Natural Doctrine has been dubbed by others as the “Dark Souls of RPGs” because of its difficulty and dreary ambiance (I can’t say for myself since I haven’t played Dark Souls). All I can say is that the game is one of a kind. It’s like the love child of Baldur’s Gate who had a three-way orgy with Valkyria Chronicles and an old-school grid-based RPG. The gameplay is turn-based and gives importance to line-of-sight, but we’ll get to that later.
Natural Doctrine puts you in the shoes of Geoff, the bland main character with a cliché quest of ridding the world of evil. He leads a group of other bland adventurers in order to search and hoard the rare mineral, Pluton. Frankly, the story is shallow and there is practically no character development. I have a hard time remembering the characters because they are goddamned forgettable. The only good thing about the characters is that the voice actors did a superb job making do with the script.
Honestly, when I first popped the disc on the PS3 I thought this was a PS2 game, the graphics is that bad. The 3D models is so last-gen, that’s why I said I mentioned Baldur’s Gate earlier because they look the same. Even though the game seems to be built with the Vita in mind, there are other games that are better looking than Natural Doctrine. It looks bad even if you play the PS4 version.
The HUD is cluttered with so much information that it’s quite disorienting. Adding to the confusion is the tips that keeps on popping under the screen (you can’t turn it off). The whole interface makes me feel like I’m watching a live stream of the stock market. Kadokawa Games should have invested in a user interface expert to design the HUD. Just look at the screenshot below and tell me it’s not confusing:
Natural Doctrine features a unique turn-based gameplay coupled with strategy elements. Your characters have limited movements similar to old school RPGs but the difference is they move in huge grids instead of tiny cells. Good positioning is your bread and butter because the effectiveness of your attacks depends on your formation. For example, you should never put the characters too close or too far apart as they won’t be able to support each other in case they got attacked. Line-of-sight is very important to ranged characters as friendly-fire can happen if another unit is blocking the ranged character’s view.
The gameplay could have been this game’s saving grace but in the end it failed to deliver because of its complexity. A lot of trial and error is needed to grasp the mechanics because the tutorial is not really helpful. The enemies isn’t that hard to defeat it’s just that the battle system is overly complicated.
Another aspect of the game that irks me is that if a party member dies, it’s game over. This is very annoying because not only is the game pace slow, the maps have plenty of areas which forces you to move through bottlenecks which in turn increases the chances of your party members being killed.
I can’t recommend Natural Doctrine to casual gamers as they would only regret buying it and curse at me. I don’t think they’ll like the game’s slow pace, unimpressive graphics, and the borderline unfair combat system. Fans of old school RPGs might enjoy the game though.
Disclaimer: We would like to thank Dianne Valbuena of Geiser Maclang – Playstation Asia for providing us a PS3 copy of Natural Doctrine for us to review.