Dragon Commander - Review @ IGN
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August 8th, 2013, 10:20
I am nearing the end of the first "chapter" (apparently there are three, each with its own strategic campaign map). My impressions so far: I am having fun. I definitely has that "oh just one more round, just one more RTS battle, just one more conversation…" addictiveness that keeps me up way past bedtime. The different elements (political decision making, strategy map, RTS battles) play nicely into each other, and switching between them keeps the game varied and interesting. Production values are at least good throughout, excellent with regards to music and voice acting. Here are some thoughts on the three gamepaly elements:
RPG element: I am actually not sure it should be called that. It's only an RPG-like conversation system that is used to make political decisions, that yield consequences in gameplay terms (changes to your gold income, popularity (which affects recruit availability I think, luck (which affects outcome of outoresolve battles, I assume, or gives you cards). But it's not really a roleplaying element beyond that. I had hoped for something more like the Normandy in ME, where you could walk around, interact with various crew, run into ongoing conversations, etc. But it is more a beautifully dressed up conversation menu. I'll repeat what I said elsewhere, writing and voice acting are among the best I have seen, and some of the conversations with the ambassadors are great political comedy. The only other RPG element is that you can upgrade your dragon, but that is more like upgrading a unit, not like upgrading a RPG avatar. What I was dissapointed in is that your enemy remains faceless. I would have expected occasional reports about what the enemy is doing, maybe emissaries or threatening letters from them. But beyond the introductory background story, the enemy is just the differently colored countries on the strategic map. The game needs better villains. Maybe something will come up in the later chapters, we'll see.
The strategy layer: It's basically risk, and that is still fun. It's relatively simple, simpler than the strategic layer I remember from Medival Total War, e.g. but it's still fun. The strategic cards (intersting e.g. sabotage cards that stop enemy units from moving, etc.) add just enough "surprise" to keep things interesting. What I found a bit problematic is that I never had money to use my generals for auto resolving battles (spending it all on units or buildings), and they didn't seem to have that big an effect on the chances of success either. That created a feeling that the generals, that are so prominent as conversation partners on the Raven actually have no big role in the game itself.
The RTS battles / Dragon action. What I dislike here is that the units from the strategic map are relatively unimportant, and the logical gap that results from producing so many units on the RTS map, that will just be gone when you go back to the strategic layer (in fact you may even loose units). To me as a more simulation-oriented gamer this feels a bit too gamey. I would have preferred a Total War like approach where what you bring into the battle is what you have. Or a Homeworld appraoch, where your mothership the Raven acts as a factory with limited potetntial. The battles themselves are fun, after I found that you can slow the speed down considerably, I did quite well. some people complain that it feels too "blobby" meaning I guess that you tend to build large clumps of units and send them against the enemy. However, the composition of the army, the timing all matter, micromanaging e.g. unit special abilities, or selecting which enemy to target with which troop (there are some rock-paper -scissor mechanics at work there), and of course adding the right support units etc. all matter, so I find this fun enough. Blasting around with the dragon is pure fun (until the AA missiles hit you…), and can easily turn the tide. After a few battles I got the hang of it, switching between dragon form and RTS command works well. There are quite a few poorly documented hotkeys that allow you to do most stuff in dragon form, but I usually just switch back. My main complaint is actually that there seem to be too few maps, I have seen several multiple times already, and they are not different enough to really force different approaches. E.g. would be nice to have some where you have to use naval or aerial units more, or where you don't have additional resource spots, or, or, or….
So my conclusion so far: great fun game with some flaws. None of the parts by itself is particularly great, but the combination is just a ton of fun, and something you haven't seen before. There is hardly any RPG in it, but the decision making on the raven should be appealing to RPG players regardless.
Last edited by GhanBuriGhan; August 8th, 2013 at
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