Larian Studios offer an impressive strategy game that has more depth than you'd think.
By Joe Robinson on August 5, 2013 at 11:26 am
You know a good strategy game when it becomes so challenging (even on ‘’normal’), that it forces you to try mad, crazy tactics that really shouldn’t work. Dragon Commander may offer an amusing and bizarre premise in jet-pack dragons, but it’s by no means a casual, or a game not to be taken seriously. Born out of the Larian Studio’s love of board games, this turn-based/real-time hybrid will test your tactical prowess to the full.
Set in their staple IP of Divine Divinity, you enter the universe during an unspecified time period, where the world has been united under a single emperor. He was helped by Maxos, a powerful wizard, and someone known only as The Architect, who managed to create powerful weapons of war such as the world has never seen.
Instead of swords, bows or magic, you have battleships, bombers and tanks. Dragon Commander is split into two parts: the world map, where most of the ‘strategy’ is done, and the tactical map. On the world map you build armies, move them about and capture provinces from your enemy. Whenever a battle is set to occur, you jump into a tactical map and fight things out the good old-fashioned way.
The single-player is fleshed out to offer you more than just a bare-bones boardgame-esque experience. You play the bastard child of the murdered emperor, and as the only one who didn’t betray him, you’re the chosen favourite to re-unite the empire once again. Generals, Ambassadors, even Maxos himself flock to your flagship, the Raven.
In-between rounds you can navigate the ship, talk to people, and periodically the ambassadors will present you with questions of governance that will affect how happy each race is with your rule. It’s a careful balancing act, as if you let one race get too unhappy, you’ll get negative effects when fighting on their land.
Multiplayer essentially offers the same experience as single-player, except there’s no Raven command ship or any RPG elements to deal with. The Dragon and Army research interfaces are folded onto the strategic map, and things continue on as they normally would. You can have up to four players competing on one map, either in a free-for-all or a 2V2 scenario. Another key difference from single player is that there is an initiative order, which changes every round. You have to bear this in mind when planning your moves, as if everyone gets to go before you, all of your moves could be blocked or thwarted in some way.
There’s also an extra building called the ‘Emporium’, which can’t be built but will be on the map from the beginning. This building allows you to buy new and interesting cards, provided you are the one who’s in control.
Dragon Commander is a hearty strategy title that’s both entertaining and challenging. The RPG elements could be a tad better, but ultimately they serve their purpose well by engaging you in the ‘why’ of your bid for world domination, although the single-player doesn’t have much replay value to it. The tactical battles are quick and intense, and they allow you to beat the odds if you’re caught out. The only problem is, you can only fight one battle yourself so choose wisely.
- Impressive strategy
- Addition of RPG elements adds depth
- Unique and interesting setting
- RPG elements not as fleshed-out as they could be
- Not a lot of replay value
This review copy supplied by the publisher.