NAtURAL DOCtRINE sounded like an amazing game. A mix of Tactics Ogre and Dark Souls? I mean, who wouldn't want that. If that was to mean that NAtURAL DOCtRINE is both a tactics-based RPG and difficult, then it's both of those things. Too bad it's a poor imitation of each.

Cross-Play

NAtURAL DOCtRINE is available on PS4, PS3 and Vita. For all the things this game gets wrong, it nails how a cross-platform game should feel. If you want to move your game from PS4 to PS3 or Vita or vice-versa, all you have to is upload your save from the title screen, then download it from the title screen of the new console. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Battle System

NAtURAL DOCtRINE employs some interesting concepts in its battle system, even if they aren't quite so perfectly implemented. At its heart, everything is about positioning. Each turn allows your character to employ the help of each of your allies within range on the field. The more you get to attack together, naturally, the more damage you'll deal. But it doesn't stop there—the position of your allies greatly factor into how the battle plays out. Space your units far enough apart and you'll deal up to 85% bonus damage, but make sure you don't get in each others' way, else your units (specifically your rifleman) will employ friendly fire.

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Shooting someone who happens to be in your way makes sense, but it doesn't make it fun. NAtURAL DOCtRINE also lacks an auto targeting system; instead you'll find yourself guiding a slow-moving reticle along the battlefield with the right stick. It's not a huge issue, but it's a pain in the ass that's unnecessary and slows down the game's already slow-paced battles.

More On-Screen Information Than Fox News

Just look at that screenshot. Look at it. You're not looking at a joke or a meme, this is the game's actual interface. This is what happens each and every turn just before committing your actions. All that text? That's not still, either, in fact it scrolls like a marquee across each line. As if that wasn't enough, there's a ticker that constantly runs along the bottom of the screen repeating tips that you don't want. It's just.. ugly.

Difficulty For Difficulty's Sake

NAtURAL DOCtRINE is hard. But not in the way Dark Souls is hard. That is to say, it's not hard because it's loaded with clever traps, but because the battle system is so over-complicated that you just kind of end up throwing strategies against the wall to see what sticks.

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Couple that with the fact that the even the weakest of minions can mow your characters down with relative ease and you're left with a game that you can only beat due to familiarity with the scenario after repeated failures.

Ugly Visuals

NAtURAL DOCtRINE was simultaneously released on PS4, PS3 and PS Vita. From the looks of the game, developer Kadokawa Games seems to have focused solely on making a decent-looking Vita game and ported it straight across to consoles. The visuals on offer here are downright hard to look at, especially on a PS4, where it sets a new low. Just about everything is presented in a barebones way that makes the game feel almost like a tech demo rather than a full-fledged title.

In the end, I really wanted to like NAtURAL DOCtRINE, it just makes it impossible for me to do so. A poor story, overly-complex battle system and difficulty that is based on cheap losses, and in turn, cheapened victories come together to effectively ruin this game's potential. Some might find fun in this just as a game that's challenging, for whatever its reasons are, but most should stay away.


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