I’m a huge fan of strategy RPGs, so when I heard about Natural Doctrine I wanted to get my hands on the game as soon as possible. Something about the so many factors at play intrigued me but when I started playing the game it started becoming very overwhelming. Natural Doctrine is a very complex title and smart game, which may be a bit too much for its own good.
The game stars Geoff, a generic swordsman protagonist who takes upon himself to defeat the evil haunting the world but in the end he just really wants citizenship to the city of Feste. On his journey, Geoff will be joined by a lively set of characters that have a surprising amount of dialogue. The story however is very raw and leaves a lot to be desired. The game never really dives into important plot points and by the end of the game leaves a lot to be desired. I’m pretty disappointed with this mainly because strategy RPGs can really shine on the story front, games like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy: Tactics have amazing stories to complement the gameplay and with Natural Doctrine this was clearly not the case.
The gameplay is fairly entertaining and fun but requires your attention at all times. There are so many factors at hand and things to consider that it often took me several minutes to get one turn done. The game has skirmishes take place in a wide variety of environment including mines, dungeons, plains and more. The Battlefield is divided into various squares, with movements to navigate the squares being in free form similar to games like Valkyria Chronicles. This movement complimented by the things scattered around the map allow players to bring in the environment into the strategic mix as well.
The battle stages are fairly hard and get more complex once you reach a certain point. The enemies become stronger and increase in numbers at a much higher pace than the lead character and his team. This leads to being outnumbered and overpowered by the enemies. The battle interface is fairly cluttered and full of unnecessary information. Too much of one thing can be harmful, and here too much information tends to distract from the main battle. The enemies can also sometimes skip turns leading to an unfair advantage. What’s even more aggravating is that the battles are based on the player’s sheer luck and not his strategy. Anything can go wrong at any moment. All of this aside, the game doesn’t even clearly explain it’s complicated and intricate battling system, leaving much of the functions for the player to figure out themselves. This is a serious disadvantage that means more time will be consumed figuring out the game, rather than enjoying it.
Natural Doctrine is a rather complex RPG that is not ideal for the impatient to play. The game is catered to experienced gamers due to its complexity. One wrong move can lead to Geoff’s demise and what’s worse is that if even one character of your team dies, it’s game over. What can also get pretty annoying is the lack of checkpoints and opportunities for the player to save their progress. The only part of the game that is in the player’s favour is that it allow’s them to respec skills for free at any point. The magicians in the game use a finite element called Pluton to cast spells and do magic, but since it limited in quantity, it’s fairly uncommon to come by it except in caves and during battle. Gathering grams of Pluton during battles is also very dangerous as opening chests leads to wasted turns. So keeping magicians in your team becomes a burden if you aren’t able to supply them a constant source of Pluton.
The graphics of the game left much to be desired. They looked generic, forgettable and outdated, causing the game to look more like it belonged on the PS2 rather than the PS4. You would expect better from a game being in released in 2014. The soundtrack also wasn’t very particularly special, neither bad, nor good. The colors used in the landscapes were mostly dull and muted, which lead the game to give off a rather unearthly vibe. The character design was also pretty generic and no character in particular stood out to be frank. Monsters, weapon and other equipments also had generic designs. Natural Doctrine’s visual style, as a whole waspretty forgettable.
Natural Doctrine Review (PS3)
Hardcore fans of the Strategy RPG genre may find Natural Doctrine to be very enjoyable given that they invest time into it. The game is very lengthy so make sure to set aside some time before plunging into the game's world.