The DioField Chronicle – Run-PMC: War this Way​

The DioField Chronicle - Run-PMC: War this Way

SRPGs hold a special place in my heart. Most of the time you’re given all the information up front; you can see the map, you can see what enemies are out there and you know what your objective is. From there it’s a puzzle, of sorts. How will you move, what units are best used where, how can you use the terrain to your advantage and how can you bait the enemy to minimise your own losses? The DioField Chronicle falls into this category of game, but I can’t say it gives me that same sense of achievement or struggle that others in the genre bring.

You play as the Blue Fox mercenary group, fighting for Duke Hende as he seeks to defend the island of DioField whilst also fulfilling his own agenda. Missions are prefaced with walking about a base, chatting with people and seeing what has changed, then a decently long cutscene where the four leads of the mercenaries discuss the upcoming mission and their thoughts on it. The mercs don’t seem to agree on anything apart from doing the Duke’s missions as a priority, for the betterment of the mercenary company.

This is where my issues are with this approach; the only way you find out bits and pieces of the story and people’s diverse motivations in an extremely calamitous political landscape is by small character cutscenes at base, and only if they choose to say anything. When they do, the revelations can be quite good, but they’re not consistent enough to decently explore what should for all intents and purposes but a juicy scenario for wheeling and dealing, or even for some decent arguments. SRPGs often are backed up by quite heavy stories that whets the appetite for the mission to come, and I just didn’t feel it here. The story is decent, and I think it nails the ending but the parts in between left me wanting.

Square were clearly determined to make something a bit different in the title though. In comparison to other games in the genre which mostly lean into slow strategy, broken into turns giving you time to think and plan, DioField instead does a mixture of real time combat and a pause-based system when choosing actions. Realistically this feels a little bit like a MOBA at times, but I find the pause very lenient. So lenient in fact, that the difference between your ability to pause with abandon to choose whatever skills you wish to use, versus the enemy’s telegraphed attacks that give you time to dodge out of the way tends to unbalance the game.

I played this game on the hardest difficulty. I find, in SRPGs (unless they’re truly hard as heck, or unfair against the player) this is a good litmus test for how hefty the combat will be, to really test the chops of how the systems work. In DioField it’s all a bit weird; one of the strongest summons, Bahamut, is given to you as soon as the game starts, you can replay missions to earn extra exp if you’re having problems and as I mentioned before, the telegraph on enemy attacks is wild. Add in the oddly insanely overpower Assassinate skill and I found a lot of missions could be breezed through in just a few minutes. Of course, if you don’t lean into these things then you will have a more strategic time of things, but I found the balance was quite off. It might be a title aimed at encouraging newer players into the style of game, which I can certainly understand but it didn’t quite feel that way. 

The game does look gorgeous though, with character art done by Isamu Kamikokuryo who has previously worked on other Final Fantasy games, and between the character design and the lovely diorama-style of the maps, as well as the fantastic summon animations. I adore the look of the game, and the music is wonderful too. The composers had worked on the Games of Thrones tv show previously and it sounds great. There’s definitely some pedigree in the design of this game.

Another weird decision that was made with the game, other than that ability to retry missions ad nauseum to max out all abilities, is the addition of new game+. When I saw it, I was confused, but it doesn’t even feel like there’s any scaling on enemies, so you just end up blitzing your way through everything. Because you can max out pretty much everything in a single playthrough and there’s little flexibility when it comes to characters, all of which puts a real dampener on replayability. 

The DioField Chronicle is an interesting experiment. It’s a novel take on the traditional SRPG genre, but I don’t think it nails it. It’s a full priced game but against other SRPGs there just isn’t as much content here. Whilst the art is amazing and the music are bangers, it’s let down by an easy story mode, lack of replayability and some quite cardboard characters. Still, I hope this doesn’t dissuade Square Enix from making more of these, because there’s some quite good bones here.

The Diofield Chronicle was reviewed on PC with a code kindly provided by Bandai-Namco Australia on behalf of Square-Enix.

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