Natural Doctrine Review
Natural Doctrine is an interesting strategy RPG. It takes a very different approach to the SRPG genre and in some ways it's good and in some ways it's bad. Don't take the game too lightly, because even if you are a seasoned SRPG player, this game will chew you up and spit you out before you ever know what happened.
The story starts out with Geoff and his band of explorers searching caves to collect a coveted material known as Pluton. During their first trip down into the depths, they realize that things may be more dire than they had imagined as they encounter a brand-new type of evil. The story for the most part isn't too deep and not flushed out very much. This game is a not a traditional SRPG. They call this a hardcore SRPG and for good reason. When I say hard, I mean Dark Souls hard. When you go into battle you really have to think. This game isn't for the casual SRPG fan. It is hardcore and when one character dies, it is game over.
The combat system is like no other. Battlefields are three-dimensional and are broken up into various squares of space, but movement within these squares is free form. This means that characters can move only within a set range of squares each turn, but they are free to move anywhere within these squares. This allows for taking advantage of cover, line of sight, and so on. There are several different playable classes that include several close-range fighters, gunners, and magic users. One of the really innovative mechanics is the linking system. The short version of how it works is you set up your team on the field in a way that they are connected and thus share an attack. The way you place and space out your team is critical to success. It will allow you to get maximum damage to an enemy but also not leave team members hanging out to take a beating.
This is strength of the game but also what will most likely turn most casual players off. Battles are slow and you have to put a lot of thought and time into placement of your team. The computer moves at a brisk pace and can overwhelm you quickly. Luckily there are checkpoints and an easy setting. You always have to be mindful of your surroundings, making sure no one is in the line of fire for your ranged attack and there are no obstacles in your way. The screen can also get filled with clutter very fast with lines connecting all of your team with what moves and what percent damage it will do. Along with the order of attack across the top of the screen, you can get overwhelmed with all the information you are looking at.
Natural Doctrine was not what I was expecting at all. I don't consider myself a hardcore SRPG'er, but I do like a challenge to my games. You will die, a lot, and you will get frustrated at times, but that is the fun of it. That being said, if you go into a battle slow and think, you will win. If you try and rush into a battle and are not properly set up, you will be crushed in one turn. There is online co-op and multiplayer, but I did not get to try them out. I would love to see two really good players go head to head at this game.
Natural Doctrine is available on PS3, PS4 and Vita and is cross-save compatible. The game is nice looking, but will not blow you away on the graphic side. The PS4 version has a better resolution and smoother textures, but no real big difference between the three versions. The game plays surprisingly great on the vita, even with all the on screen goings on. If you can only buy it on one system, don't think you are being held back or missing out on something because it is all here.
3.5 out of 5
Thanks to NIS America for providing a copy for view.