Divinity: Dragon Commander Review

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Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Larian Studios
Developer:Larian Studios
Release Date:2013-08-06
  • Strategy
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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There are three kinds of dragon to choose from when you start the campaign: Sabre, Mountain and Zephyr Dragons. Despite their differing appearances and descriptions, they're actually pretty much the same in terms of their raw capabilities, damage output and so on; what differs is their starting abilities. The Sabre Dragon is versatile and focuses on utility upgrades; the Mountain Dragon is big and powerful, and emphasizes skills that boost its damage and endurance; and the Zephyr Dragon is all about supporting and buffing units under its command. Each dragon will also start with a different unlocked special unit, which might influence your choice.

Aboard the Raven, you'll be able to upgrade your dragon form just like you can your units. These upgrades cover a pretty wide gamut, and include both passive boosts such as flying speed, jetpack fuel and damage resistance, but also include activated abilities that can unleash pillars of fire, charm enemy units to your side, or heal your own units. Personally, I favored unlocking new units and upgrades early during my campaign, and began to move to dragon upgrades after I felt I had the army I wanted, but I think it'd be just as possible to focus mostly on upgrading your dragon powers instead, should you want to play the battles much more like an action game.

Despite being able to fly a dragon about, this feature is actually fairly well balanced. Although you can likely tank through an anti-air attack or two, if the enemy starts building multiple anti-air turrets and enemies specifically dedicated to taking you down, then you'll find yourself being defeated in just a few seconds flat. You can always transform to dragon form again and are never permanently killed, but there's still a resource cost associated with it, so you'll still have to focus on building and commanding your army, even if it's just so you can take out those pesky Imp Fighters.

I found dragon form to be tons of fun and thought it really spiced up the real-time battles, but there are some drawbacks. Actually controlling your forces in this mode definitely takes some getting used to. You can select all your units on the map with F2 and then command them to attack-move by hitting Q and pointing at a target, or use F3 to select nearby units only; you can also use Z, X and C to swap through your various buildings and queue up unit production. However, navigating the mini-menu it opens can be a bit awkward and it definitely took me a while to get the hang of this - and if you have multiple copies of the same building it's never quite clear which one will actually create the units. On top of that, there appears to be no way to build structures in dragon form - not necessarily a bad thing, because the game still needs to provide incentive to use the standard real-time strategy mode, but I still found myself missing this feature a little bit.


Although not the most technically advanced game ever, Divinity: Dragon Commander is an attractive game thanks to some very solid art direction. Character designs aboard the Raven are unique and expressive, and the steampunk elements are bright and colorful rather than drab and brown, giving the game a consistently vibrant look. The Raven's backgrounds themselves are extremely detailed too, and it's clear a lot of work went into both the design and implementation of the airship. During the real-time battles, the graphics don't impress quite as much, though to say that the game looks bad here wouldn't be right at all; since you can freely zoom and pitch the camera around, you likely simply won't be close enough to the action to pick out all the details on the individual units, like you might be able to in other strategy games.

The game's sound also fits the bill, though at this point I feel that most games tend to have nailed sound effects work, so it's hard to comment in any way other than saying "well done." Voice acting is strong throughout, with not a single weak actor or actress, and just about every character is able to nail the personality of their written script spot-on. From Edmund, your arrogant and "racially superior" lizard commander, to the bull-headed and pragmatic General Henry, each one has just about the perfect voice for the job. The music is composed by the talented Kirill Pokrovsky, who is also responsible for the music in all the previous Divinity games. I admit, he's possibly one of my favorite game composers thanks to his somewhat eclectic style, which is used to full effect in Dragon Commander - you'll hear everything from ambient electronic keyboards, to groovy basslines, to more standard orchestral fantasy numbers, and despite the lack of real consistency they all seem to fit somehow. This might be his strongest soundtrack in a Divinity game, and his work is in no small part responsible for much of Dragon Commander's personality.

On a technical level, Divinity: Dragon Commander is extremely polished. I experienced no bugs, no crashes and no issues to speak of, other than the aforementioned AI hang-ups. I expect these will be taken care of as the game is updated in the future, and the developers themselves seem very concerned with getting the real-time strategy portions of the game up to par with the rest of it.


So, once again we have another Larian game that has all of the trademark personality and wit that makes their games so fun to play, and once again we do have a few more of the issues that their past games can be criticized for - namely, lack of depth in favor of a wide, if somewhat unusual feature set. However, I feel Divinity; Dragon Commander is their most polished game in years, though perhaps not their best. Namely, the strategy component can't stand up next to the like of dedicated strategy games like StarCraft II and Dawn of War II, due to its more limited focus, and the lack of unit variety.  With more budget and development time, one images that there could have been even more interplay between the game's different phases.  Even so, these issues did not unduly hurt my opinion of the game.  I still had fun with it through to the end, and I imagine I'll be giving it a second play just to see all the different effects my choices will have.

At $40 USD, Divinity: Dragon Commander is priced well, though in my opinion the real sweet spot to get people to take notice would have been $30, especially with indie games offering better and better value and replayability every week. That said, for any fan of Larian's past games, I think it's well worth the money. It might not do much to impress fans of strategy games who are expecting more depth, but for RPG fans who want a game that incorporates a wide variety of gameplay styles into a cohesive, and most importantly, fun package, I don't think you can go wrong with Divinity: Dragon Commander.