Dragons in jet packs. That is all.
When I first heard about Divinity: Dragon Commander, I thought it sounded absolutely brilliant. But the more I learned about the game, the more concerned I grew that it was trying to do too much. It promised real-time strategy battles wrapped in an overarching turn-based game of conquest with political intrigue, a smattering of collectible trading cards, and of course, intense third-person action from the perspective of a dragon wearing a jet pack. That’s right, you heard me. A dragon. Wearing a jet pack.
But I’m happy to say that after getting to spend some time with a pre-release version of the game, I’m feeling considerably more upbeat about it. It’s unquestionably a bizarre and disparate mix of elements, and yet Larian Studios appears to have found a way to make it all work. That’s not to say it’s easy, but the interface, and more importantly the process of getting things done, are well designed, simple, and accessible.
The RTS segments are fast, furious, and wickedly destructive, and the limited resources – “recruits,” based on the population of the nation in which you’re doing battle – and building locations force a strong focus on offensive maneuvers. For gamers who like the idea of Dragon Commander but have no love for the RTS genre, it’s possible to assign the real-time battles to one of the generals serving you and focus solely on the turn-based and political aspects of conquest; although I’m not sure how competent they are compared to the practiced hand of a human – and it obviously also results in the loss of a significant slice of the game.
Somewhat surprisingly, your dragon form in Dragon Commander is actually rather weak. It can quickly tip the balance of a battle, but it’s very vulnerable to enemy air defenses, and you can’t build anything or effectively control your units in dragon form. It’s fun burying enemy ranks in fireballs, but over-reliance on it is dangerous.
There are still a few bumps in the road to be smoothed out, like the gaggle of beached transport ships I saw twitchily crashing into (and clipping through) each other, but even in beta form, Divinity: Dragon Commander looks good. Before I played this preview version, I was (very) cautiously hopeful but not overly optimistic; now, I can’t wait to get my hands on the real thing.
Divinity: Dragon Commander comes out on August 6, exclusively for the PC.