The DioField Chronicle is a game that will appeal to a large number of people, but there’s a high chance you might not have heard of it. Square Enix and Lancarse’s strategic RPG might have slipped under your radar, but it should absolutely be one title you play in 2022. I didn’t know anything about it until I played the demo last month, but ever since I’ve been craving more. The “Real Time Tactical Battle (RTTB)” system is sublime, featuring plenty of diversity in decision-making while in the field, forcing you to make strategic decisions, and constantly tweak your approach.
Taking place on an island called DioField to the North of Rowetale Mainland, you lead a band of mercenaries known as the Blue Foxes as they fight to save the Kingdom of Alletain from an incoming attack from opposing forces. It is an island rich with Jade, a resource used to create magic. After a devastating war between the Empire and the Alliance on the Mainland, attention is turned to the as-yet unaffected island in the hope of mining DioField for its Jade, leading to bloodshed, warfare, and untold destruction. The story is filled with political intrigue, twists and turns, and some wonderful writing that consistently kept me interested.
The battles in The DioField Chronicle are excellent in every way. Not only are they challenging, they force you to keep a constant eye on many factors as you progress through the dioramic environments. You’ll select four party members for every battle, utilising the four specific units to customise your strategy going into each mission. Soldiers are the bread and butter of the mercenaries, using their strength to get up close and wield daggers, sword and shields, or lances depending on the character. The Cavalry unit travel with their mount, be it a horse or wyvern, to knock enemies back and command large areas of the battle field due to their speed and force. Sharpshooters attack from afar with guns or bows and arrows, and Magickers can launch powerful spells, as well as heal from a distance.
Combining different characters with a range of special skills is a huge part of where the enjoyment in fighting lies. You could select a party made up entirely of one unit, but having that variety in attacks and abilities is key to fulfilling the conditions of battle. The four founders, or “heads” of the Blue Foxes are Andrias, Fredet, Iscarion, and Waltaquin, but these can be changed out if you wish. I personally had Andrias and Waltaquin in my party throughout because of how well they fitted into my team, but you can change out everyone depending on how you play. What adds variety to each battle is how you approach an enemy, who you use and what skills you master, and those on the fly decisions that are constantly being made for an edge in the fight.
Success in battle is highly rewarded, and is dependant on meeting certain conditions. You’ll fail if your entire party dies, but other conditions might be to not let the enemy destroy your defences. As for the rewards, you can gain valuable resources to develop new weapons, upgrade Magilumic Orbs, earn Skill and Ability Points, and XP for completing missions within a time limit, finding treasure chests, and making sure no allies fall in battle. These conditions for success and rewards are always on your mind, so making sure you play as tactically as possible to meet them adds another layer to your decision making.
You can control the whole party at any one time, sending all four members in to attack. If a band of enemies are in pairs or are separate, you can split up the party and try to ambush from behind which does more damage, use your sharpshooters to attack from range to draw attention, or pull a Hail Mary and go in all weapons blazing. It’s easy to control, and you’ll find that new enemies spawn when you don’t expect it, making victory all the sweeter when you’re successful. Each member has a range of skills that can be used to attack, too. Two soldiers might have a completely different skill set, meaning even more customisation to how you play.
These special attacks will be utilised constantly, and they’ll have more of an effect depending on the type of enemy you’re facing. Some attacks have status effects and can cause poisoning or burning, for example. When using these attacks on bosses, they’ll build up temporary resistances, so mixing up your approach is yet another factor in the RTTBs you have. Whether you’re facing soldiers, bandits, or monsters, they’ll all have their own attacks and patterns to become familiar with, and when balancing your entire party’s approach, these fights are not only incredibly involving, they push you to pay close attention to every single decision the enemy makes. These attacks also consume EP, meaning you’ll need to find more on the battlefield in the form of jade fragments, or stock up on potions back at the shop.
One of the most visually impressive moments in battle, as well as the most advantageous abilities at your disposal, is the use of a Magilumic Orb. You’ll fill up your TP gauge, and once a slot is filled, you’ll be able to call upon a giant beast to do untold damage to proceedings, or have them heal you, add a temporary buff to your power, and more. There’s nothing greater than having Bahamut turn up and reign purple fire down from the heavens on a group of enemies, just as you’re close to defeat. These creatures can turn the tides of battle, especially once you’ve levelled them up through research done back at HQ.
Like Game of Thrones, where there is clear inspiration throughout, there’re plenty of characters, organisations, and locations that get thrown at you from the start. While at first it’s hard to keep up with all the names and advances in the vast and dense story, it soon starts to fall into place, and with the addition of a library back at base for you to spend time reading up on character biographies and documents pertaining to everything that’s happening, you’re given plenty of opportunities to gain clarity in the plot that’s unfolding throughout. Again, like George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic, the characters are what invests you in The DioField Chronicle.
The more you play The DioField Chronicle, the more you begin to care and love the various members of the Blue Foxes. You’ll begin to build up the mercenary unit with new faces, and you’ll likely gain favourites thanks to the well-written narrative. These characters all have an investment in the war, and you’ll learn about not only why they are fighting for Alletain, but also about their life before, their fears, their dreams, and their personalities. Also, some of these characters are just awesome. I couldn’t help but love Rickles, the young girl with a gift for archery, and Donovar, a loyal warrior who has seen his fair share of battle.
Outside of combat, many of your interactions between the Blue Foxes take place at HQ and makeshift camps you set up at certain points when home is too far away. When not advancing the main story, Sub Quests will often consist of talking to your friends and simply conversing with them, or running small errands. They aren’t too taxing and rarely take much time to complete, but they’ll help you to build friendships and learn more about your allies. Calling them quests feels out of place as they’re normally a chat that barely lasts a minute, but they do provide Guld, the game’s currency, as a reward. Everything in The DioField Chronicle revolves around the upgrading of your base, your characters, and the research done to improve everything in your possession.
Blue Fox Badges are where the upgrades to your facilities can be improved. These can be levelled up through success on the battlefield, as well as completing certain missions for members within HQ. These upgrades mean new gear and items become available at the shop, more guld can be obtained in battle, extra slots are added for the Magilumic Orbs, and more. Certain materials can be found in missions that will aid in weapon development and improving all of your orbs’ abilities, and Ability Points increase your character’s power, attributes, and other important facets. There’s also a skill tree that’ll improve the special attacks for each unit.
It’s quite confusing knowing how these skills can be assigned, as certain weapons can only use specific skills. You can’t manually switch in different skills/special attacks, but rather you select weapons that have these attached to them. It’s one of the areas where The DioField Chronicle struggles to get it right, but there are few issues in what is for the most part an excellent title. When you get to grips with how all the ‘backstage’ upgrading works, you’ll find a rhythm that adds greatly to how you play, which becomes an obsession when finetuning your party and making minute tweaks to guarantee the most success in the field.
There is so much to love about The DioField Chronicle. From the depth in customising strategies both in battle and back at HQ, to the gorgeous visuals and environments while battling and watching the cutscenes, it’s a wonderfully constructed RPG that consistently impresses the further you progress. The story is fascinating, especially with all the surprises and twists you’ll uncover, and even with all the information thrown at you, you’ll start to absorb every little detail to build a picture of just how smartly written it is. Despite a steep difficulty at times and some confusing elements to how the upgrade systems work, I can’t get enough of it, and it will be firmly set high up on my Game of the Year list when the time comes.