NISA is mostly known for their incredibly “moe” video games. Hyperdimension Neptunia, Mugen Souls, Fairy Fencer F, and the “Rorona Saga” of the Atelier series are all examples of brightly colored cutesy games. Natural Doctrine is a game that takes this portrayal that NISA has and throws it out the window. Does this game hold up though? Well, visually, sure you can say that it is a breathe of fresh air, but Natural Doctrine has a lot of problems that are impossible to ignore.
So humans are in trouble, creatures like goblins and orcs are enroaching on human territory. They are killing everything in sight. A young explorer has recruited a few bodyguards to dive deep into some dungeons that are riddled with the very creatures ruining everyone’s day. Life as humans know it is disappearing, and Geoff, a simple bodyguard just happens to be the hero to all of humans.
The story is not the reason to play this game. It is the pinnacle of average. It is sort of hard to follow because a lot of the story is told in small segments in battles, and the rest in speech bubbles on the world map. It doesn’t really do a good job of showcasing the lore of the game either. It isn’t necessarily dull, but it certainly is far from being a pillar that holds the game up.
The combat is my biggest issue with Natural Doctrine. This is a strategy game, you can relate it most to Valkyria Chronicles and I was initially hyped for it when I saw it at E3. The final product has disappointed me greatly. I like it when games are challenging, they are more fun that way. Super difficult games have slowly been making their way into the marketplace ever since Demon’s Souls got popular, subsequently Dark Souls and the sequel. However, the different between Dark Souls challenging and Natural Doctrine challenging is fairness.
Clever challenging is done by pushing the limits of the game’s design. Like in Dark Souls when you can make bosses jump off the bridge etc. Natural Doctrine does everything it can to put you at a disadvantage and that is not good game development. Let me explain.
Everything is done through “Linking” when a character chooses an action like guarding in close proximity to an ally, that ally gets a turn and so on. You can link everyone in your party and give them an extra turn. The catch is that the enemy can do this too, and there is 3x more of them then there are of you. So some enemies get twice as many turns as you do. When 6 enemies get two turns, you are gonna have a bad time. Normally this wouldn’t be THAT big of a deal. However, this game has a system in place where if ANY one of your characters die, you have to either restart at the start of the level or a close checkpoint.
Oh you opened a door and your tank gets targeted by 6 gunners? Have fun restarting because you cannot formulate a defensive line with the game’s programming. Actions like opening doors cannot be linked to other characters and an enemy will always take a turn right after a door opens. It took me two hours to beat the second level and the only reason why I won is because an enemy missed an attack.
The game’s combat is broken and always in favor of the enemy and in most dungeons, you are incredibly outnumbered. Forget letting the enemy coming to you as well. They will sit in their general area until you turn the corner. This game isn’t bad because it is challenging, it is bad because the enemy is downright unfair and broken.
Natural Doctrine’s fake difficulty makes it almost unplayable. Which is a shame because the art direction is pretty good and the skill system is great. I wanted to like this game, but the combat is overcomplicated and over-programmed to be enjoyable and rewarding. I give Natural Doctrine for the PS3, PS4 and PS Vita a 4/10. There is so much to dislike about this game and it is a damn shame.