending on what race occupy each land. For example if the dwarves didn’t like you that much and you had armies on their land they wouldn’t help you and vice versa for another race that do like you. With these decisions made between general and politician alike you receive cards that help you towards your goal. They can be used to improve your lands, destroy enemies land and bring mercenary to help you fight so they are a bit of a boost.
This is where I talk about Dragon Commanders flaws, which is just one in particular. As beautiful and inventive the game is, its RTS element is a bit of a let down. The maps are very small and can become crowded quite quickly if you choose to spawn a lot of troops. Which is another thing I need to point out; when you produce a troop you only produce the one not an entire squadron which can lead to a lot of “blobs” on the map. Selecting a squad in particular is very difficult to do as there is no way to save a certain squadron for you to use, it’s a very delicate procedure to select troops you want in a squad.
Playing as a dragon seems fun, and it is, but trying to continue the building phase has been taken out forcing you to come out of dragon form and continue building. Originally I thought the dragon was over powered but that was merely because I was attacking single units against a dumb A.I. later in game the A.I. became far more difficult and killing my dragon in seconds. Another flaw is the use of a generals auto resolve. These can only be used once each turn, now I question what is the point of having “four” generals when I can only use “one” throughout three battles and only use myself once therefore having to rely on the imperial guard and hope to god I luck out in the battle.
I like Dragon Commander a lot and it truly is a joy to play. Its story is gripping and it makes me want to win more battles to find out more of story and the family matter, the characters are enjoyable and well fleshed out, the fact I can hate a character means it was a well-made character. I think its main strength lies in the board game version as it has more strategy involved than the RTS and requires a lot of planning before doing anything.
Overall, this is a fun game and I would recommend it to anyone.