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Divinity: Dragon Commander Hands-On Preview

/ Apr 15th, 2013 No Comments

Dragons in jetpacks in Dragon Commander.
Dragons in jetpacks in Dragon Commander.

Dragons in jetpacks in Dragon Commander.

Larian Studios is a Belgian game developer known for the role-playing game (RPG) series Divinity. The Divinity series began with the release of Divine Divinity in 2002. Both Divine Divinity and its eventual sequel, Divinity 2: Ego Draconis, went on to include several add-0n packs expanding the world of Divinity.

The studio founded in 1996 currently has an RPG prequel to Divine Divinity in the works but is also expanding the Divinity universe into the uncharted territories of real-time strategy (RTS). Divinity: Dragon Commander is a RTS title with board game elements and third-person action mixed in.

Development on Divinity: Dragon Commander began in 2010, after Larian released The Dragon Knight Saga expansion for Divinity 2. In the last expansion for the RPG, players take control of a dragon slayer and eventually earn the ability to become a dragon. The developers at Larian wanted to expand on the dragon combat from the game, thus giving birth to Divinity: Dragon Commander.

In its early stages, the game was being developed as a short 10-mission dragon game. The team merely wanted to build on the dragon combat from The Dragon Knight Saga as they felt the gameplay was not as polished as it could have been. As the campaign began to come to life, the team realized the idea could be flushed out into a much more ambitious title.

Led by designer Farhang Namdar, the team at Larian began to implement additional features into the dragon combat game. With the developer’s extensive RPG background, there was little doubt Divinity: Dragon Commander would have added RPG elements. Taking inspiration from the 1990 space flight sim Wing Commander, the team added a mothership base where gamers can keep track of their entire empire and the characters in it. Divinity: Dragon Commander also features elements inspired by Cinemaware games from the 1980s. In those games, the world would come to life even without the main characters. Like those classic games, choices players make in Divinity: Dragon Commander will have consequences during gameplay.

Dragon Commander

Dragon Commander

At its core, Divinity: Dragon Commander is a RTS game. While discussions with other characters take place on the mothership, the base is also home to the strategy map. Players will map out their attacks and take over surrounding countries in turn-based gameplay. Units and transportation can be purchased and moved into those countries accordingly. When opposing units come into contact in the same country, battles begin.

Combat will be familiar to players who have any experience with RTS games as gameplay is pretty standard. Buildings throughout the map can be captured and used to build factories and barracks. Those factories can in turn be used to produce new units, including land troops, flying air units and boats that destroy by sea. Once all of one player’s units are destroyed, the game is over.

However, gameplay in Divinity: Dragon Commander is anything but standard. While combat is going on, players have a potentially game-changing ability in their back pocket. When battles are just not going right, players can take the form of a dragon and dive into war with third-person style gameplay. Dragons are equipped with a jetpack to quickly fly to units who need the most help. Then, dragons can unleash hell on opponents. When fire-breathing beasts are defeated, players will have to wait through a respawn period before they can enter the battlefield again. This makes RTS combat fast-paced and satisfying. Even when losing, players can wreak havoc using a dragon in a jetpack.

Political decision making in Dragon Commander.

Political decision making in Dragon Commander.

In addition, RTS gameplay is supplemented by card game elements. According to Namdar, Larian founder Swen Vincke is a big fan of the genre and wanted to add old-school board game elements into Divinity: Dragon Commander. Card gameplay occurs on the turn-based map before combat is about to take place. Players earn cards throughout the game and can use the specific abilities of the cards to supplement their RTS attacks.

The RPG elements of Divinity: Dragon Commander take place in the mothership. The main character, who has taken over the throne, is faced with princesses, generals and representatives of different races from their empire. Each race has unique attributes and differing points of view. Players are faced with topical issues, such as whether to allow gay marriage in their kingdom, and must make decisions. Those decisions will have consequences based on the personality traits of the unique characters. It will be impossible to please all the races so finding a balance will be important. Making political decisions will be a main part of the game and will lead to unlocking cards and upgrades that will heavily influence RTS combat.

Admittedly, Divinity: Dragon Commander is difficult to concisely describe. Although dragon combat was the basis for the game, it evolved into a much more complex title with elements that all types of players will enjoy.

Divinity: Dragon Commander is expected to release July 2 for PC. The game is available to pre-order now on GOG.com for $39.99.

For more information on Divinity: Dragon Commander, check out an interview with the game’s lead designer Farhang Namdar.

Ryan Bloom

Ryan Bloom

Associate Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Ryan Bloom is a writer and avid gamer from Orange County. He received a B.A. in Communications with a minor in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton in 2010. Follow him on Twitter @BloomsTweets.
Ryan Bloom

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