Most games can fit into a maybe two genres fairly easily. Call of Duty and Battlefield are First Person Shooters. Mass Effect is an action role playing game. Age of Empires, StarCraft, and Empire Earth are real time strategy games. So where does Divinity Dragon Commander fit in? In part it’s a RTS-RPG-Management-Risk like game. I’ll explain all that in a minute.
Divinity Dragon Commander is a steam-punk game, but not in the traditional brown, grays, and yellows. This is a very vibrant and colorful steam-punk game. Your mechanical soldiers, which look like spiders, walking cannons, hot air balloons, and the like, all the fire neon green, blue, and red lasers, missiles, and etc. The landscapes are filled with green trees, blue waters, and neon buildings. It’s a unique look for steam-punk games and it’s a nice refresher from the browns and grays that are dominating games today. However that’s only when you’re in the RTS battles. Outside of the RTS battles you’re greeted to a, wait for it, brown and gray bored map that looks a lot like a Risk bored. The problem with this is that your units are so small that sometimes clicking on them becomes a difficulty. Your units stack, but there appears to be no real quick reference to tell how many units you have at one location. It becomes frustrating as the maps can be large and having to click on every stack of units to get a count and see if you should assign more units to a specific area can be tedious.
I don’t really have much to say on the sound and music of Divinity Dragon Commander. I remember enjoying the music while I played, in fact I remember liking the music quite a bit, but it didn't make any sort of lasting impression on me, and after I beat the game I completely forgot what any of the music even sounded like. The voice acting was also fairly sub-par. The voice actors sounded, when they weren't monotone, sounded overly emotional, like they were trying too hard to get into their role. The only voice actor I enjoyed was Corvos. His voice was deep and resonating and fit his character as a super powerful dram eating demon well.
You are the son of a King and a Dragon, awkward. Your father was murdered in a coup and now you and all your half siblings are fighting for the throne. The story never really develops from there. That’s a big shame as it sets up well. Each one of your half sibling has a unique name that matches their personality such as a brother that stripped off his skin because he felt he was an undead and a sister that cut out her own tongue. This sets up a nice premise but it is never fully developed. You have no interaction with your half siblings save fighting their cookie cutter units in battle. It’s really a shame that each of your half siblings didn't have their own unique units, looks, or tactics. Another place where the story is a big letdown is in the decision making. While its fun setting policies for the world and making decisions like; “should the goblins be allowed to create mechanized humans?” it never has any effect on the story or the post-game. The ending is always going to be the same regardless of what decisions you make throughout the game, save one optional one (but I won’t ruin that for you).
This is where the Divinity Dragon Commander truly shines. It is a wonderful mix of different genres. However this is also where Divinity Dragon Commander falls the hardest. It’s a jack of all trades but a master of none, similar to another game Godfather Taunt (I’ll let you figure out what that means). It’s hard to really find a place to start with the game play so I’ll just go with how the game flows turn by turn. You start aboard your command vessel, the Raven. Here you can talk with your four generals, the six ambassadors, your wife, Marxos your court wizard, the engineering department, or Corvos the demon. Your generals can give you insight into how the war is going, although most of the time they just say something like “shouldn't we actually fight before we talk about how it’s going?” They will say this until literally the very last battle of the game. It’s frustrating to say the least and the only time I actually ever spoke with them was when there was an exclamation mark telling me a decision needed to me made.
The ambassadors always want you to make a decision. The game shows a great amount of potential here. When one ambassador asks you for something, like say a dwarven nudist beach (not kidding), you have to weigh your decisions. Do you approve it, knowing it will please the dwarves and elves, but anger the undead, fish people (forget what they’re called) and goblins? Or do you deny it because you need the support of those other allies more than the dwarves? Or maybe you really need the gold the dwarves are promising you as your enemies are closing in on you and you need troops. The game starts off really well with these choices as it’s almost always a 50/50 split and balancing the approval of your allies with your war needs is tricky. But all too soon what happened was one faction would recommend something and all the others would be completely opposed to it. The later I got in the game the less money I actually needed and so going with the group decision became easy and keeping my approval at 90+% among all factions was easier. If for some instance your approval with one race became low you could sacrifice a bunch of people from other races to Corvos and he would increase their approval of you. The world population would go down and some percentages like “percent research” would go down, but this had such a little effect on the core gameplay that I wanted to sacrifice the whole world to Corvos just because I could and I knew I’d still be able to mop the floor against the AI. On the Raven you can also upgrade units (engineering), upgrade your dragon skills (Marxos), or have a lovely yet unintelligent conversation with your wife.
After you’re done on board the Raven you can go to the war room. Here you look over the battle map, move units, but units, conquer territories, engage in battle, etc. It’s very Risk like. When you move units to an occupied territory you are greeted with a screen showing all your units, all the enemies units, and a list of generals you can have fight for you. There is also a percentage that represents your chance to win any given fight. Certain generals can raise that percentage but overwhelming numbers will always decide a battle when it’s AI fighting. The problem I have with this is that you have to pay the generals for each time they fight, like I don’t already pay them to be generals in my army? Each battle they get a little more expensive but their helpfulness never increases, and there really isn't much of a difference between each general. One general is just as good as any other for most battles, making choosing a more expensive general over a less expensive one pointless. If you don’t want a general to fight you can lead the army yourself, initiating a RTS battle, or you can have the Imperial Army fight (Just your base army with no boosters). You can lead one battle per turn, and your generals (all four) can lead only one battle per turn, after that it’s up to your Imperial Army. This is something that I actually quite like as it forces you to decide if it’s worth starting an RTS battle so you can turn around impossible odds and save a territory but risk losing a different one if luck isn't on your side, or should you sacrifice one insignificant territory so you can lead an army and make sure you save a different one? This happened to me quite frequently as the enemy would strike at two or three territories in one turn and make me pick which one to leave to chance.
When you engage in RTS battles it’s not your traditional sense of RTS. You have a limited pool of resources with no real way to get more. You can capture recruitment citadels to give you a few more points but ultimately you have to decide what to spend your points on and every loss of units hurts because you know those are points you can’t get back. The RTS may be daunting at first as the enemy mob rushes you but later in the game, after you get the juggernauts (a ship with long range attacks) it’s easy to just station three or four juggernauts near the enemy’s base and pound the ever-loving-snot out of them until they give up. If you need a little extra boost you can turn into dragon mode, basically you just become a big dragon on the battle field that controls like a third person shooter, and wreck face on the battlefield. The interesting thing about these RTS fights is you start off with whatever troops you have in that territory to begin with. This leads to cheap wins as you can just move several juggernauts and bomber balloons into a territory and kill everything in a few seconds. There is one more thing about these battles. Every few turns you earn cards. These cards can be used to increase gold earned each turn, or give you a boost of units for a battle, create barracks on the world map, and lots more.
Sufficiently confused yet? Good. Now let me explain the problems. About the end of act two, there are only three acts in the game, you can conquer every territory except the capital (used to win the act) and be generating hundreds of gold and research points each turn. You can than amass a massive army to conquer the capital, or save all the gold for the next act. The enemy will always foolishly throw its units against your overwhelming armies with no hope of victory until you decide to end their misery. The problem comes when you then take all that gold into the next act. With all the money you can buy thousands of units and steamroll straight through the last, and supposedly hardest, act of the game. I beat the final act in five turns because the size of my army was too great.
Multiplayer – 7/10
Take everything I said in the part above, except the decision making and apply it to multiplayer. You against another person is always a harder and more tactical experience that more fun. There’s nothing really unique about the multiplayer except your opponent. The game can be as fun or as dull as your opponent is. My complaint is that there really isn't anything special about the multiplayer. There is a coop campaign which is fun, but it has the same problem as the single player.
This is a rare gem of a game in today’s gaming world. It excellently combines several genres and creates a game absolutely worth playing. The game suffers from some problems trying to be a jack of all trades but it truly is a game worth playing and shows that very different genres can be wonderfully blended to create something that it more than the sum of its parts.
I agree that this game is a rare gem. It had the balls to try something new and risky, and actually managed to pull it off.
Of course it had many problems, but that is to be expected of something like this.
What i disagree about this review is the voice acting part. I think they did a splendid job.
I really like it and I hope Larian has another crack and improves everything about the actual RTS elements. Just take the lead from Starcraft 2.