When I saw the first trailer of The DioField Chronicle, Square Enix’s new simulation JRPG, I initially thought it was a new turn-based tactics JRPG like Final Fantasy Tactics, but then I realized it was a real-time game.
That gave me pause, as I’m not exactly the best RTS player in the world (read: I’m terrible at it), and I tend to prefer turn-based games.
That being said, I was still intrigued. The backdrop of the story sees a massive war between two superpowers, the Trovelt-Schoevien Empire and the Rowetale Alliance. The conflict ends up involving a smaller nation, the Kingdom of Alletain on the Island of Diofield, as its soil is rich in Jade, a resource required to power magic.
Some among you may find this familiar. Replace the names I mentioned above with East European Empire, Atlantic Federation, Gallia, and Ragnite, and you basically have the plot of Valkyria Chronicles, one of my favorite tactics JRPGs of all time.
The playable heroes belong to a band of elite mercenaries named Blue Fox, and they are brought together by a variety of goals (that the game doesn’t really explain all that much, at least at the beginning) to pull their weight in the heat of battle.
While there was a noticeable lack of exposition, the conversations among characters certainly felt compelling enough to make me want to explore their motivations and relationships further (I was able to play only a limited demo, so I’ll have to wait to dive deeper into the final game), and I imagine we’ll discover more as the story progresses.
The potential for deep character exploration and political intrigue certainly brought me right back to the Final Fantasy Tactics comparison, which is far from a bad thing.
Without spoiling anything, Waltaquin Redditch proved to be especially interesting for me, because she’s absolutely nothing like what her looks would suggest. I can’t wait to learn more about her.
Of course, the combat system is definitely different from Final Fantasy Tactics or any turn-based tactics JRPG, but it’s still not as fast-paced as your usual RTS.
Every time you select one or more characters to give them orders the game freezes (including the completion timer for the mission), so you’re able to take your time and ponder your tactics without any feeling of urgency. On top of that, special skills happen instantaneously before time resumes.
Basically, while it’s not a turn-based game, the pacing of battle gameplay is as friendly to turn-based enthusiasts as it could be without turns, which I definitely appreciated. The fact that you command only four units (plus four in a support role) keeps things very manageable and focused.
Positional attacks and areas of effect are very important, and the demo feels like it only scratches the surface of a much deeper battle system.
The progression system appears quite complex, letting you customize your units deeply in several directions and among four different classes. This includes skill trees, equipment, summons, and more.
Basically, DioField Chronicles appears to have all the features required for a very solid tactics JRPG.
The visuals are definitely interesting, based on the absolutely lovely character design by Isamu Kamikokuryo, they’re translated into the game in a style that feels like it imitates board game pieces on a diorama. While it’s not entirely unique, it certainly gives the game its own distinctive style which I feel is very appropriate to the genre.
The audio is also very solid, including top-notch Japanese voiceovers and English ones that proved quite good as well. On top of that, battles and narration are underlined by a soundtrack that I’ve found very enjoyable so far.
Incidentally, since I previewed the PC version, I’d like to mention that (unlike many titles of this kind from Japan), the visual customization options that come in the Steam version are pretty deep, including the implementation of AMD’s FSR super-resolution. Unfortunately, DLSS is missing, but FSR will still work on Nvidia graphics cards.
Ultimately, The DioField Chronicle is certainly a game to keep an eye on if you’re a fan of tactics JRPGs. If the idea of real-time gameplay turns you off, give the demo releasing today a try and you may be surprised.
While the developers strayed to some extent from the path of the Final Fantasy Tactics successor that many would want (and that, for some reason, Square Enix seems very hesitant to deliver), I feel that there is still plenty of potential to live up to its legacy, especially if the story characters are as deep and interesting as the first chapter suggests they may be.