Start with a turn-based strategy overworld. Mix in a fantasy/steampunk-stylized RTS skirmishes. Add in some beautiful world maps. And, of course, a dash of dragons with jet packs. What do you get? You get Larian Studios’ newest game, Divinity: Dragon Commander. It sounds like a dream come true, and to be honest it does pull these elements off with some success. When I started up the game I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the tutorials didn’t help really explain what the game is about. But I dove straight into a PvE game and decided to learn the basics for myself. From the lessons the tutorials teach, you immediately expect the game to be just an RTS. What I quickly found out, however, is that the game starts out in an overworld where you have to strategically move pieces to take over new countries. Think Risk, but with the ability to construct buildings that can aid you as the game goes on.
As the commander, you start out ruling over one country with your capitol at its heart. You can build different kinds of military units and move them to new, neighboring countries to grow and strengthen your empire. These movements occur in a turn-based fashion, and your opponent will do the same. With each country you capture, you are able to build one new structure. Structures provide distinct resources; from war factories letting you recruit more troops out in the battlefield, gold mines generating your empire more revenue, or a number of buildings that provide you with benefits in the form of playable cards. These cards have advantages that aid you either in the battlefield (such as destroying enemy structures or keeping particular troops from moving to new countries) or in skirmishes (giving you temporary powers for your dragon or recruiting mercenary units to aid you on the battlefield). In addition to acquiring more gold to raise troops and build structures as well as gaining cards, you also acquire research points to strengthen your units or learn new skills for your dragon to use.
You need to strategically move units and erect buildings to gain enough resources to prepare yourself for the eventual skirmishes. These skirmishes start when units from different empires occupy the same country. The game gives you two options once this occurs: auto-resolve or direct command. The auto-resolve option basically calculates the likelihood of one army winning over the other, depending on the number of units and the abilities of the cards you play. Whichever army is more statistically likely to win pretty much gets the victory, with the chance of the winning army losing some units during combat. The direct command option starts an RTS skirmish, and here is where it gets interesting.
You start off with however many units you had present in the country, along with a recruitment citadel. These citadels gain you recruits, which you can then use to construct buildings or purchase new units. These are the only resources you are required to build, as opposed to other RTS games where you have workers harvest certain resources to construct certain units. Another difference from your typical RTS is that in Dragon Commander, you can only erect buildings on special plots scattered throughout the map. You can gain control over these plots by sending units to take over. Almost any building can be constructed, with the exception of new recruitment centers, which require a uniquely shaped plot to build on. These plots are rarer than the others and need to be quickly captured before the opposing teams can so you can gain recruits faster. If your enemies end up with a disproportionate number of recruitment citadels, you can actually start losing recruits as they defect to the other side.
The basic strategy seems to be amassing as big of an army you can very quickly, then just blitz the other teams. The AI in the skirmishes seems to be amazingly good at putting together an army very quickly to come and smash your initial base.
The most entertaining part of the skirmishes is being able to go from being the all-controlling overlord to controlling a jetpack-equipped dragon to help on the battlefield. As long as you are near some of your own troops and have enough recruits (20 of them), you can summon the dragon and wreak havoc on the enemies. You can also act as support for your troops by investing in healing and invulnerability spells. It really is a lot of fun flying around and shooting at things, but be careful as the enemies can turn their attention towards you and easily kill you off in a matter of seconds. But don’t worry, as you can once again call upon the dragon to rain death after a short recovery period. The downfall to the dragon is the ability to use it in only one skirmish that occurs during each movement turn in the overworld. So if you end up fighting over multiple countries, it is in your best interest to figure out which battle will need the dragon most.
Divinity: Dragon Commander can be a fun game and attempts to appeal to fans of multiple gaming elements. This amalgamation does show some cracks in the game, as no particular element seems more polished than the other. I wasn’t able to get my hands on the single player part of the game as of the writing of this review, and so I can’t attest to the role-playing elements of, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the tactical segment of the game (which has no tutorial section whatsoever, which is another downside).
The RTS section definitely needs more work, as the AI in the skirmishes was extremely difficult to beat even on easy mode. This may turn off some gamers, especially those who aren’t much into RTS games to begin with. The developers may need to go back and fix the differences in the difficulties at some point. However, the auto-resolve option allows gamers to continue having fun with movement strategy without the despair of getting beat down during every skirmish. I would love to see a bit more polishing some time down the line, but it’s definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of strategy-based games.
Final Verdict: 7/10
This review was done by Andrew Burrage, Guest Author at TVGB. You can follow Andrew on twitter @aburrage and on Steam @AlarmingDebauchery.
Screenshots courtesy of Larian Studios and www.divinitydragoncommander.com.