Larian Studios, famous for their RPG series Divinity has developed a hybrid turn-based/real-time strategy game based in the same universe, Divinity: Dragon Commander.
Turn-based/real-time strategy is a genre that needs to be explained a little. On the surface a multiplayer game will look like a complex game of Risk. All players choose their action at once but there’s a rotating initiative order to determine in which order turns play out. If two players are attempting to hold the same territory at the end of a turn, combat occurs. This combat can be auto-resolved or players can choose to resolve it using the real-time strategy option which takes into account which units you had on the global board for the start of combat.
In a single player campaign there are political decisions to make at the beginning of most turns. These decisions range from conscription and health care to choosing which princess to marry. Combat encounters will be vary in difficulty depending on which races you supported in politics. It is also wonderfully animated and voice acted by a range of voices you’ll only find only in European-developed game. This adds to the sense of immersion and polish of the game and explains the 13GB download size.
The developer has also included a campaign mode which lets you play against AI with randomly generated political events. Instead of replaying a scripted campaign repeatedly this allows you to play through a randomly generated sequence of events.
A focus on turn-based with a splash of real-time
Dragon Commander brings a lot to the table as a turn-based strategy. The quantity of unit types, power-up cards, map objectives, and research make this more complex than any board game. There is frequent conflict and a variety of ways to spend resources to build for a short or long game. However, a real-time strategy aficionado will be disappointed with the RTS elements.
The real-time strategy part of Dragon Commander plays very quickly without traditional base building or upgrades in battle. You are limited to specific blocks for resource collection and production facilities. Maps also effectively have a timer on them by having a limited number of recruits that can be used in the battle across all forces. This works as a good counter against turtling and forces the maps to end in a relatively short period of time keeping the game moving. None of those things are knocks against the game so much as non-traditional elements. In the early game unit selection seems to be a small game of rock-paper-scissors (or more like rock-scissors) although this does broaden out once more technologies and units are researched. The camera can be complicated to control when switching back and forth to dragon form, trying to control masses of units, and produce more units at the same time.
Most importantly is that if you don’t like the real-time strategy part of Dragon Commander you can simply auto-resolve combat and never have to enter that mode in single player. However, if you really enjoy the real-time strategy mechanics there’s also a multiplayer/skirmish mode where you can play the real-time strategy maps and they’ve added the turn-based research into the production buildings.
Versatile options so you can play how you want
Multiplayer mode offers up to 4 players the ability to ally however they choose. There are a wide variety of multiplayer options you usually don’t see; starting resources, cost multipliers, and turn length timers. This lets you play the game you want to play rather than being limited to what the developers chose as defaults. There’s fun to be had here with a small group of friends, and while it won’t make it as the next big esport that’s not to say it can’t be played competitively. The netcode is solid and fast once you are in a game and there’s a variety of balanced maps that make it a lot of fun.
You do lose all the political aspects of the game in multiplayer mode which makes for a much faster game. Adjust turn times to one minute and change it so you can never play as a commander in combat and you have a fast-paced turn-based strategy game. Play in skirmish mode and it works like any other RTS game you would expect with 45+ maps available.
If you are already interested in turn-based games like the Civilization series then Divinity: Dragon Commander brings a faster-paced military-oriented game that offers more variety in achieving a combat victory as well as narrative that has humorous characters and, while not spectacular, gives something for the player to think about.