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Divinity: Dragon Commander Review

Paul Goodman | 5 Aug 2013 23:00
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Dragon Commander has all the makings of a great game. It's set in a steampunk fantasy world of Rivellion with elves, undead, imps, lizard men and dwarves, and you get to command armies of clockwork tanks and spell-casting zeppelins. Unfortunately, despite having robust characters and some light-hearted political intrigue in the narrative to hold your attention, Dragon Commander's gameplay is more boring and generic than anything else.

In Dragon Commander, you play as the bastard half-dragon son of Emperor Sigurd I, who was recently assassinated by your other siblings in the hopes of claiming the throne for themselves. As civil war breaks out, a powerful wizard seeks your help in using your dragon powers to help bring peace and prosperity back to land. With this noble quest, you set out to defeat your evil siblings, leading the attack from your demon-powered airship. The main story of Dragon Commander is simple and doesn't really break away from your standard "noble hero saves the day" trope, but what makes its worth the journey is the fully-voiced and highly detailed characters you'll enage with along the way.

Primarily, Dragon Commander is a turn-based strategy game featuring a few real-time elements. At a strategic level, you'll command your armies via a Risk-style map, where you'll be able to build troops, construct buildings, plan your attacks and occasionally use stat-changing cards to influence the flow of the war. The real-time elements of Dragon Commander come in whenever you attack an opponent's territory, dropping you into a large map with various construction sites you'll need to capture in order to gather recruits and build units. The RTS parts of the game are fast-paced, with a limited amount of resources available in each map to encourage a more aggressive play style. For the most part, though, you'll end up following the formula of assembling a massive army of various units and sending them towards the enemy base. As you purchase more advanced units and upgrade your units' abilities, you'll find yourself having to think tactically about how you use your forces, but the combat isn't as fun, and doesn't feel on par with other games in the genre.

Most notably, you'll have the ability to directly intervene in any real-time battle you're overseeing by transforming into a jet-pack wearing dragon. This turns the game into a kind of third-person arcade-style shooter, letting you spit fiery doom upon enemy forces and cast spells to heal your own troops. While flying your dragon self around is easy and it is an amusing experience to strafe hostile forces with your flame breath, the novelty of transforming into a dragon wears off quickly. The controls to order your troops around in dragon form are clunky to use, and until you research more powerful spells and abilities, you're highly vulnerable to anti-air units. If anything, you'll often resort to transforming into a dragon just to tip the scales slightly in your favor in a fight before retreating to safety, and even then you'll probably find it just as easy to send mass waves of units into combat to win the day.

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