Divinity: Dragon Commander Review


The PC is currently being inundated with enticing “world map” strategy games. civilization v Brave New World expansion came out recently, Europa Universalis IV coming next week Total War: Rome 2 will march from early September. Into this mix of Impish war machines, pillars of fire, and dialogue as sharp as any elven blade, Larian plunges Divinity: Dragon Commander.

Larian was responsible for that Divinity II: The Dragonknight Saga (one of the biggest RPGs in recent memory not made by a studio called Obsidian), hopes for this title should be pretty high. dragon commander pushes the series into the realm of big map strategy and real-time combat, which is a bit removed from pure RPG-ing; but then deity has always had a certain fluidity of structure.

Dragon Commander (5)

Did I mention that Dragon Commander’s maps are beautiful? They are beautiful.

Chronologically, this is a prequel to the other games in the series. You are the not unlikely descendant of a former king and a half-dragon lady, and have the handy ability to transform into a dragon at will. As if that talent doesn’t already mark you as the genetic pinnacle of Royal progeny, the rest of your siblings are a bit… “touched.” Who knows where else the king may have spread his royal seed, but the result is a brother who sheds his own skin believing he is undead and a sister who has cut out her tongue.

Of course there are elements that don’t believe these people would make great candidates for the next ruler, so they turned to you as the next best person. The sorcerer Maxos, former adviser to the crown, has stolen the imperial airship (The Raven) and rounded up some generals to aid in your quest for the throne.

This sets the framework for the single player campaign and gives you a main base of operations for your research, plans and strategies.

dragon commander

David Icke was right, lizards are really manipulating our economic policies! Oh wait, this is a fantasy game.

In a mix of real-time and turn-based action, each ’round’ of dragon commander takes place in three stages. The Raven is the hub from which you chat with your generals, make wide-ranging political decisions affecting the regions you conquer, research new technologies and dragon abilities, and possibly woo a royal woman in a marriage of convenience.

After doing all the necessary business aboard the airship, attention turns to the world map, where you can build new troops, move your existing ones, construct special buildings to give you extra income, and play some strategy cards (the can sabotage enemy movements, increase a country’s population, etc.) When one of your military movements brings rival armies together, you have the option to take personal command of a real-time battle and let one of your generals lead, or let the Imperial Army take the lead to take care of it.

It’s only possible to have one personal battle per turn, and only one conflict can be handled by a general (oddly since you have four of them). roll the base army, which can guide you through some auto-resolved battles. After all the fighting is over, it’s back to the Raven for more political banter and the start of another round.

Dragon Commander (10)

You should choose purple as army color as it makes deadly barrages prettier.

dragon commander A great success is the way these parts overlap and influence each other. With games that combine multiple genres, it’s too often the case that each segment feels separate and not quite part of a whole. Not here.

Pretty much every action taken on the Raven has some sort of knock-on effect on your resources or the status of the provinces on the strategic map. This will affect how you approach the movement and deployment of your troops, and that will ultimately determine where you fight and what units you enter the battle with.

However, the outcomes of your policy decisions can sometimes be a little skewed. I have yet to figure out what “less happiness” actually does, and dragon commander is sometimes a little lax when it comes to presenting the consequences of each action in plain language. Sometimes you’ll see summary details at the start of a round, but often you won’t.

But weighing up these policy choices is entertaining in itself. Larian’s writing is confident enough to present serious issues in the context of her own fantasy world, and takes on a tone ironic enough to get away with. They will discuss whether the explosively ruthless imps should be allowed to deal mercifully with all scientists who are hopelessly burned (euthanasia), the merits of the crown paying for injuries suffered by dwarven miners (national health insurance), and, if you die Taking things far enough, even if you abolish your own rule and found a republic (constitutionalism).

Dragon Commander (3)

It was tempting to have Edmund in each of these screenshots.

It helps that the voice acting, a few weaker links apart, puts some higher-budget titles to shame. Snooty (and racist) lizardman Edmund is an obvious early highlight, but fellow lizardman Prospera also puts in a measured performance. The insane, science-mad background of the Imps allows their characters to shine, and (though I tend to agree with his views) the Elven Council constantly undermines itself with its glorious pomposity.

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