Honestly, this is probably more for myself than anyone else, but I wanted to write out what I’d really love to see in a hypothetical Divinity: Dragon Commander 2. I really loved the first game, and it was an especially unique offering, but I felt like it did a lot of things okay, rather than great. And I mean, that made it a very interesting game. It combined a lot of things that other games didn’t. But I wish it had had more polish, and in some cases, had a different direction entirely.
The part I disliked the most were the RTS battles. It was awesome being able to transform into a dragon and rain destruction down upon your foes, but, for me, at least, I had a hard-time multitasking, and I’d have to switch back and forth between dragon-mode and building new units. If they keep the basic idea, I’d appreciate a way to pause the action, zoom out from the dragon, give orders and such, and return to the game without getting rid of my dragon.
What I’d really prefer, though, is a RTS system more like Rome: Total War than Warcraft. Dragon Commander’s RTS felt very hectic, and it was bizarrely possible to overcome a massive disadvantage in battle by rushing to grab recruitment citadels and building enough turrets to delay the enemy long enough to build up a giant swarm of units to overwhelm them with. I never felt like I was outwitting the enemy, like I did in Rome, where I was able to pin down their infantry before wheeling around my cavalry to attack them from behind and cause them to rout. I was just building lots of units and telling them to attack anything in their path.
Another thing I disliked was that, with a few exceptions, the units felt very boring. I couldn’t tell you know the difference between Armor and a Devastator. Now, that may be my fault for not caring enough, but when I could easily win battles without knowing, what incentive was there? Naval and air units did have more personality, and I think part of that was that there were fewer of them, and they had more defined roles. Zeppelins were good support, Bombers were anti-ground and -sea, Imp Fighters were anti-air. Simple. But on the ground, there are Hunters and Troopers and Grenadiers, and a lot of them look pretty samey, and you’re unlikely to be close enough to tell the difference easily. Plus their names just weren’t very intuitive. I’d rather have names like “archers” or “clerics,” than “Grenadiers” and “Shamans.” Something that tells me what their basic function is.
I also disliked that I could build the same units anywhere. There were no Imp only or Undead only units, and I think that would have added personality to units while also giving me a reason to care who lived in the provinces I was conquering. I feel like I’m going to make a lot of comparisons to Total War, so I apologize for that now, but it’d be nice if each race were comparable to a faction in Total War, with the obvious difference that you could control multiple ones. So, for example, the Dwarves would excel at infantry, while the Imps would have the best siege weapons and aircraft.
Basically what I’m picturing for the RTS is a very Total War-style set-up, where your available units are what you brought with you, plus mercenaries from cards, and they take the form of groups of soldiers. They would still have researchable special abilities, like in Dragon Commander, but rather than one set of units for everyone, each of the races would have faction-specific units. In some cases, the differences might only really be cosmetic, but it would be interesting to, for example, have to conquer some Undead lands in order to produce the knights you need to really round out your army. I think this would make the RTS battles feel more epic, the units would be more memorable, and there would be a greater sense of accomplishment.
I’d still like to keep deployable generals and the dragon commander, although I’m uncertain how easy the dragon would be to balance with limited unit battles. But I did like being able to select a specific general to auto-resolve battles for you. I just wish there was a bit of an RPG element to your generals. They could gain a few traits from certain story paths, but I wish they could have gained experience from battles, too. I was disappointed when I was unable to make my generals any better at naval battles by letting them command naval battle after battle. There should be limits, so you can’t just train up a god of war to auto-win every battle for you, but I’d like there to be more of a connection there. Maybe even have a selection of generals, a number of which are automatically assigned to you each game, and the rest find work for your enemies, so that you have to watch out for that, as well.
The Raven part of the game I have the fewest issues with. I just wish it were more extensive. The wives’ stories end too quickly. And once they’re done, they’re just ornaments. I feel like an empress should be a powerful diplomatic tool. Can’t I send her to the lizard lords to tell them how much I support them? Maybe sending her to a faction would create a mission prompt that, if satisfied, would reward you in some way, sort of like sending a delegation to a foreign power in Tropico 5. Similarly, it’d be nice to get randomly-generated missions from various factions and powers that reward you.
I love the political decisions, although I wish there were more effects than just gold and luck and population. (Why did reforming the tax code cause 12% of my empire to vanish, anyway?) They did a great job of having it feel like real decisions rather than moral choices, which I especially liked. Some factions liked your choice, others disliked it, but it never told you you were good or evil for making it.
Research in the game never really struck a chord with me. I’m not really sure why. One thing I’d like to change is to make unit unlocks tied to buildings, rather than research, and keep research limited to unit abilities, although it might be worthwhile to make buildings researchable, too. I felt there were too many dragon abilities, though, and since you can only use nine at a time, most ended up being worthless. I’d prefer it if there were more tiers, and you could upgrade abilities to keep them relevant.
The last big section of the game is the turn-based strategy map, and again, I’d like it to be more like Total War. The way it is now feels very board gamey, which is certainly simpler, but there’s no need for simple when the computer is handling all the math in the background. One thing I’d like to do is increase the numbers for gold and research. When an expensive unit costs 20 gold, there’s not room for lots of different values of gold in provinces. I’d rather have expensive units cost around 2,000 gold, so that provinces can produce more precise amounts of gold, rather than just 1, 2, 3, 4, &c. Same goes for research.
In addition to this, the one building per province rule feels really restrictive. I don’t mind keeping a cap on buildings, but expand it a little bit, so that some provinces have more. This can be balanced with requiring certain buildings to produce certain units, e.g. a stable for cavalry, or a hanger or air units, so that you need the space for military focused provinces, while letting you focus on the economy in provinces not on the front lines. Let me set up dockyards and roads and such rather than just a gold mine, literally anywhere I want.
I do like the way that the board is split up into provinces, though, and unit travel is based on that, and units fight if they’re in the same province. I’m not sure whether it’d work with more Total War-inspired units and armies, though. I also like that it allows for multi-army battles without any allies. I definitely think that would be extremely fun to keep.
I mentioned this before, but to reiterate, regarding unit construction, I’d prefer it to be based on the province’s race. Maybe even have some units limited to certain happiness levels and above, so that you can’t build the best units unless a race strongly supports you.
I think that’s about everything. If you’ve ever played Dragon Commander and have some thoughts of your own, let me know.