Throughout the history of gaming, we have seen amazing tactical, turn-based RPGs. Games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, and Fire Emblem have captured our hearts in one way or another. Indeed, commanding a band of heroes and strategically placing them on a grid based map is addicting. Especially when said strategy brings you victory! But in PS4 and Vita’s tactical RPG, Natural Doctrine, is victory as fun as the aforementioned games or does it come with a price?
Natural Doctrine thrusts you at the defense of the fortress city of Feste as an ancient evil resurfaces. As with most tactical RPGs, there’s a wide range characters wielding several different weapons. In addition, each character has an individual skill tree that allows you to develop each character to your liking. This is fantastic because Feste’s defense and its surrounding areas brutally push you and your group to the limit. Natural Doctrine will beat you down time after time after time. Unlike games like Fire Emblem, when a character dies, you lose. This makes it extremely difficult, especially when your party is often greatly outnumbered and can be killed off in one turn. Not only did this attribute to constant rage quitting, but it also took hours just to finish one mission. On the other hand, finally winning in an area that you’ve been stuck in for a while is absolutely rewarding. It is an amazing feeling.
As far as how the game looks, it can be quite beautiful at times. The main menu changes depending on where you are in the game and it’s drawn beautifully. Also, the outdoor environments are beautiful. All of the creatures you battle, humans and ogres alike, also look quite good, as do the characters you’re commanding. Unfortunately, the various dungeons all looked the same which made me loathe going in them. Interestingly enough, I couldn’t spot too many graphical deficiencies on the Vita as compared to the PS4 which is a good thing because I did switch between the two often. Hey, its cross buy and cross save, so why not go between the two?
The actual gameplay in Natural Doctrine is pretty well done. The movement reminded me much of the Valkyria Chronicles series while the combat was reminiscent to that of Fire Emblem. In addition, you have the ability to strategically link the turns of your characters. This means that, even after a character uses his or her turn, they can get a “link turn” if the character who’s turn it is currently meets certain conditions. It sounds confusing at first, but linking turns is an integral part in completing missions with minimal casualties. For example, using guard with a character gives extra characters within nearby squares extra turns, even if their turn has already been used. Also, using magic requires a magical element called Pluton. Pluton cannot be bought and does not regenerate, but is inconveniently discovered in dungeons or earned after defeating large bosses. On one hand this is cool because it really makes you think hard about how you use your magic. On the other hand, I usually ran out either way and it really made my wizard useless.
Natural Doctrine is a pretty solid game with some fun battles that, although very difficult at times, can be very rewarding. Linking turns is rather fun and is a great idea while pluton was annoying and unnecessary. The difficulty is what really drags this game down for me though, as sometimes it felt both unfair and overkill. If you’re looking for a game akin to Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem, you might be better off looking elsewhere as Nocturnal Doctrine doesn’t quite live up to their high standard.
Final Score: 7.0/10