Originally Published on the Official Blast Away the Game Review Facebook Page
Review by Dustin Murphy
-An Insanely high sense of difficulty, which is refreshing in the turn based JRPG strategy genre
-Maps are differentiated and never seemingly appear the same, but their enemies do
-Graphics between the PlayStation 4 and Vita transition very well between each other
-Rather enjoyable despite which platform the game is played on
-Item farming is rather rewarding compared to what it could be expected to be.
-Character talent trees are very straight forward and well designed
-Tutorials for this turn based JRPG strategy title will not be welcome to new players will not be welcoming and rather hard to learn at first.
-Camera angles can be disorienting to players who have never played a over the top title that switches to third person on an as needed basis.
As a fan of the classic tactics game Final Fantasy Tactics, like many, it was my first endeavor into the strategy RPG world. Luckily that didn’t change all that much; the thing that did change? My want to actually find the next big strategy RPG that almost happened after playing “X-Com: Enemy Unknown” last year. Unfortunately “X-Com: Enemy Unknown” didn’t satiate my hunger. As years passed the need for the next big tactical game happens, and Kadokawa Games comes to the call. The question of the century is; did they do it? In ways they did not; NAtURAL DOCtRINE itself is severely lacking in the area of a decent story that can truly be understood to someone who doesn’t want to piece the game together word for word. The story plain and simple? You are a pluton hunter, but also an escort for those who decide to hire your character. Unfortunately, our brave main protagonist Geoff, manages to get himself into a bit of trouble under the lead of Anka, whom hires this odd fun band of adventurers. The story sadly doesn’t deviate much outside of how you meet new partners and take into account events that lead to the internal struggles of Feste that have arisen. Can we say rebellions and the likes aren’t always that great for a story? It would have been nice had they taken their time in order to build a legendary adventure that players would remember as time goes on. Sadly this didn’t happen, but we can only hope it does in time with a sequel or possible add on content.
With the story aside, NAtURAL DOCtRINE is one of those games that is truly saturated with difficult learning, but also a steep curve of notes that needs to be taken. Best way to put it? The game is filled with tutorials, advanced tactics, but also Within the game, players will learn several basic tactics, how to guard, attack, set up Character Links, but also timing when to use abilities. As a focal point of this games combat, the links can also be a dismantling part of someone’s enjoyment. Much like your own set ups, enemies also use this system, and these links the enemies use can end many of the combat scenarios you will go through. After having spent multitudes of hours grinding (approximately 25 or so before reviewing), the game finally began to unearth its secret routines that players must take practice of so that they may find themselves taking out enemies. For some, this may not always work out and will ultimately set itself up for a Game Over, which will require players to start from a checkpoint or the beginning of that dungeon. As someone who was taking their time to learn the game, I found myself constantly restarting the levels or checkpoints in order to figure out where to start out the routes that should be taken so that I could take the enemies out one by one. Downside to this? I eventually would die because of this assumption I knew how to take them out.
After countless attempts, it can easily be done, but the most infuriating part is the difficulty scaling. While starting out, the first few dungeons are rated within the ‘C’ difficulty, which means they aren’t that hard, and will have a slight learning curve to them. Within an hour they can easily be completed, but the downside to them is that shortly after an ‘A’ rating dungeon will be displayed, which can infuriate anyone. Think this difficulty is where it all begins to stack up via the learning curves? That is only the beginning where players will find themselves over time. As abilities are unlocked and dungeons are completed, players will quickly learn the importance of treasure chests. These treasure chests supply both pluton in small amounts that players can use to have Nebula power his spells. Unfortunately, the use of pluton will count against your score, but that’s something we will visit later on. It is a good idea that players take note of where chests are, but also where the higher level enemies are within those zones so that they may actually take out those enemies and obtain the hidden loot chests. One thing that players will need to take note is that the scores for each mission is rated upon pluton used, enemies slain, time, and of course how many times you have died. The downside? Some of these chests are guarded by enemies that can one shot or possibly two shot your entire team if you are not careful. It is heavily advised to make sure that there is a plan for these chests, dungeons, and can overall hurt your score at the end of the day.
In NAtURAL DOCtRINE I was capable of finding several things that were honestly the most problematic. The easiest one to point out is screen clutter with the scrolling menus, text, and even combat options that show up in small menus on the left side of the screen. In truth, the game felt like it was being developed for mouse and keyboard versus joysticks and a d-pad, but with that put aside the game works. Even with these minor irritations such as screen clutter, players can easily adapt to it and learn how to overlook it, but that’s just one minor irritation. One of the bigger ones is how character turns are placed. The characters will move based on an initiative that can be upgraded by leveling up and selecting certain “perks” within the talent trees so that players can find themselves capable of moving faster than the enemies. This will not happen though till at least 15-20 hours in, which is where I found myself before writing this. After that time frame I was capable of doing several things that helped boost my damage, which included reworking characters talent trees from the ground up, but also farming for the equipment I was able to take note of in the first few dungeons. Luckily in this time, I was able to able to expand upon the basic rules of the game when it comes to maneuvers. Why did it also take this long to figure it out? The excruciating annoyance of having to watch the enemy take their turn regardless of if they move anywhere or use any abilities. This is something that we can only hope will be changed as well as the being forced to actually watch all combat scenes whether it is your own or the enemies. The downside? Between each of these scenes there is no ability to interim save. Instead there is only a save when outside of the dungeons, which is a huge downfall for those wanting a user friendly game.
The most charming thing about the game besides being able to move between the console and handheld version was the fact the game does have such a high difficulty rating and challenged me to try harder than ever to nail out each dungeon with perfection. This is something I’ve done a lot to ensure that each character has the highest of abilities, weapons, and quick clear times. These clear times allowed for me to take out every enemy possible, but also proceed further into the games story by beating each mission with some form of ease, but also trial and error. With a little bit of patience, nerves of steel, and the will to press on; there is a lot of progress to be made with this game. Overall the rewards are very satisfying, rewarding, and allowed for me to want to continue, to keep playing, but also to return to the game post-review. I can truly state, however, this is definitely a hidden gem that should be picked up, enjoyed, and played with the knowledge that the game is not an overnight completion. Instead it could very well take some players weeks, months, or even a year to beat due to how challenging and denying it can be at times.
So what does NAtURAL DOCtRINE trick us into with its charm and difficulty? Even with a subpar story and an insanely high difficulty, I couldn’t help but say that the game has managed to earn itself a solid 7 out of 10.
Reviewers Note: Due note that our our review is based on a pre-release retail digital copy of the game this also means we were unable to experience the multiplayer at this time and will revisit it at a later date. This also means any future patches and or information that will be applied has not been done so on this version, which means that user experiences may change upon the games intended release on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita on September 30th, 2014 for North America. Our friends in Europe can expect this title to slay its way through Goblins onto their consoles on October 3rd, 2014.