Natural Doctrine caught my attention when Kadokawa Games first announced it, boasting that it would be a strategy RPG with a difficulty level comparable to From Software’s Souls series. While the game does manage to set itself apart from other SRPGs with its unique combat mechanics and style, Natural Doctrine is plagued with several other problems that hold the game back from reaching its true potential.
Natural Doctrine is a strategy RPG that takes place on a grid. At the start, you gain control over four characters that you can move freely around the ‘safe zones’ you’ve captured from your enemies. The idea here is for you to explore dungeons with your characters, and capture area squares from your enemies while defending against their attacks. The Tactical Link system introduced in the game is essential to survival, and therein lies the first of the game’s problems: learn the system and follow its rules, or die.
The Tactical Link system is all about having your characters chain their attacks to unleash devastating combos onto the pesky goblins. Each character gets a turn in each round, but if you link them up, they’ll have more chances to attack, allowing you to deal even more damage to your foes. The system is all about paying attention to the turn order and trying to prevent your enemies from getting a chance to attack at all. For instance, positioning your swordsman in front of a goblin and opting to have your gunner provide cover fire from the back will often allow you to deal enough extra damage to take the goblin out in a single turn.
Similarly, you can have your three melee fighters occupy the same square and target a single enemy to execute a powerful delta attack. You don’t have to target just one enemy, either; as long as your characters are linked in battle, you can deal damage to multiple foes on the map as well.
Not mastering the Tactical Link system will almost certainly spell a quick death for your characters, as the enemies are smart and will attempt to use this system to their advantage. Especially in the early stages of the game, where you’re still getting your bearings, the goblins are smart in how they position their units and will not hesitate to link up with each other to wreak havoc on your party.
The real drawback that comes with Natural Doctrine is that there is little to no room for devising your own strategies. Very often, the dungeon layouts are cramped and linear, leaving you with little choice in how you wish to position your units. There is usually only one viable solution in getting through dungeons and taking down the bosses, and if you try to deviate from the game’s harsh rules, you can bet that the enemies will waste no time in shutting you down. ‘Game over’ screens are pretty commonplace too, as you’ll automatically fail if a single one of your characters dies.