Divinity: Dragon Commander – Review (PC)
Divinity: Dragon Commander is an RPG-RTS-Grand-Strategy for PC. The game is developed by Larian Studios who previously developed the Divinity series.
The setting of Dragon Commander is a High Fantasy Steampunk setting. A world full of magic has been introduced to the wonders of technology and reached peace.
Dragon Commander throws you into a sibling feud that will have an effect on an entire empire. Your father Sigurd helmed this empire and was first to bring peace to the land, but peace never lasts. Sigurd has been murdered and his children all vie for the throne. You – his half-dragon bastard son – are one of the children aiming for the throne, but there’s a difference. You have the backing of Sigurd’s long-time friend and counsellor – Maxos. With his aid and his ship – The Raven – you aim to build up a team of generals and political officials to help bring the realm under your control. The war must be fought on two fronts; the battlefield and with your policies. You won’t last long as an emperor if your subjects hate you.
As a ruler, you must make decisions and all decisions have consequence. When you have to please Dwarves, Elves, Imps, Lizards and Undead, you’re going to find it difficult to please them all. Each race may have conflicting views with other races. Often, you will find counsellors put forward an idea, you will need to speak with the other counsellors – or not – and come to a decision about whether or not you will pass it – bearing in mind this could have negative effects on multiple races, it’s a good idea to consult everyone first.
The characters in Dragon Commander come from a wide array of backgrounds, from peasant to noble, warrior to politician – and they have equally varied views and morals. The characters are one of the aspects I enjoyed most in the game as they’re just so colourful and interesting. The interactions between each character is believable and you can often empathise with these views. These varied views play a lot into the decisions you have to make and it can help to pick favourites from the bunch to side with more often.
In Dragon Commander, marriage is merely a political asset. There are many musings about love, but in the end it comes down to who you would most like to ally yourself with. Your reasons may vary, be it the nation you most like, the nation you feel will be most beneficial or even due to the princess’ beauty – but in the end, it all amounts to political power. You may marry one of four princesses; Dwarf, Elf, Lizard or Undead. Each of these princesses will provide a boost in relations with the faction in question and unlock the Queen’s Quarters on your ship.
Each turn in Dragon Commander consists of the player performing tasks on the raven, such as talking to generals and performing research, then using the strategy map to get into the real meat of it. While on the strategy map, you can move units, build and play cards. Each group of units is moved independently and will capture any uncontrolled territory, contest enemy-controlled territory and defend your own when placed there. You are able to build structures and units while on the map. One structure can be build per territory and will either generate cards, extra gold or allow units to be built in that territory. While building structures to keep ample troops on the front lines, it’s also importan to keep the cards flowing.
Cards are a very important aspect of Dragon Commander and can be used to your advantage both in and out of battle. Some cards allow you to spawn in extra reinforcements for a battle and catch the enemy off-guard, turning a battle where you’re at a disadvantage to one you can’t lose in an instant. Others provide single-battle boosts to your dragon or troops. Some even allow you to hinder enemy troops on the map. But cards come in limited supply and take time and resources to replenish, so use them wisely.
After playing cards in a battle, you can select who you would like to fight the battle. Battles can either be fought yourself, or via various automatic options. Each general under your command will be able to take control of a battle for you, but at a price. You will have to pay your general to fight in the battle. Each general has certain unit types they’re better at commanding and letting them use their favoured unit will give them more chance of winning. You can also play the battle yourself.
Fighting a battle personally in Dragon Commander is where the game is most interesting. You begin by controlling your units and moving them to various empty bases to capture them and begin building in these bases – this will allow you to build extra units on the battlefield. You will use recruits as resources and there are buildings which act as recruitment centres – but these are limited resources, so move fast! – this is a lot like Starcraft and is quite standard for an RTS, but this is where things get cool. After some time has passed, you can press R and take flight into the battle yourself. You are quite literally a Dragon Commander. While in dragon form you can’t control your units as well, pressing F2 to select all units and Q to tell them to move to or attack whatever your reticule is aiming at is about the limit. You can also use Z, X, C and V to select different buildings which will show units and appropriate keys to build them while in dragon form. You can shoot at enemy units and buildings with your dragon breath attack, use your jetpack to quickly traverse the battlefield or dodge and use an array of skills from your skillbar to support your units, cause extra damage and other things. The seamless transition between build and dragon mode feels excellent and really makes the game a lot more fun, but doesn’t remove all difficulty – Dragons are susceptible to anti-air attacks.
Speaking of dragons, when you first start a campaign in Dragon Commander, you get to pick one of three types; Sabre, Mountain and Zephyr. Sabre is more of a balanced dragon, giving you the best of both worlds. Mountain is focused more on buffing itself and being offensive. Zephyr offers support to allied units and can be considered a defensive dragon. Each dragon caters to a different play-style and has a different appearance.
This is only the Story Campaign. Dragon Commander has other modes to keep you occupied – and plenty of them. There is also a Custom Campaign in which you can choose your enemies and map and throw down with help from the crew in the Story Campaign. This plays out similarly to Story Campaign, only a bit shorter. You can also play a Skirmish, in which you only play the map and battle portions of the game, moving units to take land and defeat your enemies. Finally, there is a multi-player mode which allows you to play both a campaign and skirmish with the option of a ladder variant.
Dragon Commander has a particularly good soundtrack with plenty of diversity. From ambient tracks to powerful battle themes, you won’t be disappointed here. In fact, the sound work in general is great. Characters are well-voiced and the voices fit their personalities and races.
You will see all of the options you’d expect to see in a PC game in Dragon Commander. From re-binding keys to plenty of graphical and audio options.
Divinity: Dragon Commander is a game that seems like a recipe for failure, bringing in too many genres and ideas to the table. Seems like it, but it is not. Dragon Commander skilfully mixes everything in just the right way that the game borne of it is a wonder to behold. Not only has it been made in a way that it works, it’s also simple to boot. No poring over endless amount of information, Dragon Commander delivers everything to you concisely without excess. Most importantly of all, you’re a god-damn dragon with a jetpack!