With the recent release of certain video games, people might start thinking the video games industry is taking itself a little too seriously. You only have to look at the games attached to David Cage’s name. Then when you look at the fps genre, most titles are modern military titles with some having input from actual military personnel. So it’s always refreshing to see a game that dials down seriousness and cranks up the fantasy to a whole new level. I mean Divinity: Dragon Commander mixes two items which I never thought could be mixed. These are dragons and jetpacks, yes that’s right, we finally have a video game which mixes dragons with jetpacks!
Divinity: Dragon Commander takes place in the distant past of the previous Divinity games. You play as the bastard child of the recently murdered emperor. In the chaos, your older siblings took it upon themselves to divide the land among them. As with normal siblings, they decide that they want what the other one has and decide to go to war with each other. So it’s up to you build your kingdom, remove your siblings from power & unite the land.
During this overarching plot, you are often confronted by political and personal issues from your generals & ambassadors. Your generals criticize your military performance & come to you with personal issues. Your ambassadors, who each roughly represent a political view point, come to you with problems from the real world like the don’t ask don’t tell policy & marriage of homosexuals. Then on top of that, you get married to princess & she has her own set of issues. Who’d ever thought being a commander of a nation could be so difficult & time consuming?
The gameplay is split into 3 stages which all affect each other; the RPG, the turn-based strategy & the real-time strategy.
The RPG stage is very reminiscent of the Mass Effect games; you go about the different stations of your ship and talk the generals and ambassadors you come across. Most of the times they present you with political & personal issues which require your attention. This is also the stage where you research new units & upgrades. You also unlock new cards and dragon skills.
The turn-based strategy stage is based on the popular board game Risk. This is where you build & command your units as to get the tactical advantages over enemies. You also play any relevant cards you have to affect the turn-out of the territories and also give you the advantage in combat. When two forces occupy the same territory at the end of the turn then go into battle. Whenever you go into battle you can choose to auto resolve the battle using one of your generals or you can choose to lead your troops first hand.
The real-time strategy stage plays out like most other RTS games, you build your bases, you build your units then you go after the enemy base. Instead of gathering resources you build recruiting centres which populate your army & it is this pool which you use to create units. However Divinity: Dragon Commander differs from every other RTS game is that you can transform into a dragon with a jetpack. While as a dragon you can help out your troops on the offensive and defensive front but you do loose some control over your units.
Graphics & Sound
The Larian Studios art team definitely missed the lesson which said that all next-gen games had to be dark, bleak and send you into a spiral of depression. This game looks beautiful, the colors are vibrant & pop out. The environments have a steam-punk look to them so there wooden and metallic structures almost everywhere you look, this even extends to your battle units. Your generals & ambassadors are beautifully modeled and their appearances suit their personality almost to the tee. For the most part the user interface works well but I did find buying units & upgrades to be confusing for the first couple of turns.
The sounds design is on the same level as the graphics, I was particularly surprised by the voice acting to the characters. At first I skipped most of chitter-chatter but after making my first political decision, I feel in love. This is one of the few games where I wanted to hear what characters had to say. Each of the characters has such a unique feel to them that you can identify them by their dialog alone. The soundtrack is ok; it’s simple & suits the tone of the game with its string instruments but nothing that will stick in your head for hours after.
Once you finish 3 acts of the main story there’s so many choices of what to do next. The most obvious thing is to go back & pick the choices you missed out on; pick a different princess to marry, install a democracy in your empire, allow homosexuals to marry or even set free a racist murder despite the evidence. If you don’t feel like making many choices then you can setup a randomised campaign where most of the major choices are made for you. Maybe you’d rather test military skills then you can setup custom skirmishes against computer or even test yourself against the insane mode. When you feel that your skills & strategies are the best, you can test them against other players via LAN & online. Worry not though; you are often placed against players of a similar skill level so you are always given somewhat of a challenge.
Divinity: Dragon Commander is one unique title, its list of features alone are enough to overshadow most triple-A titles. The Love & marriage, the politics, single player, multiplayer & co-op game modes, the turn-based strategy conquest, the research & upgrades, the RTS game and not forgetting the dragons with jetpacks. There’s no game that I can think of that packs in so much content at such a high quality. Honestly I can’t find any real faults; the story kept me hooked through-out, it reminded a lot of Grendel in the Beowulf poem, the graphics are more than pleasing & the voice acting only added to the experience. Divinity: Dragon Commander does what it does incredibly well & does it with very little faults.