When Divinity: Dragon Commander was first announced, I never thought I’d actually end up playing it. I felt it would soon find itself on the huge pile of games I claim to be knowledgeable about but never actually play. Yet as screenshot after trailer after preview came out, I did decide to click purchase when faced with the game on release-day. Having it be roughly 10€ cheaper than most other new release games certainly gave it an edge. Turns out I made the right decision.
The game is essentially split into three parts. As would-be emperor of Rivellon, it’s your task to order troups around, both on a real-time and turnbased strategy map. In between battles you’ll roam around the Raven, your mobile command ship. You’ll find yourself researching new units and upgrades to existing ones as well as conversing with your wizard to obtain new spells. There’s also a whole political aspect to the game that I did not anticipate. At any moment you may be asked to make several choices. It could be one of your generals fighting for equal pay for men and woman or an elven councillor asking for the legalisation of gay-marriage or certain narcotics. You’ll even get to decide if there’s a military draft or whether or not there’s social security.
Each of these decisions influences your game giving you added benefits and drawbacks. I soon found myself getting along famously with the liberal Lizards, scientific Imps and green-hearted Elves yet earned the ire of the religious Undead and the greedy Dwarves. The dialogues are well written and the characters are very believable (it would behoove Starcraft II’s writers to at least take a look at this game). The game manages to pull it all off incredibly well and it adds immensely to the overall experience.
The strategy parts of the game feature more run-of-the-mill mechanics. The turnbased map takes it’s cues from recent Dawn of War or Total War games. The real-time combat portion is centered around capturing various points on the map, which allow you to build more units and erect various turrets in a manner very reminiscent of Star Wars: Empire at War. Nothing mindblowing, but very decent on the whole.
It’s a pity that the game doesn’t allow you to zoom in very closely on your units (at least I haven’t found that to be possible). One of the joys of recent RTS games is that while they offer unparalleled oversight of the battlefield they often also allow you to get into the thick of the action. Of course Dragon Commander has its own approach by allowing you to transform into a dragon at almost any point and encouraging you to take the fight to the enemy yourself. Still, what I wouldn’t give for just one more zoom level. Especially with the well realised unit designs.
The game is to be recommended. It’s fun to play, full of humor and interesting characters. It seamlessly blends multiple styles of gameplay together in a package that not only cost less than the competition but seems to run on a variety of PC configurations. Who would have thought a Belgian company could pull it off?