As someone that grew up playing Square RPGs of all varieties, The DioField Chronicle is a wonderful surprise.
With IPs such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, it would be easy for Square Enix to just turn out cookie-cutter RPGs and play it safe. But instead, thankfully it likes to take risks, with some of them such as Octopath Traveler proving particularly fruitful. And then there are titles that are even more left-field for the Japanese publisher and developer. The DioField Chronicle is one of them, borrowing elements from games of the company’s past and looking outwards for inspiration to deliver a strategy RPG that feels refreshingly unique.
Set in a world rife with conflict, The DioField Chronicle finds you leading a band of mercenaries through a politically-charged story. Working for a Duke, you spend your days keeping the peace and building a name for your unit. But with a war raging nearby, there’s a serious threat of your territory being invaded for its valuable resources. Times are unpredictable, then, and your skills may soon be truly tested.
At the core of The DioField Chronicle is a battle system that’s dubbed “Real Time Tactical Battle”. Think of it as a hybrid between the combat found in a real-time strategy game and a traditional turn-based RPG and you should have an idea of what to expect. Battles play out in real time, but the action is paused whenever you select a unit, or group of units, to perform a specific action. And so, while much of the combat takes place without your input, you’re in control of initiating special skills and directing your party members where necessary.
You’ll only ever be in control of four units at any one time, and battlefields are relatively small. That means that battles are over relatively quickly. A nice touch is that you can even bring up a battle log and go back to a checkpoint mid-battle if you make a mistake. With additional mission completion rewards typically doled out for winning within a set amount of time and without losing any units, it’s something you might want to do from time to time.
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You can totally redo missions at a later date if you wish, however, sweeping up any rewards that you missed while also gaining valuable experience and gold. In between missions you’ll return to your base, which is equipped with a wide range of services that you can develop over time. As well as the battle map, there’s a shop, a missions board, and a research station where you can upgrade skills, research new weapons, and power up summons that are invaluable in battle.
It’s at your base where you can also talk to your team mates, as well as develop their abilities and equip them with gear. Side-missions can be picked up, too, some of which will see new units joining your cause in addition to those you pick up via the main story. It’s just a shame that your base is so sterile – it feels empty and lifeless, more functional than a place where your colleagues hang out and further themselves during downtime.
It thankfully doesn’t detract from the experience much though. You’ll just be keen to head out on the next mission, putting together a party of units that can get the job done. As you’d expect, units each have their own strengths and weaknesses, with Knights upon horseback being effective against Spellcasters, and Archers being your best bet to take down flying units. You can even take reserves into battle, giving you access to their skills while also being being able to switch them into your party to deal with unexpected threats. Your usage of skills really is important here, and so you’ll be making frequent use of them. It leads to a battle system that keeps you engaged every step of the way.
The DioField Chronicle has proved to be quite the surprise. Its story isn’t the most riveting out there, but it is interesting, with a cast of characters whose motives aren’t always clear. But what carries it are its battles, which are enjoyably deep but not bogged down in complexity or length. They’re fun and engaging, challenging you to think and act fast while making use of the skills available to you. Everything comes together to create one of Square Enix’s most enjoyable RPGs in some time, with a combat system that we hope we haven’t seen the last of.