Game Review: The DioField Chronicles
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on other platforms)
Reviewer: Gary Richardson
I first experienced this game a downloadable demo. Advertised as a tactical strategy RPG similar to games like Fire Emblem. There was a lot to get my attention. I love RPGs. I love the main Fire Emblem games and similar tactical strategy games like Brigandine.
As soon as the demo was announced, I immediately loaded it onto my Switch and started playing. The first thing that I noticed is that unlike Fire Emblem, there was a lot of effort and attention into adding cut scenes and animation to tell the game’s story. There are still the standard dialogue windows that you cycle through but there is more than just that when this game tells its story.
What is that story? I don’t know. I’m not a big story guy for games and I tend to skip through the dialogue and cut scenes so that I can get to the action. I like playing the game, not reading the text or listening to cut scenes. If I wanted to watch a movie, I’d watch a movie. If I wanted to read, I’d read a book or watch a sub-only anime. I play games to play games not spectate them.
Regardless of how much detail I pay to the actual story, I can tell and appreciate the work done by the development team to tell that story and try to make it visually attractive.
I’m sure I’ve played games that had awesome stories that I never followed or cared about. Likewise, I’ve probably enjoyed games that had terrible stories but my pleasure was never distracted or diminished by it because I never payed attention to it. I didn’t buy the game for the story but for the gameplay. What else do you want me to say?
I won’t go into a lot of detail about the demo, feel free to download it yourself, but I will say that after completing the demo that I pre-ordered the full game at my local GameStop store. Sadly, due to a distributor problem, my local GameStop did not get my game on launch day. I had to wait a few days before I could pick up my copy and start playing the rest of the game.
As for combat, it only slightly plays like Fire Emblem. Where Fire Emblem uses a grid based battlefield and characters can only move X number of space each turn and only to unoccupied spaced, much like chess pieces, characters in DioField can move much more fluidly. You can choose one or more characters and then select a place on the map for them to move, even putting in a few waypoints for them to move through along the way if you so choose, and the characters automatically move to the desired location. The difference being that different troops move a different speeds. This means that troops mounted on horses will move faster than troops on the ground and even among those troops they may move faster or slower depending on their class.
And just like for movement, you can select one of more characters to attack a target simultaneously or you can direct each troop to attack a different target. Troops will auto-attack with their basic attacks if you do nothing other than point them at an enemy but you can also choose a member of your party to pause the action allowing you the opportunity to select a skill or action for that troop to take. This may include special attacks, healing, inflicting status ailments, and more.
The environments during battle are interactive. Barrels can be exploded to deal damage to troops in the vicinity. Bridges can be raised or lowered to gain/restrict access to parts of the map. Treasure chests can be opened to find special finds like gear, money, or items.
Enemies vary from basic foot soldier type troops to wizards. From beastly looking ogres to frightful dragons. Each enemy unit has a range of vision so crafty players can sneak around to avoid some combat or to divide the enemy troops to allow for easier combat. Likewise, placement impacts damage. Being behind or above a target gives you greater chances for critical hits while decreasing the damage you are likely to take in combat. All of the typical components one might expect from a tactical strategy game, right?
Since playing the demo, I kept track of the game and read reviews by others as they were released. I found several that seemed to mostly take umbrage with the game’s story or how the story was told. Some said the game failed to tell the story or that the gameplay masked an uninspired story but frankly such comments are lost on me given that I didn’t pay much attention to story in the demo.
If the story is the biggest knock that others can find with the game then I’m reasonably fine thinking that I will still firmly enjoy the full game. I like the combat system. I enjoyed the navigation and interaction. I wanted to grow and expand my team but hit the limits of the demo that prevented me from doing more. I don’t know the background of a lot about what is happening in the game or why but I don’t care. I was enjoying playing the game and that is what is most important to me.
And now that I’ve gotten my retail release copy, the progress my characters made during the demo with their gear and cash all carried over into the main game. Recently I completed the game and have a better perspective on the game’s total package. While the demo provided an ample sample of the story and gameplay, the demo is only a slice of the whole game and only by playing the full game can one truly appreciate or despise this game.
I will say that I enjoyed the combat. There wasn’t a great amount of diversity in skills, combat tactics needed, enemies, or anything else but the combat was at least challenging. I found myself grinding by replaying missions to strengthen my troops either through gaining levels or by stacking cash to buy gear. If you want to be able to have a good time playing and be able to achieve all objectives of every mission with relative ease, the lowest level character on your squad needs to be level 50. You can complete the game with characters around level 40 but as with most games like this, the higher the level your characters are compared to your opponents, the easier time you will have winning that fight. Grind up to level 50 and lay waste to your enemies.
The play time on the game is several hours but to me that is a bit of a misnomer. This is mainly due to the performance issues the game suffers from. Whether those deficiencies are due to game design, Switch hardware limitations, or a combination of the two, the game suffers for it. I can play a mission that takes me 3 minutes to be but to do that mission takes 10 minutes. The loading times, the menu management, the cut scenes, the dialog that you can only speed through but not skip….it all adds up and it takes you twice as long to progress through the different options than it did to actually complete the fight. I mean, I don’t watch the cutscenes and I don’t read or listen to the dialogue. I skip through that as fast as I can and it STILL takes 10 minutes to do a 3 minute mission. That’s just unnecessary in my book.
And while we’re talking about potential game design flaws, there are just some general things in the game design that seemed overthought and unnecessary. While in the main area of the game outside of battle, you can explore the 2-story map, talk to allies, buy gear, choose missions, spend skill points, research weapons, and upgrade summons. However, you can do all of these things in the pre-battle menu too. There is no tactics or strategy required to build your team before deploying for battle because you can adjust everything after you deploy but before you fight. There is even a “quest log” in the pre-battle menu but the only quests you have in the game is talk to X (which you can only do while not deployed on a mission) or complete X mission (which you can only take 1 mission at a time). What is the point of that menu item on a pre-battle menu. I can’t talk to anyone at this point and I’m already on a mission so I can’t do another mission without abandoning the current one.
My biggest gripe about the game though is just the busy work. There is a lot of “go talk to X” type activities that require you to take time to find that person as they move about the building. Then it pauses to load into a dialogue scene that can’t be skipped, only sped up. Once you’ve tapped your buttons a gajillion times to speed through the conversation, the game pauses to load back to the main building map so it can show a question update/completion notification before allowing you to continue. It just seems like you spend a lot of time running around to have conversations with people that have no bearing on the game as a means for the developers to extend the game length.
From a player tip point of view, don’t worry about maxing out every skill in each skill tree. Don’t worry about unlocking every weapon in every weapon research line. Find the skills and weapons you want to use and just unlock those. You will unlock the option to buy resources from the store to unlock weapons and upgrade your summons so you don’t have to worry about if the game gives you enough because as long as you have the gold then you can buy what you need. But the game does NOT give you anything special or extra for unlocking everything in a particular branch. There’s no bonus to unlocking every weapon or maxing every skill. What you get is what you get and the game doesn’t reward you for that effort.
Likewise, if you want to buy all of the best gear for all of your characters or max a character’s abilities, prepare to grind. Even at level 50+ with my main character, there were still several stats to be improved for that character. I guess that is for the replay ability aspect for the New Game+ mode that unlocks when you beat the main story.
I will say, having finished the game, it is a decent game for the Switch. I don’t know that I would care for the game as much on any other platform, especially if it was still plagued by the same performance issues on my PS5. The game looks good on the Switch but it would need to be a lot more on my PS5. Think of it as would it work at a GameBoy Advance game and also as a PS3 game? Probably not. I expect different qualities for different consoles and this is one of those games for me that probably shouldn’t have been put on multiple platforms.
Having played it to completion and seeing the lack of diversity in the game, I’m not sure it counts as a Triple AAA game worthy of a Triple AAA price. This is definitely bigger and better than most Indie games but I’m not sold on this as a $60 game. I could see it doing well as a $40 game though.
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