Divinity: Dragon Commander - Welcome to the ship of strawmen!

GabeZhul

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So, I got my hands on Divinity Dragon Commander, and I had some fun with it. The RTS and strategy aspects are both decent, though a few design choices are questionable, but as some might have already heard, the game's biggest selling point is its diplomacy/adventure element and I found myself having quite a few issues with it.

Namely, you are supposed to be the emperor, the man making big choices. However I found that there is simply no nuance to said choices. You always have two choices, whether we are talking about legislations or interacting with your generals, and they always end in someone being unhappy even in the most trivial and obvious of matters.

Then there is the issue of all your advisors and even some of your generals being ridiculous caricature strawmen of real world political and ideological stances stretched so far so that all of them become unappealing. In detail:

-The undead advisor is a religious fanatic who is a strawman of the Christian fundamentalist right wing, so you don't really need much initiative to hate him, especially since he will go against any form of civil right, gay right or just blatantly any proposal made by either the elves, lizards or imps (aka, 60% of all proposals off the bat).

-The elf advisor is a strawman of liberalism and the green party, and you will dislike him for being a huge-ass hypocrite (advocating gay rights and then hiding an elven nobleman who kills gay people, classy).

-The dwarf advisor is a strawman of conservatism and corporate interest in politics and funnily enough practically the most neutral character.

-The lizard advisor is a strawman of the democratic/egalitarian left and you will dislike her for aggressively advocating democracy in the middle of the war, but at least she is not a dick who will blame one of your generals for the damage some assassins done when they tried to kill his daughter, so there's that. It also seems the developers really liked her since she has the most reasonable personality by faaaaaar, so there's that.

-The imp advisor is a strawman of the scientific community, advocating the stereotype of scientist having no morality and only caring about results, and while the guy himself is not unlikeable, his stereotype is and he is pretty much a wild-card who can react in completely unexpected ways to any sort of proposal.

-Your general Catherine is an archetypal strawman feminist who you will hate because she is, well, a strawman feminist advocating that men a pigs and women are perfect and has an attitude where I really wanted to refuse even her most reasonable proposals simply because she was a rude, overbearing *****.

-Your general Scarlett is a gay advocate and oh boy she won't even shut up about it once she brings it up, demanding that "you" to do something about it right on the spot while, if you somehow forgot, you are in the middle of a continental war.

So yeah, not exactly a likable bunch. The bigger issue, however, is that most of the situations these characters present to you are blatant extremes and often make no sense in context. For example, your first choice of legislation is about conscription, which fits the situation really well, since you are in war and all. Then what is your second decision about? Guess.
...
It's gay marriage. Completely out of left field at the very beginning of the story. Worse, this is not the last time you are going to hear about gays in this game, oh no. In fact, after a while I was literally facepalming from the sheer number of times the issue comes up, and any time you try to make any sort of tolerant choice, the undead will curse you and you will have a permanent luck decrease in all future battles affecting your auto-resolve chances, and if you keep repeatedly pissing off the undead by not being a religious zealot, those maluses keep adding up to the point where they can make the end-game nigh unwinnable. Need I remind you, none of the other factions have such universal maluses associated with them.

And once again we are back to the binary choices. Most of these issues would have been greatly lessened if not outright eliminated if only the protagonist would have had multiple choices. Hell, even if there was only a slider that you could use to specify in which time-frame some policies would be implemented would have helped. Instead your choices usually break down to "Allow gay marriage RIGHT NOW, EVERYWHERE!" or "NEVER EVER allow gay marriage EVER!", which is hardly a nuanced system or shares any sort of resemblance with actual decision making.

In conclusion, I would say the guys at Larian Studios simply bit off more than they could chew. The system looks really impressive and the voice acting and models still make the dialogs somewhat enjoyable, but the reliance of over-exaggerated caricatures instead of actual political and sociological ideas is just distracting and silly to the point it undermines the entire concept of the game.
 

Zeckt

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Nov 10, 2010
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What in the world? I thought that game was about dragon battles, not politics.
 

Danceofmasks

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Zeckt said:
What in the world? I thought that game was about dragon battles, not politics.
Nah ... here is a game where you can marry a skeleton with lipstick on.
...
Seriously, though ... the undead princess is the best written.
<3 Ophelia.
 

Eduku

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You seem to be under the impression that the game was intended to take these issues seriously. In a Larian Studios games, that is always a mistake, their games are never meant to be taken fully seriously. I would have thought the dragon jetpacks and the skeleton princess would have been good indications.
 

endtherapture

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Nov 14, 2011
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Yeah Larian don't write super serious Game of Thrones style games, they're always a bit tongue in cheek and with witty, subversive humour writing taking on the tropes of the genre.
 

Smooth Operator

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Actually RTS is the lowest point of that game, the rest is pretty good as long as you understand that the presentation is highly exaggerated, you make decisions on the silliest of comments and you don't even need to listen to everyone heck you could skip through every conversation and just pick at will.

But I will say that it's out of place, essentially they built a high fantasy world then laced it with real world Fox News drivel instead of actually taking the time to make unique issues of their world, when I buy a game called Dragon Commander I really don't want it smeared with that sort of bullshit.
 

woodaba

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May 31, 2011
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Funny thing is, most real life politicians (and I've met a lot of them) ARE strawmen/women, so I think Larian hit the nail on the head with that one.
 

Smeatza

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Dec 12, 2011
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The usage of strawman is incorrect in this thread.
Caricature is the right word.
It would only be strawmen if the game was trying to play off that's how said groups behave in real life.
And it all seems very tongue in cheek to me.
 

Jandau

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Dec 19, 2008
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But they are SUPPOSED to be strawmen, exaggerated caricatures of their respective political and ideological standpoints. That's the intended effect, and as such it works. It's poking fun at these issues, or to be more specific, the way these issues are presented and discussed in the real world by pointing out how absurd some of them sound when juxtaposed against a fantasy world.

Granted, you might still not like it because it's simply not your cup of tea, but I'd say they managed to do what they set out with that particular aspect of the game...
 

GabeZhul

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In retrospect I might have been a little too critical on the game, but it still doesn't change that there are still plenty of strawmen to be found here.

However, I think I need to clarify the way I use the term "strawman" here. I do not refer to the common logical fallacy and loathed argumentative trick but drawing a parallel with the "strawman feminist" archetype (which has a nice example in the game, btw). In the same way we have the strawman religious fundamentalist, the strawman coservative capitalist, the strawman amoral scientist and the strawman feminist. Weirdly, the "good guys", aka, elves, lizards Scarlet (aka, the gay advocate) are not strawmans or even caricaturized in any way. Go figure.

They would be caricatures if they applied modern political ideologies to the problems to a fantasy-world just to see how they would fare, but instead they are all about actual 20th/21th century political issues. Gay rights, women's rights, euthanasia, legalization of marijuana, unionization, health-care etc. What we see is practically showing off the worst extremities of all (or at least most) ideologies present and their silliest and/or most enraging arguments while completely neglecting any kind of moderate versions of the same ideologies, and I am just always miffed by such black-and-white approach.

But most importantly, these issues only bothered me a little since they are immersion-breaking and kind of annoying after a while. What really irritated the hell out of me to no end was, as I have already said, the binary choice system, and I stopped my second playthrough because of one such issue.

On my first game, on casual (in order to familiarize myself with the system) I finished the game relatively quickly, so quickly in fact that I never got Catherine's final events. In short:
She recognized that the soldiers were raping everyone they could get their hands on and wanted to punish them, so I gave her the nod and she began hanging them rapists. Then she comes around next turn and demands that I replace 50% of my officers with women.

Two options: say yes or tell her that officership in the the army is not about gender but merits and making an arbitrary rule like that is stupid. I wholeheartedly agreed. Her reaction was to call my character a sexist pig and then next turn she declared that she would start an academy for women. And the biggest joke? I found that to be a great idea and was waiting for a prompt for my character to commend her and offer assistance in funding, but instead she once again called him a sexist scumbag and ended the event-chain with that.

You want to see a strawman feminist? Look. No. Further. -.-'
 

The Funslinger

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Sep 12, 2010
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Danceofmasks said:
Zeckt said:
What in the world? I thought that game was about dragon battles, not politics.
Nah ... here is a game where you can marry a skeleton with lipstick on.
...
Seriously, though ... the undead princess is the best written.
<3 Ophelia.
It is a game where you do stuff like that, and give dragons jetpacks or something.

Not supposed to be the most serious thing ever :D
 

veloper

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Jan 20, 2009
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The TS has been trolled succesfully by a computer game. +1 Larian.
I think I may want to pick this game up once it's on a 50% sale.
 

Ruzinus

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There were a few instances where I wished there was a middle option (IE, allow army to rape, or hang the rapists... whatever happened to jail or castration?)

But for the most part it was a lot of fun - including trying to balance approval ratings. Though, ultimately I abdicated to an elected president and really really pissed off most of the races in the process. Think I finished with undead at 30%.
 

5ilver

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Aug 25, 2010
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I don't get it either. I guess they wanted to start the game off with a bit of humor but forgot to develop the actual game afterwards.
 

Frankster

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Heh, honestly this council of political caricatures makes me wanna buy the game now.

Sucks there only seems to be 2 options to every dilemnna though.
 

TheBelgianGuy

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Or, you know, accept that some studios have 1/50th of the budget EA gives out even just for marketing of one game, and learn to enjoy life.
 

VassalofBahamut

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It certainly is a fun way of seeing your latent prejudices play out in such a scenario. I usually heavily favor the undead and the elves (of all things) to the detriment of everyone else.

Perhaps Larian is simulating how political issues would appear to near-immortal Dragon Emperors: a bunch of ridiculous, self-important officials blabbering on about pointless issues, looking to you to solve their dilemmas but invariably blaming you if something goes wrong as a result of their faulty logic.

That rage and irritation you feel at the "strawmen" is nothing more than the irritation a dragon feels when being forced to listen to his "advisors" prattle on.

At least the fantastic General Edmund is on hand to keep me sane.
 

rbstewart7263

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Nov 2, 2010
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GabeZhul said:
In retrospect I might have been a little too critical on the game, but it still doesn't change that there are still plenty of strawmen to be found here.

However, I think I need to clarify the way I use the term "strawman" here. I do not refer to the common logical fallacy and loathed argumentative trick but drawing a parallel with the "strawman feminist" archetype (which has a nice example in the game, btw). In the same way we have the strawman religious fundamentalist, the strawman coservative capitalist, the strawman amoral scientist and the strawman feminist. Weirdly, the "good guys", aka, elves, lizards Scarlet (aka, the gay advocate) are not strawmans or even caricaturized in any way. Go figure.

They would be caricatures if they applied modern political ideologies to the problems to a fantasy-world just to see how they would fare, but instead they are all about actual 20th/21th century political issues. Gay rights, women's rights, euthanasia, legalization of marijuana, unionization, health-care etc. What we see is practically showing off the worst extremities of all (or at least most) ideologies present and their silliest and/or most enraging arguments while completely neglecting any kind of moderate versions of the same ideologies, and I am just always miffed by such black-and-white approach.

But most importantly, these issues only bothered me a little since they are immersion-breaking and kind of annoying after a while. What really irritated the hell out of me to no end was, as I have already said, the binary choice system, and I stopped my second playthrough because of one such issue.

On my first game, on casual (in order to familiarize myself with the system) I finished the game relatively quickly, so quickly in fact that I never got Catherine's final events. In short:
She recognized that the soldiers were raping everyone they could get their hands on and wanted to punish them, so I gave her the nod and she began hanging them rapists. Then she comes around next turn and demands that I replace 50% of my officers with women.

Two options: say yes or tell her that officership in the the army is not about gender but merits and making an arbitrary rule like that is stupid. I wholeheartedly agreed. Her reaction was to call my character a sexist pig and then next turn she declared that she would start an academy for women. And the biggest joke? I found that to be a great idea and was waiting for a prompt for my character to commend her and offer assistance in funding, but instead she once again called him a sexist scumbag and ended the event-chain with that.

You want to see a strawman feminist? Look. No. Further. -.-'
Hey all you gotta do is read some robin morgan quotes. :D I wouldnt be surprised if feminists have been trying to push her under the rug for years!lol

Heres one from someone named valerie who I guess is of quotable importance.

"Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation, and destroy the male sex." -- Valerie Solana, SCUM founder (Society for Cutting Up Men.)


So you see while it is unfair to mark all feminists as kindred with this kind of person it is also unfair to call strawman whenever someone says "feminazi" This isnt imaginary she sounds as close to a combination of nazi and feminist as you can get and is also a very real person who has very real people in her very real group who agree with her.

And Im not saying its right when people scream feminazi at innocuous things but at the same time you have to be understanding of where such things come from and remedy that with understanding.

BUT! on the other hand sometimes alot of this stuff is out of context quotes. Keep this page handy for that next time your debating:

http://manboobz.com/2011/02/15/factchecking-a-list-of-hateful-quotes-from-feminists/