Divinity: Dragon Commander Review
Divinity: Dragon Commander is one of those uniquely out there experiences where a developer took the leap and mixed multiple genres together, praying it would come together in a cohesive cocktail of incredible experiences and lively characters. Larian Studios has succeeded in creating an enjoyable adventure through the gameplay found within Divinity: Dragon Commander.
The story boils down to a basic plot of redemption and a land’s salvation through the eyes of the heir to the throne. The player, a half-dragon half-human bastard child must lead an army, woo civilian emissaries, and gain the valuable expertise of fellow generals in the field. All of this with a mix of turn-based and real-time strategy with a hint of RPG thrown in to make your army and your dragon yours.
You begin your daring adventure on a massive steampunk-styled airship with the brilliant wizard Maxos to guide you along your path to the throne. This is your main hub, the place where you will upgrade your skills, purchase new units, and upgrade said units to perform better in combat. This airship is also the home to your army’s generals and the civilian emissaries who will bring you legislations to be passed for the land below. More on those later though. You begin the story with just two generals to fight with, other than the player character. From here you will gain more, each of which has specific abilities and bonuses in combat. Some are better with heavy or medium units, while others excel in the water or air. Who you choose can determine the outcome of a battle.
Your brother and sister have both taken control of vast amounts of land after the death of your father, leaving the country in tatters and chaos. You step forward as the one to unite the world and its inhabitants. To do this you must win battles to take over specific pieces of land, a la Risk. This grows easier as you win the favorite of the races living there. Dwarves, Elves, Undead, Lizardmen, and Imps, all of which have their own likes and dislikes. You had better learn them all quick to win their favor, though you can never win everyone over, some will not like the decisions you make.
The unique and fun mix of real-time and turn-based strategy and RPG has won me over. I have always enjoyed making my army a little more personal before I send them into battle. These battles tend to play out quite the same once you get them down to a science however. Brute force and rushing essentially will win you every battle you enter into. The ability to use tactics was there, but it was easier to dominate the enemy with a blitzkrieg. Amass plenty of soldiers, both air and land alike, and send them towards your enemies bases. Mix this in with your ability to turn into a dragon mid-battle and you have a force to be reckoned with. That it isn’t to say it will be easy every time, more than once I moved into the closest base to my enemy and sent wave after wave at them. They were persistent however and I sent many soldiers to their untimely deaths. This is when the RTS players instincts will kick in, breaking units into specific groups and forming combat lines. Long-range offensive units to the back, brute force close-up attackers in the front as a first line and as a defensive force. These tactics will ensure you the win nearly every time.
None of these battles would come about without the use of the tactical map; this is the turn-based portion of the game. Here you may build the units you have purchased, use cards to gain bonuses or injure your foe, and take over land. This has that level of addiction that comes with seeing the entire map in your color. This almost makes you want to auto complete your battles, this is a mistake. Even the most addicting of things can get old and need something to break them up with so that they can remain fun.
Multiplayer is an aspect of the game that many players will find themselves in after putting in man-hours in the campaign. In the multiplayer mode of Divinity the player will have the chance to put their skills to the test, either through a competitive campaign mode or Skirmishes. The multiplayer campaign is nearly identical to the campaign mode, just without the story and characters. Each player will control a portion of the map, here they may build units, research new ones, and purchase upgrades. At some point the players will meet and do battle in the real-time strategy mode. Skirmish skips all of the turn-based gameplay and throws you and some opponents directly into the fight. Each player controls an army and their chosen dragon. Fighting dragons in the air while hundreds of units battle it out below will no doubt lead to many jaw-dropping stories among friends.
Divinity: Dragon Commander does characters right. Each one is unique, lively, and full of brilliant detail. From mechanical arms to the sword hooked at the belt, each one has an identifying design on their character to make them feel truly lifelike, if steam punk machinery was real, and we all hope it will be.
I am sad to say that the real-time strategy portion of the game is not of as high quality as your time spent on the airship. While there is nothing overly wrong with the way everything looks, it just isn’t as high of standards. Scrolling in to get a better look on your units will reveal that some of them are downright ugly. The surrounding land makes up for this a bit, while not ugly the maps are forgettable. You will not remember your first battle as the arena does not catch your attention long enough to embed it in your brain.
The voice acting in Divinity: Dragon Commander has to be some of the best I have heard in recent time. Everyone has their own voice that portrays their personality perfectly. Your Dwarven emissary is accented heavily and the slur of the Lizardmen comes across perfectly. Not often is it that I will sit through pages of dialogue just to hear the character say every word aloud.
But again the real-time battles do not hold up their end. While, again, not bad, they just don’t hold a candle to the impeccable sound work done aboard your airship. Explosions sound, an in turn feel, a lot less powerful than one might think. The weapon fire of your units also comes across as lacking; they give the sense of a weak unit, when in reality they are actually strong. Sound can make a huge difference in how you perceive your units.
The controls in Divinity are pretty basic and should not cause anyone a problem. Classic strategy controls of clicking or dragging to select units and another click of the mouse to send them to a point on the map or attack. Dragon controls play similar to an RPG, with your standard WASD movement scheme and 1-9 for your skills. Any gamer should feel right at home with the keyboard in Divinity: Dragon Commander.
Divinity: Dragon Commander is enjoyable to say the least. The few minor quirks and issues could be easily overlooked by some, while others may find them to be major problems. A dry story line is saved by brilliant characters and gameplay that will no doubt have a dedicated following surrounding it. If you are looking for something different that will last you for some time, I would give Divinity: Dragon Commander a chance.