Occasionally there are games that look terrible on the outside, but are just fun to play. Then again, perhaps me saying Divinity: Dragon Commander would be a terrible game because I hated the Divinity RPG series was a bit judgmental in the first place.
In any case, Divinity: Dragon Commander is a combination of a real-time strategy title, and a turn-based strategy title with a decision based politics system that forces you to try and appeal to five different nations. Oh yeah, you also get to play as a dragon during these battles and use your dragon jet pack to reign hell upon all the land. It’s a pretty cool concept, but are three genres too much for a game?
Interesting Character Design - There are six races represented in Dragon Commander: Dwarves, Imps, Undead, Humans, Lizard Folk, and Elves. I really like the designs for each of these characters. The Dwarf sits as a capitalist swine that shows off his greatness with various expensive tidbits while the humble Undead wears basic religious garments. On top of that, each of the races are unique to each other. Sure the Dwarves and the Imps share some capitalist ideals with each other, but they also disagree in matters of using innocents as testing materials for weapons. Honestly, it’s just fun to watch them interact.
Hilarious - It speaks well for a game that is both incredibly fun to play as well as funny, and Dragon Commander is both. The battles are fun, but the game’s real charm is in the humor. Watching counselors bicker amongst themselves while your wife tells you about how much happier you two would be if you got her father killed really lightens up the mood when you’re fighting a losing war. Heck, if not for anything else, the game would be worth playing just so you could listen to the Imps talk about blowing themselves up.
Fun Campaign - There are three chapters in Dragon Commander. The first is a tutorial mission of sorts that can be completed in an hour as it goes over how to play the game. The second is a war between you and your siblings. The third is then a final battle between you and your true adversary that where the odds are completely stacked against you. All of these scenarios are different, and all of them have their moments. The first one is incredibly easy and fun for both veterans and beginners alike, while the third one tests all that you have learned up to it, making every single moment in the game a great deal of fun.
Real Politics - Dragon Commander draws inspiration for its politics from the current state of U.S. politics. Everything from health care to gay marriage is covered in ways that make it relevant to a fantasy world fighting a war. Players must make these decisions with two thoughts in their mind: A) What does the majority of races want, and B) is this something I agree with on a personal level? Personally, I just did whatever the dwarf wanted because the vast majority of it pissed the Elves off, and I’ll be damned before I make a bunch of tree hugging, pointy eared, inbred elitists have their way.
Enthralling Combat - The strategy elements might seem a bit weak at times, but there’s an amazing amount of fun to be had on the battlefield. During your gameplay you’ll control both your armies and your dragon. Will you decide to let your armies pull the brunt of the forces from the enemy base while you blow up their factories, or will you use your buffing auras to help them steamroll their enemies? The fact that you have an army of units willing to do your bidding while you blow up everything else really makes the game unique, and allows for strategies not always available in RTS titles.
A Bit Repetitive - Halfway through the second chapter I started letting my royal military resolve battles for me simply because I didn’t have the ten or fifteen minutes it would take to command my army. Save it were a few exceptions, I pretty much just let the game play itself out, and enjoyed the social politics. It’s not that the combat is bad; I just eventually started enjoying the social side of things more than the fire breathing dragon side of things. The gameplay isn’t bad, but just like in the Total War series I can only command so many time consuming battles before getting bored.
Disappointing Ending - The game gets a bit flimsy after the second chapter. After conquering everything, the game flings you at a super hard boss of a campaign that instantly puts you on the defensive for about 20 turns before you can make headway. Then, after all the work you’re rewarded with a brief cut scene and brought back to the main menu. Considering all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making it to that cut-scene, it was a pretty big letdown.
Sitting on Resources - If you’re any good at resource management, you’ll quickly have all the upgrades you’ll need by the end of the second chapter. All upgrades for your dragon and troops will be finished, leaving you with nothing to spend all that extra research points on. While this isn’t a bad thing, I was a bit annoyed end game when I was sitting on 900 research points and had nothing to spend them on.
The Frame Rates! - Towards the end of the game, the battles can get pretty epic. Watching 300 units go at each other gets pretty awesome, so long as you’re not trying to fly your dragon that is. Pro tip, if you’re in the middle of a huge foot soldier war, don’t summon your dragon. Your PC will drop to 2 frames every five seconds in a heartbeat
Divinity: Dragon Commander is a guilty pleasure of mine. In no way is it a stellar game, but rather one of those gems that you talk about fondly with your friends years after its release. It will sit on the shelf right next to Me & My Katamari, and Mount & Blade, but that’s not a bad thing. Dragon Commander is a game made for people who want to play games, and it is insanely fun. I recommend it as a good buy for strategy enthusiasts everywhere for its story-line alone.
This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by GoG.com.*