Square Enix’s DioField Chronicle takes tactical RPG offline

Square Enix’s DioField Chronicle takes tactical RPG offline

It used to be that tactical RPGs were an esoteric and underrepresented genre that existed mostly in the 16-bit past. Not so now, thanks in no small part to Square Enix, who these days love nothing more than making low to mid budget bets on every niche nook and cranny their fandom enjoys and is represented in their back catalogue. Earlier this year, the publisher launched Triangle Strategy with nintendo In November he will publish a remastering of the classic tactical ogre. Sandwiched between them, on September 22, comes The DioField Chroniclean unannounced, humble and curious departure from the orthodoxy of the genre.

In contrast to those other two games and other genre stalwarts like Fire Emblem, The DioField Chronicle it dispenses with a grid of movement, and turns. This is a loose, fluid, slightly hectic game that takes place in real time. You place a squad of four units and control them like the hero units in a real-time strategy game or MOBA. You point and click to move them around the battlefield, moving restlessly from one unit to the next, ordering them to use their abilities, heal or get out of trouble, always keeping a wary eye on what’s happening on the rest of the field.

The underlying mechanics and math may be similar to a tactical turn-based RPG, but the feel is very different. This is not a chess game where you carefully plan and optimize your every move. It’s a fast multitasking and prioritizing game on the go. One thing hasn’t changed, though: location is everything. Many of your unit abilities deal damage in an area, in a cone, or in a wide swath, so you’ll want to line them up carefully to take out as many enemy units as possible. Additionally, if one of your warriors attacks an enemy from behind, you gain an ambush bonus that doubles your damage, so flanking and manipulating the enemy with MMO-style shooting and tanking tactics is essential.

Medieval warriors, one on horseback, battle a pair of giant armored Gigas on the castle's snowy grounds in a screenshot from The DioField Chronicle.

Image: Lancarse/Square Enix

All in all, it’s a fun and absorbing tactical battle system, if a bit stressful. There are four character classes: archer, cavalry, warrior, and magic user, and you’ll typically pick one of each for your squad. In addition to individual leveling and equipment for each character, there are class-wide skill trees and auxiliary characters can be added to each of the four unit slots (if they belong to the same class) to increase their skill repertoire. You can also equip Magilumic orbs to unleash massive Final Fantasy-style summon attacks.

There’s a nice mesh of things to consider here. It’s a little hard to tell how deep the game will run from the demo that’s currently available, but early indications are that Square Enix and co-developer Lancarse have wisely kept things small-scale but impactful. The number of enemy units is low, but they hit pretty hard and can take a lot of the health out of your fighters. Battles are streamlined but fairly high stakes, which keeps them tense and manageable (certainly if you’re using a controller, like I was on PlayStation 5 – the PC version supports mouse and keyboard, which will probably be faster and easier). natural way of playing the game).

The frustrating thing is how long The DioField Chronicle it moves away from its pleasingly cheap network of systems and fun, fast-paced battlefield tactics, and how little life it has when you’re following the story and rigid character interactions. Despite Taiki and Isamu Kamikokuryo’s elegant character art, the game takes place in a dreary, airless world of medieval politicking and mercenary maneuvering that is difficult to invest in.

A flying dragon burns a battlefield with flames in a screenshot from The DioField Chronicle

Image: Lancarse/Square Enix

The plot has something to do with a once peaceful island blessed with powerful magical resources, great evil, warring factions, and proud aristocratic houses. Characters bearing names like Fredret, Iscarion, and Waltaquin speak lifeless clichés and expound jargon to each other. It doesn’t help that the budget for things like environmental art and vocal performance was clearly very limited, or that the game’s color palette is so muted. Between missions, our hero Andrias can roam extremely plain and claustrophobic barracks to talk to other characters, shop, craft, and play, but this section of the game feels outdated by at least two generations of hardware. maybe three.

Everything comes to life on the battlefield, but only the most committed and curious fans of the tactical RPG genre may struggle to get to the good stuff. Nonetheless, this is a game that, within its limited scope, is pulling something interesting from deep within its chosen niche.

The DioField Chronicle is heading to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

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