Hands on with The DioField Chronicle Preview
When The DioField Chronicle was first revealed, many assumed it was a new entry in the Tactic genre and while there are some elements that do crossover from that to this, it is something different. Square Enix were kind enough to let me play the game for a good while and I found myself really enjoying the combat, because it was familiar and yet not.
The game takes place on the island of DioField and within it are a handful of regions, South Field, North Field and so on, each under the rule of a noble, who answers to the King of DioField, it is very old England in its setting. While each region has an army, they are used as an army would be, so smaller skirmishes are handled by that of the mercenaries that can be hired, which is where you come in. Your main character is that of Andrias Rhondarson, one of the leaders of the Blue Foxes, a group who quickly rose up the ranks of a mercenary group, but he is not alone. Fredret Lester and Izelair Wigan are with him when they are recruited and they quickly start to add members to their group and expand from there. When you are not in battle, you can wander around the groups base, talking with them, taking on sub-quests, upgrading equipment and more, so you will spend a bit of time talking with them all.
Of course, this is not a dating game, so you don’t get points for talking with folks, you earn points from completing quests and sub-quests, which in turn let you level up. The quests are what lead to combat and this is perhaps where things blend across from multiple genres. There is the obvious desire to compare it to the Tactics games that Square Enix has made in the past, but that won’t give you a proper idea of what its all about. The best description I can give is if you take the basic controls of a real-time strategy game like Command and Conquer, add in an attack system like Pokémon and then top it off with summons from Final Fantasy. Looking at it that way, nothing should work, but it does and that is what was the most surprising thing, you can move a single unit, many or all, you can leave them to attack or select big attacks to use and then change things up, based on how that all worked. Combat is even more in-depth, once you start flanking enemies or using larger area of effect attacks to dish out a lot of damage to a group of enemies at once, it really is something else.
The missions that were available in the build, started out in a very general tutorial way, but quickly let go of the reigns, letting me discover things for myself. Each of the missions has additional tasks for you to complete, like finish it without anyone dying or within a set time and some of them can be quite simple, but some of them are not, especially if you want to take your time. The catch is that the game is real-time, which means that it is always in motion, there are two times when this is not the case, the first is when you pull the camera back and look at everything in the diorama view, which looks amazing. The other time is when you select a skill attack from the menu, most of them require you to either choose the line you want to follow, or the area you want to attack and the game is kind enough to not force you to make those decisions within seconds. There are missions when the game attempts to tempt you into splitting up your forces, which is doable and thankfully if you do, you can easily swap back and forth, letting you focus on each group.
I mentioned before about how the game has a diorama viewpoint and when you engage it, not only do you get this super satisfying sound effect, but all the characters get turned into little figures and you can see where everything is happening. Cutscenes in missions go between them looking like they were filmed on the diorama or the larger world, but neither seems to be that focused on realism, but rather bringing you into the story. When you are walking around the base, things feel more like a last gen rpg from Japan, not in a bad way, just that things are not as smooth or modern as you might like, but they are still great. The game sadly throws up full dialogue in the cutscenes, but when you are talking in game, its always little phrases like ‘Oh yes’ or ‘Did you hear’, things to help make it feel like they are talking in line with the text on screen, but it didn’t work for me. Perhaps once I have more time with the game and can invest more with the characters, things will change, but for now it’s not that great.
The DioField Chronicle is shaping up to be one of the most interesting games of the year, purely because it is blending so many different systems together and doing it well. It takes time to understand how the battle system works, recovering health and EP, along with going out to spend your SP in order to unlock new skills for your characters, but it is something that you will want to do. Those expecting this game to be a slower paced title may be turned away, but hey that is why they are releasing a demo for it, because it is so different. I liked it and yes, the names are unnecessarily stupid at times, looking at you Waltaquin Redditch, the characters themselves seem decent. If you are on the fence for this one, check out the demo, it is something quite different and that does not happen that often in the world of videogames.
The preview was done using a PC build of the game, so while the screens are not reflective of the visual quality of the Switch release, the gameplay will be the same.