Divinity Dragon Commander Review
Dragons. Diplomacy. Jetpacks.
No one could ever reasonably call the Divinity series stale, considering the variety of genres the series has covered and now Larian Studios are back with yet another new angle. Divinity: Dragon Commander is a strategy game, but one that is hard to nail down in terms of a sub-genre. Some of my favorite games are ones that defy classification, but this approach can also be a gamble if the game fails to find an identity. Which side of the fence does Dragon Commander come down on? Let’s have a look.
Divinity: Dragon Commander puts you at the helm of an airship, as a dragon knight who is making his claim to the throne of the empire. As the emperor, you will have to plan battles, manage your empire through politics and policy setting, plan battles, and lead your armies into said battles. The way Larian Studios have handled all of this is to essentially break the game into three layers, and then weave these layers back together in a way that makes it feel natural to switch from one to another.
The first layer takes place on your command ship, where you will manage the higher level functions of your empire. This ship is populated by your advisers, emissaries from your vassal states, your generals, and your engineering staff. Through a point and click interface you’ll be able to speak to the various characters on your ship, research new technologies and powers, and rule on policy decisions that will affect your whole empire. It isn’t always clear how these decisions will affect things but you will notice your income fluctuate because of it. Fans of the more in-depth type of empire building games might find this area a little light in terms of control, but if you’re more interested in the combat side it can be an entertaining piece of the puzzle.
From the ship you will move onto the world map, and here you will plan your attacks, defend your territories, construct buildings, and move your armies around. The world map section is also turn based and serves to anchor the empire management perfectly to the actual combat. What I didn’t like about this mode was how it represented where ships were, on the map, at any given time. If you want to cross water you’ll have to load your troops onto transport ships and escort them with combat ships but because of the boundaries of each territory, and the different places that ships can show up on a given territory, it was easy to walk into a naval battle that you weren’t expecting because the enemy ships were in the territory you’re moving to but weren’t visible on your screen.
When you do move your troops into an enemy territory you will finally reach the central point of Divinity: Dragon Commander and really start to have some fun. Each battle will play out much like your standard real-time strategy classics, but with a few key differences. First you’ll only be dealing with one resource called recruits. Recruits are needed to build armies and construct buildings and defences. Buildings and troops are fielded very quickly making for faster gameplay than you may be used to in a strategy game. There won’t be any lengthy base building periods, you’ll be able to get right into the action.
The other major difference is that you’ll be able to turn into a dragon, who wears a jetpack, and assist your troops directly while in combat. Since you play as a dragon knight in Divinity: Dragon Commander, why would you just stay in your airship and command your troops from there when you can breath fire in their faces instead? Your dragon form controls a bit like a third-person shooter, and things are balanced out by the fact that, with the right unit types, the enemy can take out your dragon fairly quickly. The dragon isn’t the ‘win button’ I feared it may be when I first saw it, instead serves to round out a fun and fast paced combat mode.
Divinity: Dragon Commander has a few different options for those who want to play against other people. You can jump into a online campaign, where players each start with a handful of territories and battle for control of the board. If you’re looking for some lighter fare, you can do an online skirmish which removes the world map from the equation and lets you get down to breathing fire on each other in a quick battle.
Divinity: Dragon Commander does a great job of mixing styles to create a fresh new take on the strategy game. Purists may feel it doesn’t go deep enough in any one area, but its different layers come together to make for an ultimately fun and complete game. If you’re looking for a truly different strategy game, be sure to grab Dragon Commander.
Release Date: August 6th, 2013
Available On: PC via Steam