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Default RPGWatch Feature: Dragon Commander Review

August 14th, 2013, 15:37
Kalniel has taken a look at the single player version of Dragon Commander to find out how the different styles mix and blend and ended up writing this review.

Much of the game takes place aboard the Raven, your command air-ship with its own dark secret. And it's a stunning place to be - you switch between beautifully animated, rendered (in real time) and musically-scored rooms via a StarCraft 2 style selection bar and can find characters waiting for your interaction in different locations. A bar hosts your generals, a throne room your advisors, the bridge your strategy/campaign map etc.

These interactions aren't just for flavour however. Decisions about governance directly affect both the wider strategy side of things (gold income, popularity with the various races who live on the lands you occupy etc.) and the relationships with the individuals aboard the Raven. As well as these governance decisions (which are resolved via majority decision if you chose to ignore them) there are a multitude of decisions that come up in individual conversations, often of the sort where you are choosing to agree with one general over another in a dispute for example. While these may have less obvious consequences in terms of your campaign, they progress and develop the stories of the characters around you and you will find yourself starting to care about some of the characters and eagerly wanting to see how events turn out. I really enjoyed the latter, helped by the really interesting character writing and excellent voice acting.
Note that we will have another review focussing on multiplayer soon.

More information.

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August 14th, 2013, 15:37
Here is Kalniel's first review for RPGWatch.

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August 14th, 2013, 16:05
Thank you for the review Kalniel - the game sounds interesting!

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August 14th, 2013, 16:35
Kalniel, you rock man, thanks on this review!
Very good and very informative. Haven't started playing it yet, but sure will. Sooner than I've planned thanks to your input.

Oh… One thing…
Why should I, fearsome half-dragon and emperor-to-be, be the one deciding whether breast-feeding in public is acceptable or not?
What do modern games (f2p, DLC) do? Milkin'! Us! Male protagonist, yes.
And they can't ask for your feelings about that it in the game directly, right?

Toka Koka
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August 14th, 2013, 16:38
Thanks for the review. We largely agree on this game.
I thought the Political issues were OK. Of course it's true that they were clearly taken from current news (Larian said as much in an interview) but that's where they take their punch from. Like political satire it's mostly hyperbole and fun, but still sometimes thought provoking.
And I guess that's probably exactly what an emperor would sometimes think: "You want me to decide on THAT? Get outta here!" Would have been nice to have that option of telling the politicians to sod off from a roleplaying perspective - with fitting negative consequences, of course
I do enjoy the RTS part myself, but it's hard to deny that it's not quite perfect. By the way, you actually can micromanage quite a lot in dragon form, including using unit abilities and even building units - but its pretty well hidden in hotkey functions.
I could imagine it being a lot more interesting in Multiplayer, when both sides have a dragon and a human mind behind them. I'm curious about D'artagnans impressions.
But yeah, the whole package is a whole lot of fun.
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August 14th, 2013, 16:49
Thanks for the kind comments

GBG - the micromanagement in dragon form is a pain though - you can't select unit types directly at first, so you have to do a blunt 'all nearby' type selection and then tab-cycle through the different unit types in your selection, at which point you can then use the unit's ability. But targeting that ability is sometimes a pain in dragon form, so is building units - it's possible, but not very user-friendly while in dragon form so I found myself having to jump out of dragon form to do that kind of thing.. only the summoning/dispelling restrictions of when you can get out/come into dragon form start getting in the way!

I don't mark them down for it too much - they've done a very good job with the tricky task at hand (must have been a control/UX nightmare to design for), but the control issues were one (but not the only) factor in why I didn't enjoy the RTS sections as much as I do in dedicated RTS games.
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August 14th, 2013, 17:00
I agree the control issue is definitely not perfectly solved - it's something they could reasonably improve in patches.
I almost wish they had stuck to the original aerial combat RTS that the early footage (and the Imperial Edition documentary) show. It would have maybe been a more natural fit to integrate with the "Dragon with jetpack" idea. Vincke posted a long blog about how it wouldn't mesh properly with the strategy level, so it's probably for the better overall, but the RTS element would have been stronger with that idea, I think.
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August 14th, 2013, 17:14
Yeah, I'd not really followed in detail the development of this game, but it does seem to have changed quite a lot looking at preview articles etc. That's a really good sign IMHO of how Larian Studios take feedback and testing seriously - you can see in Dragon Commander several situations where you know they've put a solution in place as a result of feedback. It must take quite a lot of guts, but I think in nearly all cases it was worth it.

The custom campaign is another example - rather than just give us the single player campaign, and RTS multiplayer, they've put a lot of effort into the 'skirmish' equivalent and effectively said 'why don't you try the game with game rules of your choosing and see if you find one you like more than our defaults'. I want to finish a few more original campaign play-throughs first but I'll certainly take a look at this mode in the future (D'artagnan might be covering it too? I don't know!) - I do know they made some big changes related to it in yesterday's patch so it's worth keeping an eye on going forwards.
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August 14th, 2013, 17:26
Thanks Kalniel you did a good job on the review.

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August 14th, 2013, 17:56
I love the political satire and Larian's trademark irreverent wacky humor. it is not meant to be taken on face value/completely seriously but it certainly contains political commentary and the results integrate well with the strategy layer.

Perhaps a good idea would be a sort of escalating seriousness of the issues at hand towards the end of the campaign as not to offset too much the "darkening climax" (such as it is ) of the storyline .

I do love the caricaturing of certain political stereotypes that contain pretty much the whole spectrum of parties/view-types (and their followers). You had your fascist/pious fundamentalist bastard, your lefty treehugger, your traditional right wing capitalist, your
Hmm, Nordic type socialist ? and your crazy no morality science-freak/technoGeek thrown in for good measure… Hilarious

I quite disagree on the Dragon not being powerful enough. After mid chapter 2, having researched everything (and having hundreds of unused rps by the end) you just put on the shield, zipped to the other end of the map, used dread roar + eye of the Patriarch + pillar of flame then mop up = there goes an army. Then if they became dangerous you zipped back to where your army had dug in so the combinations of buff auras and mass healing makes for entrenched position capable of taking multiple sized waves of enemies…

I have no trouble letting the dragon die or get out of the form when wanting to do complex stuff. The 20 recruits cost is paltry once you have enough recruitment centers.

Generally speaking I agree with the overall sentiment though: Larian has a pretty good game on their hands but they could have a great one with some polishing and fine tuning.

Other than bug fixing and patching, fixing AI dumbing out on RTS etc. they should take a look at the aggressiveness of the AI on the strategy map i.e. At no point was i feeling particularly harried as a slow defensive player being able to max everything pretty early and trivializing the end game. Perhaps retune and rethink some wacky strategy to RTS rules when i.e you have a 80% advantage going in and the game is telling you that you have a boatload of units and the defenders a handful, but when the RTS starts you have less than a handful while a huge effing army is barreling down on you coming apparently out of thin air.

That is when I said screw it and put the RTS speed back to slow (I've put it back on Normal when the game was becoming way too easy but this was not worth it )

Still, minor complaints and all, had a great bit of fun. Great treat for the first part of my vacation. Will now be picking up my Divinity 2 replay and finally hope to finish that one at last. I will certainly enter Maxos's temple with a different mindset this time

P.S: Racism and gender/sexuality discrimination not a problem anymore ? Ok (Not systematically perhaps, and we have made some progress there but really more like hypocritically pushing issues under the carpet rather than having quite reached that level of enlightenment as people I am afraid )
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August 14th, 2013, 18:32
Anybody know how this game is selling? While I have zero interest in Dragon Commander personally, I want it to do well enough to not harm Original Sin or later Larian crpgs.
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August 14th, 2013, 19:09
It was #1 and 2 for a few days on steam but dropped relatively quickly. It was still in the top 20 last I checked. OK but not great would be my guess.
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August 14th, 2013, 19:13
I doubt it's selling much. It's at #55 at Amazon.de and ca. #25 on Steam.
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August 14th, 2013, 19:14
Originally Posted by crpgnut View Post
Anybody know how this game is selling? While I have zero interest in Dragon Commander personally, I want it to do well enough to not harm Original Sin or later Larian crpgs.
These aren't sales charts but indicate how many players are playing DC on Steam.
http://steamcharts.com/app/243950#All

You can also see the current top games here:
http://steamcharts.com
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August 14th, 2013, 19:40
Game is around top 50 on steam most played, which is ok but good portion on sales should be on GoG and Larian vault too
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August 14th, 2013, 21:05
Hope it does well for them, at least that it's profitable. Great review btw
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August 14th, 2013, 21:18
I should hope that DOS's future at least is secure, given the successful Kickstarter.

It will be a great pity if they at least don't break even for this one though, after all the work and love they obviously put into it. Especially after being surprisingly well received by the "press" (I have to admit this is the only review I've actually read though)!

Lets hope DOS turns out to be as good as we who backed it hope and it is their break away game…
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August 14th, 2013, 21:21
Originally Posted by Lemonhead View Post
These aren't sales charts but indicate how many players are playing DC on Steam.
http://steamcharts.com/app/243950#All

You can also see the current top games here:
http://steamcharts.com
Holy Shit! Skyrim is still in the top 10; nearly two years after release. It's the only single player game up there. Further looking shows it has never dropped out of the top 10; at least in my quick look.
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August 14th, 2013, 21:23
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
I should hope that DOS's future at least is secure, given the successful Kickstarter.

It will be a great pity if they at least don't break even for this one though, after all the work and love they obviously put into it. Especially after being surprisingly well received by the "press" (I have to admit this is the only review I've actually read though)!

Lets hope DOS turns out to be as good as we who backed it hope and it is their break away game…
Hear, hear.

I'm replaying Divine Divinity and it is SO much better than these indie games I've been playing recently. It's not even a contest. What a fun, fun, game.
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August 14th, 2013, 21:28
Originally Posted by crpgnut View Post
Hear, hear.

I'm replaying Divine Divinity and it is SO much better than these indie games I've been playing recently. It's not even a contest. What a fun, fun, game.
Couldn't agree more. I bought DD again (well I didn't have the HD version anyway), partly as extra support during the KS and replayed it on the spot. Great game and I believe I have come to appreciate it even more now than when I played it back in the day.
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