The DioField Chronicle is the latest title by JRPG powerhouse Square-Enix, with a super team of talent behind it. Could this be the start of the next big RPG franchise or just a tale lost to time?
As Old As Time
This story follows the tale of a group of mercenaries called “Blue Foxes”. Led by Andrias Rhondarson and his friends, they all have something to prove by making a name for themselves.
Naturally, the The DioField Chronicle is set in a time of turmoil and our band gets a tip-off that some bandits are going to attack a high-ranking official. As luck would have it, the Blue Foxes manage to foil the assassination attempt and find themselves gainfully employed and on the road to greatness.
Unsurprisingly for a Square-Enix strategy role-playing game, you’ll find the traditional war-torn country and its various factions trying to reign over the said country. It’s a rather played-out narrative by this point. Despite having an all-star cast of staff who worked on Game of Thrones, Final Fantasy XII, and XIII the story never really gripped me while playing The DioField Chronicle.
What I did enjoy was the way the cast didn’t sit by and just accept the way the Blue Foxes grew throughout the narrative. Instead, some fell out of love with the team as ideals started to clash. That said, considering this is the house that built Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, it doesn’t have half as much appeal.
The characters all display some depth but between the cliche-riddled character traits and some phoned-in voice acting, I failed to click with any of them. Even the “bad guys” don’t present anything memorable which just gives the whole tale a “serviceable at best” feel to it.
A Real Fun Time
Now, with these types of games, you’d be forgiven for jumping into that first battle, expecting a traditional grid-based JRPG. But, not this time! This is a hero-based real-time strategy game and this grabbed my attention!
The DioField Chronicle lends its focus to individual units instead of groups. If you’ve played the SpellForce series, it’s similar only without the currency/material management and base-building aspects. While not uncommon, this wasn’t what I would have expected from the title at all.
You have 4 units to dance between and the game handily slows to a crawl when you are selecting them individually. There is also a “select all” button, but that will only see you getting so far into a battle before failure strikes.
Each unit has a specific archetype and with them certain abilities. You start with a quick assassin, a mounted unit to charge in, and a shield unit to tank. Later on, you’ll get more such as a mage and an archer, both good at ranged assaults. More allies are unlocked as you go on, each with strong and weak points.
While you can only take four units to the battle with you, any leftovers can be paired with one of them. This gives them access to their abilities, meaning you can cover your weaknesses to a certain degree.
Critical hits are achieved by rear attacks and objects like explosive barrels litter the battlefield. This means that perfect placement is a must if you wish to succeed. You’ll be aggroing foes to one unit while sneaking around with another in no time.
Go Your Own Way
Boss characters have several life bars for you to deplete. This often comes complete with more attacks for you to dodge too, with some big ones. These have an indicator on the map of the area of effect; pay attention and you can dodge to keep your squad safe.
While on this subject, I do have to point out that liberal use of the waypoint system is essential. The pathfinding for your troops isn’t always the most helpful in The DioField Chronicle. You may find weaker units wandering in front of attacks from stronger units when you expect them to take the longer route.
Aside from the normal abilities your team has, you also build up a meter that allows you to unleash a summon during the match. There are 3 orbs that you can fill, and this determines the power of said summon. The game starts you off with the very familiar Bahamut, which is always a good way to begin.
The Perfect Party Guest
Missions are paced just right. Some even include objectives such as capturing outposts to break the battles up. Every mission also has optional objectives, with the incentive of extra gold and other resources.
Outside of combat, you can explore an estate. It gradually opens up throughout the game, letting you speak to various NPCs and members of your team to unlock side quests, reveal bits of lore, and hear how the characters feel about the events that unfold.
Outside of that, you can improve your unit’s skill attacks, visit shops to buy new weapons and armor, and get upgrades for facilities that provide bonuses in and out of combat such as stat boosts or a better selection of stock at the shop.
To say the combat is the crux of the game would be criminally understating it and the developers seemingly knew this. Aside from having to walk up to the NPCs to talk to them, you can access any room and option from a menu rather than having to physically find the area. Sadly the exploration area doesn’t offer anything to make it worth not using the easy and quick menu over the tedium of walking around.
At Least You Have Personality?
Graphically, The DioField Chronicle looks distinctly last gen at a stretch. While not an outright hideous game, it is covered in basic textures and has average character models. A lack of little graphical features gives it a look that seems to plague a lot of the more experimental or “budget” Square Enix titles.
That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have moments where the game does look good. For summon cutscenes especially, the game seems to roll out its best. Despite this, you can see that the game was designed with a multiformat mindset, and likely a budget smaller than other titles from the house of Final Fantasy.
While none of the above is particularly detrimental to the game, the exploration between missions looks akin to a very early PS2 game. On top of this, it presents the most boring location I have had to explore in a game for quite some time. The character models up close in this section feel very stock in their design and lack animation. The whole area stinks of quick and cheap sadly.
The music in The DioField Chronicle is about what you’d expect. It’s heavily orchestral and keeps you engaged during the battle. Summon music tracks are slightly more grandiose, but throughout there wasn’t a single track that jumped out at me which was a shame.
The DioField Chronicle is only partially voiced. The voiced lines within the game all feel like the voice actors were bored or just reading the script over a zoom meeting, and Square Enix decided to use that instead of striving for a little more. It’s things like this that failed to get me engaged with the story.
The ‘unvoiced’ lines use a generic voice soundbite that doesn’t match anything that has been said. It’s also not very good.
Despite feeling like I’ve been knocking chunks out of The DioField Chronicle for the last section of this review, I did enjoy my time with the game quite a bit.
My enjoyment mainly came from the fun combat hook. It’s the poorly slapped-on exploration or the high fantasy by numbers storyline that lets it down. It feels like an experimental title for Square Enix.
Should we get a sequel, if they put more of a budget into the outside of combat sections you’d have pure gold on your hands. Sadly, as it stands you’ve got poorly rendered PS2 silver dropping through your fingers with this one.
WAIT FOR SALE ON THE DIOFIELD CHRONICLE
Many thanks go to Square Enix for a PC review code for this title.
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