Dragon Commander, a new game of the Belgium Larian Studios, wasn’t shown to the wide audience on IgroMir. The demonstrations were arranged beforehand and were hold privately for each journalist in a separate room. So imagine: single apartment of the “Aquarium” hotel on the sixth floor. The cooler of the laptop quietly rustles; a huge LCD-TV is on the table. Swen Vincke, the director and founder of Larian, begins showing.
- Have you seen any previews of the Dragon Commander before?
- No, I’ve seen some videos but not the real gameplay.
- So, Dragon Commander, it’s a very important message, it's under construction. This is from the first time we show the game while it’s in the development and I still don’t know why we did this, we did this because we had to show it, this is the same one we’ve shown a few months ago on GamesCom, you could see It if you’d been there. So, Divinity 2 was the story of a last Dragon Knight and this is the story now about the first Dragon Knight, pure, this I all of that.
- So this is like a prequel?
- Yeah, it tells about the early history of Divinity, about the first kingdom. So, this is the Raven, this is your capital ship, on board of which you will take many decisions. The idea of the game is that you are the Dragon Commander, so you can’t say whether this is an RPG, or action, or a strategy game, this is really a bit of everything and the goal is actually that you feel like the commander, the emperor, you make political decisions, ethical decisions, tactical and strategically decisions..
- So this is like a meta-game?
- Yeah, exactly. It’s quite extensive, actually in the level of details that are present there. So I’ll give you a couple of examples what you can do. And this is one of my generals. The game is under construction, so we took it from Divinity 2, he will not be in the game, this is concept. This guy is nagging about my wife and my wife, hence, to be decreed because I’m an emperor, so I’m gonna tell him “you should treat her with respect”, and when he speaks to me it goes in the funny way “I can feel it in my bones as much as much as I can see ten hers”, so he says “that make no bones about” and when I go to visit my wife... She is an undead (with apples). So she was a part of a package: I made a political deal with undead and the part of that package was that I had to marry their princess, so there are multiple factions in the game, so there are all factions that players met in the first Divinity, so the council of seven factions is also present in the game.
- We can choose another wife, didn't we?
- Yeah, you can marry to a lizard, to a imp, to a human, to an elf, to... I forget a couple. So you can marry various races and life is very interesting. So she has agenda. It’s like space opera almost: each character has a story behind them, you can influence on that storyline, they also hate, love, take care about each other and there is also a lot of stuff going between them, that progresses in the game. What I forgot to say, the game is turn based in some way, each turn is unique: new decisions, new changes and new developments of the character are made in it. The decision of the day is that she wants me to get rid of dwarfs in the city called Deepspire and the reason of that is she wants to bring her people back to life again, to make them dead... oh... un-dead. So, un-undead, alive. Actually she doesn’t care about the dwarfs. I need to think and gonna talk to one of my advisors who is an imp and argue back to my wife. He is like Spock from Enterprise aboard my ship. So I ask him: “What’s up with dwarfs and the undead.” He said: “Well, you have to choose, my friend. You have to choose between undead, who, if you will give them what they want, will give you their army and I have seen this army in action, it’s a pretty good army and it won’t be bad to have it. But what if you do this with dwarf, I don’t care about them, but dwarfs are the source of technologies and they are useful for us and if we gonna make them mad we won’t get any that technologies.” So we have to make decisions all the time. I tell my wife that she gonna have what she wants. She’s very happy, she thanks me, she gives me a card. And a card is like a gambling mechanic that shows you what you can collect by doing favors…
- What kind of card? Is it looks like "Magic: the Gathering" cards? What can these cards do in game?
- So I have a deck of cards, the card she has given me gives an access to that army, another card I have been given by the imps gives me five Imp Busters and Imp Busters are like a nuclear weapon that we can use, so if we go to the strategy map…
- Is this your deck?
- Yeah, I have deck of cards. I have the cards that I can reuse, the ones that I can use just once, I gain them by doing a variety of things, so people can give them to me, sometimes I can invest in getting something, so a lot of ways how you can do this. Again: this is work in progress, it illustrates concept and it’s based on the board game that we’ve made in the office actually, from which is entire thing started. So there are multiple countries, these countries generate resources, with resources I can buy various research stuff.
- So what for pictograms?
- The pictograms represent unit types that you see, but this is gonna be different, right now you will do it like this. You can choose one unite, Mobile Spawner, that will create light fighters for me. So. here is entire tech tree, that show the units you can buy, researches you bring to your fleet. So, for instance, I can declare my tag here, what I can do is to play a card and choose an army, I’m gonna bring that undead army with me and also choose those Imp Busters, so I’ll be able to use the nuclear weapon in combat. So when I start fighting, when I enter my combat mode I can select generals who can join me, these generals have their own attributes, the powers and so on. This is general Pink Eye and then eventually we will get into combat. What you see here it’s not a mission we’ve selected, it’s a tutorial mission made in between to explain to a journalist how the mechanic works. The first thing you will see is my jet pack. And the jet pack allows me to accelerate, also allows me to slow down the time, so I’m gonna get in kind of “bullet time” that allows me to easily navigate in the combat. Jet pack also allows me to accelerate extremely rapidly, so I can move from one side of the world to another. So this is where the enemy Spawner unit is, right now he is spawning more of those creatures, so we can do something with this, we can use those Imp Busters and this will be like one shot kill that will destroy them.
- And in the right corner – are there super abilities?
- Yes. For example this was my Imp Buster, that I’ve just used and this can reflect skills, normally, in the final game those Imp Busters will be hanging under the dragon like the missiles. So, now we are in the mission that we’ve selected, let’s look what’s going on here. So this is part of my base, this is our flying platform, it has a spawner onboard and whole bunch of anti-air guns.
- So it spawns units and has defense, didn't it?
- Yep, and this is kind of a tank, this is my battle ship, this is my mobile spawner, which I took with me, here are some fighters that are joining me and these guys are the part of an undead army that I brought, they are joining me because I’ve played the card. So we can choose one of my generals and I can order him to go and attack, they are gonna to execute and they will engage with the target I’ll give them. In the final version, or in the version that you can see in our office, you can also zoom out, so you can get an overview mode and also you can control everything there.
- Like in RTS?
- Completely, it really looks like a real time strategy. But you can join the action and fly on your dragon.
- And the goal is to destroy the spawners, the enemy spawners?
- No, there is whole bunch of units, there are not only spawners, this is like you have infantry, you have tanks, you have rocket launchers, artillery as well, you have all these types of units, you have them in the game.
- So you must defeat you enemy?
- Of course, you have to destroy the base; ultimately what you have to do is to capture the country, that’s your goal. And to capture it you have to defeat the enemy defending it, when there is no defense you can just take it. So this is the enemy’s platform, it’s also movable. We are going to win this game easily, because he is attacking my platform, and my platform has an aerial defense. So I’m gonna send my fleet, the undead will take care of it, I’m gonna send my entire fleet on this platform, the units will join the battle.
- And how can you lose?
- They have to destroy my platform.
- Can they kill the dragon?
- You will also fail in the case of dragon’s death? Yeah?
- Sure, but right now we allow you to respawn as a dragon but I can’t say exactly about this feature in the final version. So you see the enemy’s platform, you can see that it has some defense units, but they will be busy with the guys I’ve sent there, my fleet will be attacking it giving me an opportunity. So I use my slow down skill, I deal with some targets and then I can use my nuclear bomb to finish with the entire platform. The threat has basically been eliminated. So everything you’ve expected from an RTS is present in the game. The units also have skills and anti-dragon capabilities. So little guys have a slowdown beam, it is small, may be 1%, but there are lot of them. And it’s very painful. There are units who have harpoons, so they shot harpoons and it’s a good way to have me down, you should call for help, have some machine-gun units who will come and have those guys destroyed. Actually it’s a match between you and your fleet in your quest to defeat the enemy. And that’s it, the concept!
- It’s cool. Will it be possible to customize you hero, your dragon?
- And what about other possibilities? There is a global map, some real time maps and an RPG element...
- It's quite a lot actually, you will be very surprised; it’s almost impossible to show it to you now. But we are RPG makers, at heart, and we won't forgot our roots. The characters are extremely realistic developed, much better than in the previous games, of course we have to finalize it but we will have much more choices and consequences than other RPG ever in this game. And the reason why is the way we’ve constructed the game.
- It’s just a demo level?
- No, it’s like a demo. It’s just a vertical slice – a technical term for development, where we can say whether we will do this game or we won’t do this game, so we decided to do.
- So it’s not even the alpha-version?
- I understand that now you can’t talk even about the concrete release date...
- Approximately somewhere the next year.
- How big is the world, how long will you have to play to complete the game?
- It’s dynamic, the units fight back, so it’s not like in other games, where you capture the territories for ever. You can lose them.
- So they can fight back?
- Yeah, they can fight their territories back. You can complete single player, I think for original Divinity it might take 15 hours, for the second part approximately 20-25 hours and it’s difficult to say about this one, we gonna do everything to make the game fun, and then we will see how long will it take.
- And what about new units? Will they be available by improving technologies?
- So it’s the cool part, where the RPG part becomes so cool, because we have romance, faction relations, political stuff going on and a lot of these gonna be connected with units. If you going to be closer to undead, who are king of religious fundamentalists in the game you will get access to new necromantic magic and if you going to have relations with imps, who are mad scientists and are more liberal, you will be able to use all branch of hi-tech stuff: maby fragile, maby with tendency to explode, but still very powerful. Units will be unlocked not only by making investments, researches, but also according to the choices that you make.
- I see that there are many ways to play.
- Yes, there are lots of cards, lots of types of units, a lot of story. That develops gradually and that all can give you a really good mix.
- You can be in the alliance with a lot of factions but you are always a dragon, am I right?
- You are Dragon Knight. It’s like in the Divinity 2: you are the dragon and the knight, but in the combat you’re always a dragon.
- Can you be a undead-dragon, or dragon of another race, or dragon is always naturally a dragon?
- No, there are different types of dragons you can play, but in the multiplayer, not in the single player probably. Because the single player is based on the story and in the multiplayer you can choose any of the factions that you are able to choose in the story mode.
- A few words about the multiplayer, what kind will it be? Will there be a strategy or just a dog-fight?
- No-no, it’s gonna be a cool thing, it’s gonna be the entire thing. Everybody has his own hub and from that hub you can make decisions, you can still play the card games and every turn they fight against each other, or fight what they select.
- So the multiplayer is not only action?
- Yes. Yes it’s a meta-game also.
- The meta-game consists of some things that need pretty much time, and how long will the players be playing it?
- The meta-game? The players will have options to customize the sessions like they want. They can set a game and set some random cards, so no restrictions, they can set what units to buy. There will be all types of customization, what will seem to be necessary to us we will add there. I play Axis & Allies game, it’s a type of board game, do you know it? Actually these are two Russian friends in Belgium and we book weekends where we want our families to go away, we stay alone for two days and we can play all weekends long. That’s what we want you to do; we want you to set a campaign that you can play in the multiplayer for a couple of days.
- So this is like a big digital board game with some action elements?
- No, but the meta-game is like a big digital board game with some dialogues inside and then you have an RTS.
- So it’s just a big meta-game with lots of possibilities? And platforms, right now you are developing a PC version and will the game be released on Xbox and PS?
- It’s going to come out on the consoles also but I can’t definitely say on what platforms.
- Thank you for this really interesting information, it was cool!
talking Kirill Ulezko
Audio transcription Alexandr Korshun
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