If you assumed The DioField Chronicle was another “traditional” turn-based tactical RPG, guess again—we’re going real-time, this time.
I clearly haven’t been paying close enough attention, because ever since its announcement a few months ago, I’ve just assumed The DioField Chronicle would be another turn-based tactical RPG of the Final Fantasy Tactics ilk. Maybe it’s having Triangle Strategy still fresh on my memory, or the touch of Ivalice in Isamu Kamikokuryo’s character designs, or maybe that’s just what the combination of “Square Enix” and “tactics” conjures up in my mind.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I fired up the demo and, after some initial cutscenes, found myself able to freely direct my squad at will—no taking turns, and no being beholden to a movement grid. As exciting as the prospect of another “traditional” TRPG from Square Enix was, the truth of The DioField Chronicle is something a little different, and something that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should: a squad-based, real-time-with-pause tactics game with a wealth of potential.
If you’ve ever played Dragon Age, you’ll have some sense of what to expect: units move and fight in real time, but everything comes to a pause while issuing commands. With that, you get ample time to think through a plan and execute a plan, but with the different, more freeform tactical possibilities that the lack of turns allows. Coordinate your squads movements and positioning just right, and you can pull off some elaborate, dastardly schemes.
To that end, using the map and finding synergies between the different members of your party is key, even in these early missions. As well as the familiar tank/healer/attacker breakdown of combat roles, attacks that reposition your own units or push enemies around feature heavily, creating ample opportunity to creatively turn the tide of battle in your favour—whether that means splitting a group of foes up to divide and conquer, picking off stragglers one at a time, or simply herding a big group together to unleash a deadly Bahamut summon on them.
Some missions have a light stealth touch, too, with patrolling enemies and ways to set up a sneaky, advantageous approach. It’s nothing so intricate as Shadow Tactics or the like—the focus is still more squarely on tactical combat—but still offers a bit of variation and different ways to approach a given problem, with map gimmicks and optional objectives help flesh those options out further. The result? A demo that, even in the space of just a couple of hours—the first chapter of the full game, spanning five missions—lays some exciting foundations for the full game to build upon. It’s an exciting prospect.
The demo is a decent introduction to the world of The DioField Chronicle, too: one of political strife and class disparity, with nobles pulling the strings of a war over resources that catches everyone else in the crossfire. Amid that, a small band of merceneries who happened to save a prince from an assassination attempt fight for justice and peace. Not necessarily the most original concept, perhaps, but a timeless one, and it’ll be interesting to see how the pieces unfold.
So, yes, colour me excited. Not that I wasn’t already, to be fair, but I wasn’t quite expecting what the demo showed me, and it’s dialled up my anticipation a whole lot. Another turn-based tactics RPG from Square Enix would have been worthwhile—if, perhaps, a little overkill in the same year as Triangle Strategy and Tactics Ogre Reborn. But a real-time squad tactics RPG? That path isn’t nearly as well-traversed of late, by Square or anyone else, and The DioField Chronicle one seems like it’s going to really hit that sweet spot.