Review: Natural Doctrine PS4/Vita

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I’ve recently started playing this game, Natural Doctrine, it’s a game that, as far as I can tell, is about four people who don’t like each other killing goblins.

A lot of the gameplay is over explained in dialogue, or dialogue boxes and some aspects, such as what a lot of the descriptions mean, aren’t explained at all.

The story line is so flimsy that it seems to be a group of people attacking other people, simply because that’s what you do in games. At one point a character said ‘If they weren’t so ugly we wouldn’t be any different from common thieves’, I’m not sure that a lack of physical attractiveness counts as a reasonable loophole in the law, at least not in the UK, as grounds to rob and kill a collection of people that are just hanging out in caves.

The battle system, while interesting from a tactics point of view, is very sloppy and tedious. I had to make sure to carefully line my characters up so as not to accidentally shoot my own characters to the ground, as friendly fire is always on, also if one of my increasingly large collection of characters died, it was a total and unapologetic game over.

There is no way to fast forward or skip the enemy animation as they are taking turns and sometimes I found myself watching ten different goblins move left and then right creating about 120 seconds of dead air. To exit a level I had to, one by one, motivate my own team towards a green square which also took an extraordinarily long time. I felt like I was playing 5 a side with a full team at subbuteo but that I had to wait for someone to get home from work every time a character needed to get moving.

The difficulty level is unrealistically hard, I tried grinding to my fullest ability in one of the first levels, but it soon became unavailable to me, and now my only option is to get battered to bits by an orc that is so gigantic that hit looks like it’s played by every male member of The Sopranos cast rolled up in mouldy pastry.

While the game is unforgivingly difficult, it would be easy to instantly disregard it despite the popularity of such ‘good and notoriously difficult’ games such as Dark Souls and Bloodborne, but this game moves from being hard to easy and back to hard by sheer luck. Two children playing poker, neither of which understand the rules, one of them is gonna win each round just by probability and that is the way this game runs.

It looks good, but it plays very clunkily, it might be a good way to eat up some time on a long train ride as long as it’s one of those train rides that permits you to punch the people beside you on the train. The dialogue is repetitive and tedious and the whole feel is that it kind of expects you to play it for no reason other than it is a game. If I was to choose a game to occupy an afternoon or a long flight, I could choose about ten other games published this year by NIS America alone and Natural Doctrine would not be one of them.