Dragon Commander Preview from E3 2012 -- Who Said Dragons Can't Wear Jet Packs?By Jason Wishnov - Posted Jun 15, 2012
E3 2012 was criticized by many for being a bit too "cinematic," usually a marketing buzzword for scripted, linear experiences that shuffle players from one expensive cutscene to the next. One had to look a bit off the beaten path for something unique, and I found a bit of a gem out at the Larian Games booth: Dragon Commander, a prequel to the Divinity series.
The best way to describe the title is a mashup of a board game, RTS, and third-person action. The structure of the game is framed as the task of conquering somewhere around 35 of the world map's countries by defeating them in direct combat. However, politics play a role: countries will revolt or rally behind your actions in the story, which may include marrying a princess for civil stability, or choosing to elect a certain race's councilor to the throne room. Often performing these tasks grants special cards which can be played during battle to gain a tactical advantage.
The RTS portion was surprisingly competent; one of the lead gameplay designers is a huge StarCraft 2 veteran, and we spent a little too long (as in, I was late to my next appointment) speaking directly of the design elements lifted and altered from Blizzard's seminal series. As in StarCraft, you control one of three factions (each with a specific dragon commander), laying down factories and attempting to eke out an economic victory over your foes. The skies light up with energy beams, dragons, and warships cruising above the clouds.
The real difference from the standard RTS formula is the ability at any point to drill down into the view of the dragon commander himself, an immensely powerful unit that you directly control from a third-person perspective. The dragon has a jetpack (when I asked why, one of the designers shrugged, "He needs it"), and can execute devastating attacks on enemy units.
Of course, in this view, you won't be able to control your army from a larger perspective, so ideally players will be constantly switching between the two views to effectively defeat an opposing army. It was complex, to be sure, but ultimately rewarding if played well.
Dragon Commander is being targeted for a Q1 2013 release on the PC; fans of genre combination should take notice.