Published on July 25th, 2014 | by IceCube
GLiTCH Plays: Natural Doctrine
Hi guys, I’m GLiTCH and I got an exclusive hands-on with upcoming PlayStation game Natural Doctrine, a game we all know very little about!
I have some juicy, spoiler-free details from my experience on the PlayStation 3 that will give you a great idea of what’s in store!
Natural Doctrine is a Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) at heart, but if that’s a description that normally makes you cry, hold back the tears and read on:
It’s turn-based combat, and hosts an anime cast, noticeably more mature than the squeaky-voiced teens we’re used to seeing in games like Tales of Xillia and so forth. To give you the best comparison of what this game is about, erase those traditional JRPG thoughts and shift your mind to 2K’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown – a game that scored a ridiculously-high 89% metacritic score amongst western media outlets.
Upon starting a new game from the beginning, a few things stood out: excellent artwork, average graphics and good, likeable characters. The quality of music in the game is really good, and all the cast is voiced by actors, so there’s no lazy, text-only cop-outs.
In this fairly traditional fantasy setting, you’re pitting swords, shields, armour and gunners against goblins, orcs and trolls. You can view the game from several different viewpoints, including a Diablo-like aerial view, top-down and third-person.
In combat, you move in “squares”, but these squares are large and serve more like four-sided “areas”, where your position within the area affects things like line-of-sight. Each character can move up to two areas each turn, or only one area if they are critically injured or poisoned.
These areas also play a role in an important strategy called “tactical linking”, which essentially boosts the number of attacks you make on your attack round, depending on how many team members are within your area.
Individual combat stats are identified on the battlefield when the character is highlighted with your cursor, and displays: Hit points (HP), Damage %, Critical %, Shield Defense %, Parry % and Evasion %, all of which will be improved as you progress through the game. These stats identify the strengths and weaknesses of each unit and adds focus to your strategy.
Your combat options vary from character to character, but essentially, it’s broken down to: Attack, Special Attack, Use Potion, Reserve or End Turn. These move speak for themselves except for Reserve, which basically holds your initiative to use at a more timely opportunity.
The HUD displays a number of icons which looks confusing, but really quite handy. That row of icons on the top of the screen is known as as the “Initiative Bar” and represents the order of which unit is attacking next. A key strategy for succeeding in this game is to take out your foes before they can strike. If you take out the the target with the next initiative turn, you get a “Link Initiative bonus”. If your first target is killed with hits to spare, your characters are smart enough to strike the next character within the same area.
Like all good strategy games, the system is a little confusing at first, but this game has excellent tutorials to open the game, and it does a top job explaining things. You can skip these tutorials if you wish, as they do take some time, but for me, the more I learned from them, the more exciting the game became.
I opened the game with four characters, with many more yet to come later on.
Geoff is the “essentially” the main character, but not the focus of the story. He plays the “tank” role best, absorbing damage with his shield, but he also is an all-round attacker, dealing damage with sword and gun.
The two ladies, red-headed Vasily and the blondie, Anka, are more focused in their niche. Vasily is an armoured knight who wields the blade and Anka is the ranged warrior who blasts foes with her rifle from a distance.
Zeke is the older mentor who trains the young crew. He’s another sword arm with more powerful skills, but is only around to help with the fight occasionally.
I didn’t get too deep into the story but it was building up to an interesting scenario: Set in a land called Feste, there’s a battle for a rich energy source known as Pluton, which is treated like diamonds. Pluton gives the land properity, but is poisonous for humans to touch. When the goblins (who were immune to the poisonous effects of Pluton) discovered a way to make it safe for humans, the humans started taking it by force – begging the question: Are we the bad guys here?
The world map features main quest missions as well as “shut-down mines”, which are optional dungeons to loot. On the world map screen, you can press the triangle button to adjust your attack formation and see your character’s inventory, skills and stats. On the Stats page, each character has their own level, experience (xp), hit points (hp), strength (str), vitality (vit), dexterity (dex), agility (agi), spirit (spi), intelligence (int), faith (fai) and attack and defense modifiers. The Skill Tree page “grows” from left to right, and you’ll unlock more skills as you advance levels.
The XP you earn is equal to the hp of the defeated enemy. Every party member gets full xp for the kill, plus a small bonus for how much damage they dealt. Each time a character levels up, they receive one skill point to put towards their skill tree. Geoff gets two skill points for some reason. I think it would’ve been better to have a balanced team, rather than: “Mighty Geoff and his sidekicks”.
The game also has a multiplayer component which I haven’t explored yet. What I do know is that multiplayer is actually a trading card game with both co-operative and competitive modes. Apparently, you earn “CP” (coin) each time you log on and battle, which may be spent on packs with random cards inside.
Overall I’m really excited for Natural Doctrine. It’s like a Japanese anime variation of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a game that made strategy games fun for consoles. It probably wont get the attention it deserves, but I hope this preview has shed some light on what to expect.
For more on Natural Doctrine, stay tuned with Gamebug.com.au!