The DioField Chronicle review: convincing follow-up bait

The DioField Chronicle

MSRP $59.99

“The DioField Chronicle has a lot of settings for possible sequels, but it’s a solid job of laying the right foundations to make that work in the long run.”

Pros

  • Interesting personal conflicts

  • Tactical combat system

  • Thoughtful side quests

  • Fascinating basis for a series

cons

  • There is no alternation between enemy and mission

  • Animations are janky

  • Progression and tempo problems

Square Enix has been keen on publishing more mid-range Japanese games lately, including Valkryie Elysium, Tactic Ogre: Rebornand Harvestella, all of which come out within weeks of each other. The publisher appears to be all-in with new IPs, bolstering its reliable selection of surefire RPG hits. The DioField Chronicle is an important part of that strategy.

The DioField Chronicle is a new IP from developer Lancarse and publisher Square Enix that combines a political war story with real-time strategy battles. It doesn’t seem like a one-off deal for Square Enix; everything from the game’s story to the characters is clamoring for a possible sequel. This could be the start of Square Enix’s next big IP, as long as players are willing to be early adopters.

Despite some missteps along the way, The DioField Chronicle creates a solid foundation for a potential series with its engaging combat system and interesting cast of characters. If this is the start of a new franchise, the future can only get brighter from here on out.

political background

The story of the RPG is set on the island of DioField, which is rich in deposits of the natural resource Jade. Several nations are interested in Jade, including the Trovelt-Schoevian Empire, the Rowtale Alliance, and the Kingdom of Alletain. When the Alliance is defeated by the Empire in a war, it sets its sights on Alletain. A mercenary group, the Blue Foxes, works closely with Alletain to comply with various requests from the royal government, including pushing back the Imperial forces. The four heads of the Blue Foxes are Andrias Rhondarson, Fredret Lester, Iscarion Colchester and Waltaquin Redditch.

The DioField Chronicle video

What makes the Blue Foxes interesting are the ideals each of the heads has and how they conflict with each other. For example, Lester believes that only a king is capable of leading commoners to prosperity, while Colchester is a proponent of democracy. During missions that require the suppression of class uprisings and riots, they collide with the question of whether ordinary people looting an area justify the use of force.

The way the story is told is similar to Triangle strategy, another strategy game published by Square Enix launched this year. In between story missions, a narrator explains key plot events with book-like illustrations. While this approach is revealing rather than revealing, it contrasts with the actual cutscenes that focus on the dynamics between the minds of the Blue Foxes.

I’ve bought enough to see how future stories within the DioField universe can build on that.

Later in the story, political tensions between Alletain and the Empire fade into the background in favor of interpersonal squabbles between the heads of the Blue Foxes. Certain plot twists and irreconcilable differences between them propel the plot forward and keep it engaging on a more personal level, as opposed to a larger story.

At certain points, some characters argue with each other. Despite these conflicts, the characters make sure the player knows that this isn’t the last time you’ll see them – this definitely screams follow-up bait. That can be a bit annoying as it results in some unresolved plot threads. However, the characters have compelling reasons to be disillusioned with what the Blue Foxes group has become, and I’ve bought enough to want to see how future stories within the DioField universe could build on that.

Fire Emblem: Blue Foxes

DioFieldThe gameplay consists of real-time strategy battles and conversations with group members outside of combat. During missions, you can deploy a total of eight units, four of which are the most important units you can control. The other four are subunits that don’t participate directly, but you can call on their support and special abilities.

I wish there was more variety in enemy unit types and objectives.

It’s an engaging combat system where I had to be tactical about where I sent my units. I could focus all four of them on a single target or split them between different enemies. Additional rewards (skill points, materials, etc.). are earned by completing various side objectives during missions, such as avoiding allies from being knocked out, finding the treasure chest on the battlefield, and finishing the fight within a certain time limit.

I wish there was more variety in enemy unit types and objectives. While there are occasional escort missions, they are very few in number and most of the missions boil down to eliminating every single enemy unit. Still, the movie that plays in activating special abilities is a treat. Each character class has an ultimate ability that transitions into a cutscene. A personal favorite is the Cavalier’s Lance Strike which grabs the enemy, launches it into the air and knocks it to the ground, causing spikes to protrude from the earth and damage other enemies within the radius of the attack.

The DioField Chronicle battles

Upgrading weapons and skills is a relatively simple process. The default reward for completing missions is gold, which can be used to upgrade certain facilities to gain access to more weapons and skills. However, the course is a bit skewed. In the beginning and middle of the story I sometimes felt like I wasn’t strong enough and had to grind a few side missions to be able to afford new gear. But by the time I reached the endgame, I was swimming in more gold than I managed to spend.

The side missions themselves provide good characterization and backstories between Rhondarson and the plethora of other party members. They are reminiscent of Fire Emblem’s Support Conversations or Persona’s Social Links. For example, on a side mission, I had to take out assassins hired by the church because one of my party members was a defector. Another party member, hungry for revenge, wanted to slaughter the entire population of a fishing village because their old political enemies lived there, despite some shedding new leaves and even starting a family.

A bit boring, innit

The members of the Blue Foxes live in a base called Elm Camp, where almost all side missions and conversations take place. The area reminds me of the hub of the Garreg Mach Monastery in ? Fire Emblem: Three Houses, except Elm Camp feels much less alive because it’s a quiet rental base rather than a full-fledged school with teachers. There is only the minimum number of NPCs needed for things like shops and upgradeable facilities.

The DioField Chronicle is a promising new IP with lots of good ideas, anchored by an engaging combat system and character dynamics.

It doesn’t help that the game’s color palette in Elm Camp is rather muted. I don’t expect the characters to have toothpaste colored hair like Fire Emblem Engage‘s new main character. That would clash with the overall gritty tone of the game, but I feel like some brighter colors here and there would have helped make it visually clearer.

While I love the character portraits, drawn in the beautiful and distinct Final Fantasy style by Isamu Kamikokuryo, the 3D character models and animations could have used a little more work outside of combat. Their faces look odd like china and dolls, especially during cutscenes. And Rhondarson’s running and running animations around Elm Camp look like he always has a pebble in his shoe or needs to quickly find the nearest bathroom.

The DioField Chronicle Camp Elm

Even with those artistic flaws, The DioField Chronicle is a promising new IP with lots of good ideas, anchored by an engaging combat system and character dynamics. It is very clear that Lancarse wants to expand the world and the knowledge of the game, and there is definitely potential here. If a more polished sequel addresses some of the gameplay and progression issues, then the next adventure of the Blue Foxes will be one to look forward to.

The DioField Chronicle was rated on PS4.

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