Preview

Divinity: Dragon Commander Preview (PC)

Once you get over the fact that you’ve got a Dragon with a jetpack, Dragon Commander is pretty much like any other RTS. In a similar vein to Total War, this is a game of two halves – strategic empire management, and tactical battles. Actually, there’s a third half, which is the Starcraft II-esque ‘command ship’ interface. This is where you get involved in a bit of role-playing; talking to advisors, researching new units and techs, even engaging in a little bit of politics.

The campaign map itself is very simple – looking like a ye olde style hand drawn map, the land mass is divided into a number of territories. Each territory has a race (so who the local inhabitants are), and an economy and tech output. The more territories you conquer, the more gold you get per turn and the more research points you get per turn. Research points are used to either research new Dragon Abilities, or new units/unit abilities, presenting you a tactical choice between improving your army, and improving yourself. Territories can be modified in a couple of different ways – you can play cards (Dragon Commander started off life as a table-top card strategy game thing), which you collect as spoils or through special buildings, or you can build buildings. There is only one building allowed per territory, and these can range from gold-enhancers, tech point enhancers, to factories that allow you build units in territories other than your home one.

The battle engine is beautiful, but it can take a while to learn all of the controls etc...

Eventually, you’ll run into someone else who wants the same territory you want. Dragon Commander’s battles have the pacing of a pro Starcraft II match – you don’t have much time to take in your surroundings and start giving orders. On the campaign map, each territory is given its own map layout, and there’s several to choose from if you go online. Maps involve starting locations for everyone involved- up to four people, and then there is potentially neutral bases and territory to fight over. In the single-player, you can choose to auto-resolve the battle, either by letting the army fight out on its own, or by assigning a ‘general’ to improve the odds, although this costs gold.

One of the areas of Rivellon you will be fighting over

Battles are a typical RTS experience in many ways – although the base building options are limited, you do build up a base, and any additional outposts you can capture, and then build units and send them out. Everything takes on a very ‘Supreme Commander’ mentality to mass produced units, although there’s none of the automation features. Typically, to win a match you have to destroy an opponent, either by grinding down his manpower reserves, or by overwhelming his defences and destroying all of his bases on the map. It can still be very taxing, however: everything is ever so slightly geared towards direct intervention. Granted, even with a poor start, as long as you’re quick you can get things to more or less an even footing, but to give yourself that edge over your opponent (especially if your opponent can also enter dragon form in multiplayer), you need to take your dragon form and get stuck in directly. This is dangerous though as it means you lose the overall strategic picture, for short-term tactical gain. Knowing when to dive in and dive out, when to intervene and when to not, and then balancing all of that with the larger strategic picture... brain training, eat your heart out.

It’s more manic in multiplayer, in many ways. You can potentially have multiple opponents (although you will have a teammate as well in 2 v 2), and they will all have dragon forms that you’ll have to contend with. Do you jump in because they’ve jumped in, or do you wait? Dragon Commander is well into its last stages now – with just under a month left till release, everything is pretty much set in stone. This will be a good one for those who liked Starcraft II and its faced-paced tactical combat, and while there is base-building in a way, it’s refreshingly free of that traditional thinking, leaving you to focus more on the strategy. Even if that strategy is just hurling troops at your enemy until either he’s dead or you are dead.

Most Anticipated Feature: The single-player features a man called ‘The Architect’. I want to find out whether this Matrix reference is a coincidence or not.

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Comments

By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jul 10, 2013
SirRoderick
Hmmm, so overall fairly positive then? I don't see any mention of things that might become a problem
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Jul 10, 2013
JustCommunication
I won't lie, this was a pretty brief hands-on. There's nothing that seems too alarming at this stage - a bit more polishing and tweaking.

Controls in the battle interface can take some getting used to, and the tutorial system isn't great, but yeah.

I'll be a lot more thorough when it comes to the review.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jul 10, 2013
SirRoderick
Looking forward to it JC