Have You Played… Dragon Commander?

dragoncommander

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

It’s the one where you can marry a skeleton and until Divinity: Original Sin 2 came along, it was probably Larian’s strangest interpretation not just of the undead, but of the world they created as a setting for all things Divinity. Dragon Commander is very strange.

The first time I played Divinity: Original Sin, I had played Dragon Commander moments before. I was at a preview event in a Walkabout bar in London, tucked in a small back room where Larian had brought two games to show to the press. I was there for Dragon Commander, with its weird politics that included capitalist dwarves and reactionary reptiles. It looked deliciously bizarre and far more appealing than yet another isometric RPG.

As soon as I actually played Original Sin, I realised that was the game I should have been paying attention to all along, and history is on my side. Dragon Commander, if it’s remembered at all, is a strange interlude in Larian’s recent ascent to RPG mastery. I choose to remember it as a bold experiment, the sort of game that if I’d played it on my Amiga decades ago would seem like a weird cult classic. I’d want a remake.

The RTS sections annoyed me from the first minute to the last but there’s something in that relatively simple political strategy game that I’d like to see revisited. Perhaps not by Larian, who may not remember the game as fondly as I do, but by someone, somewhere, somewhen.

29 Comments

  1. darkath says:

    This game was honestly quite bad. It had the interesting lore of Divinity, and tons of ideas, but not all were good and most were poorly executed.

    They basically tried to cram 4 games into one :
    A political, branching visual novel where you have to make different more or less interesting choices.
    A boardgame on the campaign map where you compete against other factions to conquer provinces and gain new units (i think ?)
    A RTS where you control an army of war machines to fight against mostly identical war machines
    And finally an action game where you control a dragon with jetpacks in the middle of the battle where you’re supposed to give orders to your war machines.

    As the article says it’s an oddball game which best exists in your fogged memories rather than on your screen. But at least now i understand the references to war machines in DO:S1 and 2 and the lore behind the lizard people.

    • Sui42 says:

      not gonna lie, this SOUNDS amazing. I guess it’s a jack of all trades, master of none situation though?

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        It’s more like a jack of one trade, and a disaster at most.

        It has its moments, but a lot of the game’s controls are wonky, RTS work from a flying dragon is awkward at best, and the economy/turn-based section is flat as anything.

        The plot/VN/whatever sections were fun though. I mostly slogged through the rest for that part.

      • Azhrarn says:

        Very much so, the dragon controls feel quite good (a giant dragon with a jet pack is as cool as it sounds), and the visual novel parts tell an interesting (if convoluted) story, but the RTS and campaign parts are what lets the game down, and those are a rather important side of the game.

      • Yglorba says:

        As I understand it, they rushed this game out the door so its sales could help fund Divinity: Original Sin; a huge amount was cut from this game as a result (including boss battles.)

        OTOH given what a classic Original Sin is, I don’t think most people would consider it a bad trade-off. And I don’t think Dragon Commander is terrible – it’s a decent game with an interesting idea. Being able to just say “screw this, imma dragon” is sometimes exactly what RTS game needs. It just has a lot of rough edges.

  2. CodyJarrett says:

    If it was a weird cult classic on the Amiga then it probably would have looked a lot like Dragon’s Breath/Dragon Lord.

    • owningxylophone says:

      I love you!

      I used to play that game all the time at a friends house when I was younger but I never knew what it was called. I’ve spent too many hours trying to track it down and then you serve it up to me. You sir are a legend.

    • cauldron says:

      Dragon’s Breath !
      The game I want a remake !
      So many hours passed raising my little dragons, raiding the towns, dying before the barbarians, concocting potions,…

      That game was excellent, I don’t understand why it’s not more famous.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    I enjoyed this game mostly for the sorta-kinda-random-ish story bits between battles. Make decisions! Talk to people with conflicting views! Lore! Fun!

    But then the RTS was a mess in all regards and the turnbased stuff was mostly just playing to attrition.

    The marriage/dealing with wife parts were fun. As opposed to most games where the princess was a prize and then immediately dropped, here she pops in for free as a political marriage, and you have to, you know, live with being married to someone who has fundamental disagreements with you probably, and her own goals and hopes. That was super great.

    Weirdly in Divinity world, I think this game is set ages and ages before the others, which means all that tech… disappeared? People actually followed through with their promise to just destroy it and go back to medieval? Weird.

    • Azhrarn says:

      The Dragon Knights disappeared, the species is killed off by some temporal shenanigans if I recall correctly, so from a lore perspective, a lot of Dragon Commander never actually happened.
      But I could be mistaken, Larian was never one for keeping the lore of all their games a cohesive whole.

      The Divinity Original Sin games are for the most part separate in terms of lore from the older games like Ego Draconis and Dragon Commander.

      • Archonsod says:

        It’s the other way around – Dragon Commander takes place long before the original Divine Divinity. Divinity 2 is a couple of centuries after Divine Divinity, and the Original Sin games are likewise set a century or two after Divinity 2 (and a century or so between each other).
        What happens to the technology and why it no longer functions is dealt with in Dragon Commander (mild spoiler – technically since it’s dependent on a demon it’s not really technology as such).

        • homuncuIus says:

          According to the timeline Larian wrote on the kickstarter for Original Sin 1, Dragon Commander is the first game chronologically, followed by OS1 an unknown amount of time later, and Divine Divinity takes place about a thousand years after that. OS2 sits either just before or just after Beyond Divinity, depending on which source you read (just before makes more sense but according to an employee on steam forums it’s 4 years after). It seems the Original Sin naming convention refers more to the style of gameplay than chronological order.

          In any case, Divinity lore has never been the most rigid, which is part of the fun in my opinion.

          • Caiman says:

            Yes, there’s a sword you can find in Original Sin called the “Sword of the Holy flame” which is described as belonging to the legendary future Dragon Knight (the one you play in Divinity 2). It’s a bit fourth wall breaking, very Larian.

  4. waltC says:

    I was never interested in this one…the only Larian title I never bought–just wasn’t appealing as I found it to be on the juvenile side, at least graphically.

  5. Danarchist says:

    My friends and me play this occasionally when we are having a coop weekend (e.g. the wives are at a quilting event) and it is just as bad as stated here. However I still find it fun.
    In a world of video games with high production value, solid presentation, and very little actual fun this game stands out to me as…er…unique.
    I mean its not something we play for hours on end, but it is far more interesting than something like agents of mayhem etc.

    • April March says:

      In my mind your wives being at a quilting event means they’re spending their entire weekend playing an infrequent special event on Overwatch or something like it.

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    Neurotic says:

    Well I liked it. I was already a Div convert (a Divhead, if you will) from Div Div, Beyond Div and Div 2, so I felt like this was a nice diversion. I still wheel it out now and then and mess around. Good stuff.

    • Archonsod says:

      I liked it too. Don’t really get the criticisms of the RTS section, the AI was somewhat simplistic but beyond that it was pretty decent (and the whole ‘command your forces while actually controlling a unit on the battlefield is probably the best implementation I’ve seen since Battlezone). The only real complaint I had was that the Dragon tends to outpace your army in terms of power, to the point you end up with missions where you can largely ignore your troops entirely.

      • malkav11 says:

        Honestly the fact that you can basically just wreck armies with your dragon is the only thing saving the RTS part of the game for me at all. Unfortunately that’s the lion’s share of the game. :(

  7. ByrdWhyrm says:

    I really liked the political drama side of the game,and I liked flying around as a dragon. The RTS side of things was way too basic to be fun, though. Any battle could be one just by building the largest blob of units and dumping it on your enemies. I’d be fascinated to see Larian try something like this again, but with more polish.

  8. Crafter says:

    I played this game because of the fond memories I had of Ego Draconis.

    I don’t remember it well, I vaguely remember using cheats to make the boring parts of this game more palatable (the RTS IIRC) and let me enjoy the parts I liked.

  9. vorador says:

    Yep. As everybody else said, it was a weird mix and some parts didn’t work as well as others, starting by the RTS which was pretty weak.

    But the political part of the game was really interesting. Larian knows how to write absurd and/or crazy characters and storylines.

  10. April March says:

    I have it, but I never played it. :(
    I do still have a large picture of the Undead Princess in my desktop wallpaper rotation.

  11. LuNatic says:

    The concept is great, and the shipboard management stuff is really interesting. But the RTS battles are utterly terrible. Even classifying it as strategy is being generous. It is simple spam, crush by weight of numbers style. No nuance whatsoever. The flying rocket dragon thing is interesting, but rarely had an actual effect on the outcome of battles. Given that you will be spending at least 3/4 of your playtime in the battles, it really ruined the entire game for me.

  12. bill says:

    Am I the only one who finds the entire Divinity series somewhat confusing? It’s the weird naming I think.
    Plus the fact that some are considered great and some very not.

    I keep reading an article about one of the divinity games and then finding it’s a totally different one to the one I thought.

    Divine Divinity
    Beyond Divinity
    Divinity II: Ego Draconis
    Divinity II: Flames of Vengeance
    Divinity: Dragon Commander
    Divinity: Original Sin
    Divinity: Original Sin II

  13. Zydrate says:

    Dragon Commander was a great game but the RTS was a huge pain in the ass and basically a massive brick wall I couldn’t get past once the world itself opened up after you take over the initial island. I really wanted to see the skeleton princess’ story unfold but after a few failed battles from a severe difficulty spike in the RTS segments, I was out of resources and couldn’t do anything.

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