Divinity: Dragon Commander

Welcome back everyone. Today we’re talking about Divinity: Dragon Commander from Larian Studios. Honestly, this is one of those games where the title is a good summation of the game itself. You play as a Commander that can turn into a Dragon on the field of battle. A dragon with a jetpack. If the premise alone hasn’t sold you on it, allow me to elaborate. PS- My computer refuses to take screenshots of this game, which bothers me greatly, because it looks really good. From the map screens to the advisors you speak with regarding the rule of your country. Anyway…

You play as an emperor of nation that is struggling to hold his land together as it weathers the assault of outside forces. The important bit is this gives you an excuse to be one of the most over-the-top and effective units ever put into an RTS.

The strategic mode of Dragon Commander plays like Risk, you build units, you move those units around on a giant map. For combat, you can stick to the simplified “throw army A at army B until one of them breaks.” Or, you can start a real-time battle that plays like an Action RTS. If you’ve played Battlezone or Brutal Legend, this will seem pretty familiar, as you capture resource nodes, crank out units, and try to defeat your enemy who is doing the same, all while controlling your own unit who is entirely capable of dishing out damage. Your dragon can provide buffs to your team, debuffs to the enemy, or just stick to peppering the opposition with fireballs. The only real resource in-battle is the population of the land you’re warring over. Thus, each side tries to recruit as many people to their side as possible, and the population is a limited pool that diminishes noticeably when several battles are had on the same tile, slowly repopulating when it is left alone. Think the fan geysers of Brutal Legend, but with a cap.

These hard-won tiles of land, in addition to providing small amounts of gold (for more units) and research (for better units and dragon-powers) every turn, also allow you to place structures to further the war effort. There are war factories, allowing you to build troops somewhere besides the capital, buildings to generate strategy cards, and buildings to increase the gold or resource output. It’s a good feeling, watching your empire expand as your enemies are pushed back.

In the midst of all this, you also have to make major decisions that affect each of the five races in your realm. Each represents a political viewpoint, the undead are conservative, for example. That said, each race is so over-the-top that, combined with the fantasy spin, you don’t get the feeling they’re picking on anyone in particular, instead trying to laugh with their audience, whatever they happen to believe. Good on Larian Studios for being inclusive like that.

Anyway, these decisions affect your standings with each of the races, and generate strategy cards as well, so choose carefully. I haven’t seen any penalties for angering a faction thus far, but the thought gives these decisions a weightier feeling, and I love that. You’re not just commanding an army, you’re running a country. Complete with newspaper headlines spinning your victories into defeats and generally leaving the impression you suck at your job. Very few of the strategy games I’ve played properly emulate being a ruler like that.

As with any game with hybrid gameplay, Dragon Commander can be difficult to get started on. You need strategic, real-time strategy, and dragon-controlling skills to be at the top of your game. That’s a lot to ask of a new player. That said, I was able to jump into a game on normal difficulty, and perform admirably, so the game is still approachable. The main theme certainly makes you want to charge into the fray like an airborne death-machine, instead of just resolving each skirmish Risk-Style.

Overall, Dragon Commander is a fun game, and I think it deserves more attention. Larian Studios created an interesting world and fun mechanics for fighting in it.

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