The Diofield Chronicle Review (Switch)
Release Date: September 22, 2022
File Size: 9.2GB
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Lancarse, Square Enix
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 1.1.0
The announcement of The DioField Chronicle, much like a lot of Square’s releases this year, felt like it came out of nowhere. There appeared to be a sudden and welcome focus on strategy games, what with Triangle Strategy, Tactics Ogre Reborn, and The DioField Chronicle all coming out in the same year. But unlike the first two games, The DioField Chronicle would be tackling the strategy genre in a different way by dubbing its gameplay as a “Real-Time Tactical Battle System”. Is this dive into the RTS genre a success, or does this title flop in the water? Let’s dive deeper and find out.
The DioField Chronicle takes place on the island of DioField, where peace has been present for centuries. Or, at least, it had been before the fourth prince Levantias came under attack and was suddenly killed. From that point, the story skips ahead eight years, where a carriage comes under attack. Thankfully, a group of individuals just so happen to be around to save her before she meets her demise. The person inside the carriage is actually a government official working under Duke Hende and as thanks for saving her, they are invited to join his private militia. With seemingly nothing better to do with their time, they accept the offer.
As they get accustomed to working under Duke Hende, the group, which will later be dubbed the Blue Foxes, find themselves drawn into the middle of a conflict between the Allentain and the Empire. The Empire has found out that DioField has a large supply of Jade, a known resource of Modern Magic, and wants that supply for itself. But along with that, there’s also some internal conflict going on at the island of DioField that sets the Blue Foxes right in the center of two conflicts that need resolving.
When it comes to the actual storytelling of the game, it feels as though a lot of details are skimmed past as you’re dragged from scenario to scenario. Rather than key events happening in real time, often you are hearing about these events in summary pieces in between missions. This makes it harder to feel as immersed in the story, since it feels like you’re just given a general summary up until the moment where the characters are debriefed on the next mission and sent out. Even the main cast feels like pieces on a game board with small blurbs attached to them, with hints of story lore given to some of them without going into further detail.
The DioField Chronicle is a real-time strategy RPG where you control up to four characters at one time, selecting their position at any point in time. Units auto-attack by default, but they have skills that you can make use of as well. Outside of battles, there are facilities where you can upgrade your characters skills, an entire unit’s skills, and purchase weapons.
As The DioField Chronicle is a real-time strategy game, that means that combat is always occurring. Auto-attacks go off automatically, so long as enemies are within attacking range. Otherwise, they’ll just stand around until you give them orders to attack. It is up to you to move your characters across the map and you are free to place characters almost anywhere (unless the game gives you a pop up message that says you can’t move to a specific area). You can also set a path by using waypoints to direct your characters in a specific way, which helps when you want to pick up items or healing orbs along the way.
Along with your auto attacks, each character also has three skills that they can make use of. Skills are on a cooldown timer, and you won’t be able to use another skill until that timer is up. This doesn’t matter quite as much in the early game, but once the game starts picking up, there will be missions where there are an abundance of enemies and you’ll want to wait to use your skills until the right time. These skills can easily turn the tide of a battle, each having their own effects such as stunning an enemy or provoking a group of enemies. However, your skills use up EP and once you’re all out, you won’t be able to use your skills anymore. And since some battles can end up dragging longer than anticipated, there will be times where you’ll need to eat a couple of hits in order to maintain your EP for the long term.
Of course, though, battles can be cheesed, depending on how you go about it. If you’re having difficulty with a later battle, simply leveling up a bit can often solve any power discrepancies. There are also specific skills, such as Assassination, which can deal a lot of damage (especially if you’re hitting the enemy from behind) and reduces the cooldown to 0 if it ends up killing the enemy.
When you defeat enemies, they will drop TP, which goes into a gauge where you can eventually spend to use finishing moves. The moves that you can use depend on which Magilumic Orb you have equipped, with a maximum of two different orbs. Some orbs will heal your HP and EP while others will deal a large amount of damage. These moves can easily swing the tides of battle, putting you in a better state. Of course though, you’ll need to anticipate when the best time to use your finishing moves is. Along with TP, enemies will sometimes drop glowing orbs that can either heal your HP, EP, or TP (all enemy deaths will contribute to your TP gauge, but there is a chance for an additional TP orb to drop as well).
Some enemies will have their own powerful attacks in The DioField Chronicle, telegraphing their AOE before actually executing it. In these moments, you can choose whether to move all of your characters out of the way of the blast, take the hit (due to positioning issues), or stun the enemy using a skill. Most of the time, stunning the enemy will interrupt their attack. There are some exceptions, mainly with boss characters who can only be stunned once in a specific time frame. It’s still best to at least try against boss characters, but do keep in mind that trying to stun them may not work if you’ve already done so once a short while ago.
There are a few types of missions that you’ll be sent out on: regular missions where you must eliminate all enemies, defense missions where you must protect a barricade while also defeating all enemies, and escort missions where you must protect a carriage to the very end of their route. With the last two mission types in particular, enemy waves are common, making it much more important to conserve your resources so that you’re not out of EP or TP by the time you reach the end. And yes, the escort missions are still annoying as with any other game, since the carriage will continue moving until they’re right in the center of an enemy attack, in which case they will stop because there’s an obstacle in their way. No, they will not move at even the slightest hint of danger.
Missions have pass and fail requirements which are visible before selecting a mission, and right before the mission starts. At the end of a successful mission, you’ll gain gold and experience. All units will gain experience, although those that directly participated in the battle gain more. However, if you lose a mission, you’ll have to restart the battle from the beginning. Before it gets to that point, you’ll want to make use of the rewind function. The DioField Chronicle allows you to travel back to a previous point in a mission. So if you notice that things are quickly falling apart, simply rewinding allows you to start over at a certain point.
When it comes to difficulty, there are three settings to choose from: casual, normal, and hard. The difficulty can be changed at any point within the game. This is directly tied to enemy damage to your characters. Outside of that, any difficulty that you’ll run into in this game are the constant wave of enemies on certain maps, as well as bosses that are over the recommended level. Along with being over the recommended level, boss characters typically have a lot of health that needs to be depleted in order to defeat them. Outside of that, they don’t operate any differently from regular enemies.
The DioField Chronicle is the type of game where there are a lot of upgrade facilities available to make use of, but whether they actually make a difference or not is not easily apparent in some cases. The only way to get new weapons and accessories is to purchase them from the shop. Once you purchase a new weapon, you can choose to equip it to a character of your choice right away, but accessories have to be equipped manually. Along with increasing your stats, different weapons have different skills associated with it. You may find that specific weapons might work better for your play style, even if they’re technically weaker. For example, a weaker weapon may have a stun skill while the stronger weapon doesn’t. So it pays to keep an eye on which skills are attached to which weapon and to adjust your play style when applicable.
Along with weapons, there is also an ability tree and a skill tree to keep up with. Each individual character has an ability tree, which will unlock passive skills using AP that is gained with every level up. You can choose to save up your AP and unlock a stronger passive ability, or spend your AP on a cheaper ability and continue to level it up. The cheaper abilities are lackluster, but it takes a long while to earn AP in order to unlock the higher-cost ones.
The skill tree, on the other hand, is for different units. Units are what group a character falls under, such as a mage or a tank. Unlocking and leveling up these skills affects the actual skills in battle. You can level up the effects those skills already have, or give additional effects alongside it. This makes battles much easier on you, since you’re unlocking new skills that you can eventually make use of, as well as powering up the skills you already have at your disposal. In order to level up skills, you’ll need SP, which is given based on whether you fulfill bonus objectives in battle.
You can also level up your Magilumic Orb attacks the same way as your skills. Powering up your orb attacks can increase their power or their effect range. However, in order to power it up, you’ll need both gold and Jade Crystals. Gold is given at the end of a successful mission while Jade is given if a bonus objective has been completed in battle. You can also find Jade in treasure chests on maps. These upgrades actually feel worthwhile, as they can increase the effect range and the power behind your finishing skills.
There are a lot of avenues to power up your character, however the actual currency does feel stingy. In order to get more gold, you have to farm old maps. The good news is that with each subsequent mission that you unlock, they offer more gold. The downside though is that better weapons and Magilumic Orb abilities get more expensive as you go on.
In The DioField Chronicle, you’ll notice quite a few badges with numbers underneath them: The Blue Foxes, Meal, Skill Tree, Shop, Weapon Development, and Magilumic Orb badges. The level of all of these badges will affect how far you can upgrade and expand certain things within your base and with your characters. Think of them like a level cap almost. In order to increase these badge levels, you’ll have to clear through side quests and also go through the main story. This does end up making it viable to do side quests, outside of the benefit of more resources (gold, exp, AP, Jade, and potential SP).
The DioField Chronicle is primarily 3D models with 2D character sprites appearing during specific cutscenes to show which character is speaking. The 3D models are alright, looking more like models you’d see in a claymation film rather than a video game. It’s a nice style and one that does set the game apart from other games in its genre. When it comes to the character designs, they are nice in their own way, but do tend to blend together among other tactics RPG games. Along with the 3D character models, there are also 3D models of the characters as game pieces, which is a nice touch to see whenever you switch the combat view out to see the entire field. Since there is typically a lot of pawn imagery when it comes to stories about war, it’s interesting to see it pop up in this game.
However, the 2D art of the game is gorgeous and it is a shame that it’s limited to character sprites. The tag team of Taiki (Lord of Vermilion III and IV) and Isamu Kamikokuryo (Final Fantasy XII and XIII) resulted in gorgeous concept and character art. Along with the powerhouse that is the art is the OST by Game of Thrones composers Ramin Djawadi and Brandon Campbell. The soundtrack is as bombastic as you’d expect, and truthfully, listening to it by itself makes one think of a game of much bigger caliber than The DioField Chronicle.
There is also voice acting in The DioField Chronicle, although it’s only partial. During key cutscene moments, you can hear either Japanese or English voice acting depending on your preference. Otherwise, you’ll just hear the occasional grunt of one word mutter from characters. This isn’t anything new to the genre, but it still would have been nice for the entire game to have voice acting.
The DioField Chronicle feels like a decent start to Square Enix wandering into the RTS genre. While commendable that they are branching out, it does fall a bit flat at the end of the day. The game opens up very promisingly, having a strong start with its gameplay and story. However, it just as quickly falls into a pit of safety, not doing much to challenge the player during combat. Battles end up feeling much the same, whether you’re defending your base or charging forward to claim the enemy’s high ground. The story feels like you’re experiencing it via a roller coaster, watching everything fly by in moments of exposition.
The aesthetics of the game are very nice and the music is gorgeous, a nice earworm to listen to while going through the motions of the game. It has a good base and perhaps in the future, the Real-Time Strategy Battle System can be built out to be more engaging and strategic. If you were happy with the demo and find yourself interested in battles similar to what you experienced then, then you’ll probably enjoy the game. But if you’re looking for a system that expands on itself and a story that grows more engaging, you’re better off looking elsewhere.