Natural Doctrine from developers Kadokawa Shoten will be a game you will absolutely love, or want to avoid completely. This will be based purely on your love for the RPG and interesting battle systems.
Immediately it is clear that this isn’t for the casual gamer, so if you are expecting a game to ease you into the genre, then you might as well stop reading now. There are plenty of other games out there for that, this is for fans of the genre and those who are happy to spend the time learning a new way to play.
The first thing you’ll notice is a story that means very little and isn’t exactly inspiring. In fact it is even a little dull… The lead character is called Geoff, not exactly your most traditional of RPG heroes. Geoff and his team must save their world from a bug invasion, but also find themselves at odds with the various other faction within the game’s world.
Whilst not a wonderful story, it isn’t bad, it is simply uninspiring. Which is a shame, as the characters themselves are pretty good and each has a distinct personality. Sure they aren’t all likable, but they don’t need to be, they just need to be interesting seeing as you will be spending many, many hours with them. So here is a big success.
You move through the story by entering a series of locations, which will open up as your progress, you’ll level up as you go, assign new skills, unlock new weapons and all the other things you can expect from a game like this. With the skill tree for each character you can add and remove skills at will without any penalty. This is something that works well, as you will start to learn how to set up your party and their skills for certain areas and gain an advantage.
Natural Doctrine takes many other known systems from other RPG titles, but then adds its own twist to them. Movement throughout each dungeon is limited by being able to move a set number of positions per turn, but unlike many games where this is a set square, you have an area and within the area you can then move around as much as you please.
This allows you to set up various tactics that can either help you defend better, attack harder, counter enemy attacks, etc. It pays to learn how to use positioning to get the best out of each scenario, because it really can mean the difference between dominating or being struck down.
This becomes vital because of how turns work. You will basically see a bar along the top of the screen that shows ally and enemy taking alternate turns, but because you can link turns, you can bring other team members into the fold and part of your turn. This is best used when targeting an enemy whose turn may be next. Taking that enemy out will see you get the next go thus making the enemy skip a turn.
All of this starts to add to how you plan a turn and it doesn’t always become about attacking, as you may find the next enemy to take a turn isn’t killable, or even reachable. So you may need to set up a defensive stance. Such as using a strong character to guard and allowing other members to hide behind, or even counter an enemy attack.
Initially it does feel very restrictive, but as you progress you find this opens up all kinds of possibilities and you can get as creative as you want. Early tutorials only cover some basics, as the game really wants you to discover what is has to offer and it is in these early hours that can see many put off, but those who push through will find a very rewarding experience.
That’s not to say Natural Doctrine is great, because it doesn’t naturally move you forward and at times it can be frustrating, with some areas being a bit too much trial and error with some poor check-pointing, making retries annoying. But at the same time those who become good enough to avoid death on a regular basis, will have a cracking time.