"NAtURAL DOCtRINE has some promise, but it is clearly a game only for the most hardcore of turn-based strategy enthusiast."
Of the games I had a chance to see in action at NIS America at E3, NAtURAL DOCtRINE certainly stood out from its fellows. The hardcore turn-based strategy RPG didn't pull any punches with its difficulty, and the gritty wasteland world was a stark contrast to the bright, vibrant visuals of Fairy Fencer and Disgaea.
I was able to see the entirety of a plot-related battle, and the emphasis in well-thought-out strategy was clear. Units carried swords and shield, but also primitive firearms and could wield magic. Rather than the traditional grid-based movement often found in Japanese turn-based strategy titles, NAtURAL DOCtRINE uses much larger grids in which once a unit had entered a square, they could walk around and be positioned anywhere within it. This allowed units to be placed in strategic locations where they could be behind obstacles or take better aim at a foe.
The map varied in elevation, and there were a number of different obstacles, such as large boulders, that could obscure a unit's aim. In the map I experienced, a lone sniper was positioned atop a hill where they could shoot at enemies that had to take a ramp around the side. By placing sturdier units in the way, it was possible to slow down the oncoming team in order to gradually pick them off from a distance. Turns alternated between the player and the enemy's teams, but an individual unit's turn could be sacrificed to later take two turns in a row and perform a team attack where multiple units attacked together to deal greater damage.
The level of difficulty was high, and I was informed that there would be a need for players to replay the same level a few times in order to learn strategies to overcome it. On its initial release in Japan, players complained the challenge was too hard, and a new easier difficulty will be included in the English version.
I didn't have a chance to see much of the story or characters, though I was informed it revolved around a material known as "Pluton." These objects were collected by goblins and highly sort after by various groups of people — including your own team. The relationship between humans and goblins will be an important element of the plot.
The campaign will take reportedly 30 hours to complete, but there are a number of optional extras and side-missions to accomplish. Additionally, NAtURAL DOCtRINE will have online multiplayer where you can take on players from around the globe, and across platform, in battle. By playing through story mode, you will unlock monsters and characters to use online. It will feature both cross-play and cross-saves for PS3, PS4 and Vita.
NAtURAL DOCtRINE has some promise, but it is clearly a game only for the most hardcore of turn-based strategy enthusiast. The graphics are underwhelming and look like an early PS3 title, but the zoomed-out top-down view hides many of its flaws. It can be incredibly frustrating when a single story-related unit goes down, forcing you to restart, and it's not uncommon for one battle to take over an hour to beat. Keep your eye on this one, but make sure you're willing to commit to a long slog before a purchase.