Announced during the March 2022 State of Play, The Diofield Chronicle is a bold bet. Born from the collaboration between Square-Enix and the Lancarse studio (Etrian Odyssey), this work combines strategy, real-time combat and Game of Thrones atmosphere for an unexpected experience. A UFO in the catalog of current releases, but does it have enough qualities to go beyond a niche audience?
The story begins on an island with the sweet name of DioField, known since the dawn of time as the “land of the Gods”. After a long era of peace, chaos is about to sweep away and the founding act of this new war takes root in Lestershire. During an attack on his person, the fourth prince, Levantia Shaytham, manages to flee with his two faithful right-hand men, Andrias and Fredret. Unfortunately, he falls into an ambush and an assassin takes his life. While wandering the area, Andrias and Fredret witness a stagecoach storming and rescue a government agent. Following this exploit, they are invited to join the private militia of Lord Hende. But many obstacles will stand in their way…
A tactical role-playing game with a modern approach
Very serious in its writing, The DioField Chronicle deliberately veils the plot and its characters. The player knows nothing – or almost – about these individuals and he is literally thrown into the arena by participating in his first fights. For novices, everything may seem hermetic, both in the dialogues and the stakes, but the title of Square-Enix diffuses a catchy atmosphere and we are gradually caught up in the gameplay. The Diofield Chronicle is divided into two phases: free exploration (allowing you to chat, make purchases, improve your skills or even interact with your inventory) and sequences entirely dedicated to combat. In absolute terms, the minutes spent in camp will not leave you with a marble memory, the fault of the protagonists who lack life, who do not bring much and where everything boils down to round trips and menus for setting up their inventory and their skills. Admittedly, the individuals are hardly talkative (a good point for some), but we quickly go around the place and we come to think of only one thing: going on a crusade.
In combat, The Diofield Chronicle tries an approach as surprising as it is brilliant. Indeed, although it is a tactical role-playing game, the action is not based on a checkerboard and turn-based battles, where each side strikes in turn. Unlike a Fire Emblem, the player can freely move their units – via a slider – and interact with the battlefield at any time without waiting for the enemy to complete their attack or move. The dev team calls this ‘RTTB’ (Real-Time Tactical Battle) and it gives a really interesting rhythm to the different brawls. You can choose to move one or more units, opt for a ranged or melee attack, create a diversion or recover all the orbs present on the ground before launching the offensive or during it. Orbs allow you to reinvigorate the health or abilities of the squad and have a primary role, especially against increasingly resistant bosses. Thus, the possibilities are quite vast and we are surprised to want to try all the special attacks as they can be as spectacular as they are effective. It’s a bit like being in front of a Valkyria Chronicles for three quarters with real-time combat. It’s quickly addictive, and we want more!
Summons and reversals
If the concept works so well, it is partly thanks to his great generosity. In addition to the different characters, weapons and abilities, the game incorporates overpowered summons that can literally reverse a badly embarked situation. In fact, the objectives are rather classic (eliminate enemies, prevent them from reaching a position, recover an artifact, defeat a leader, take control of a turret, etc.), but we take pleasure in controlling our units. Four in number (chiefs), they can be accompanied by supports (adjuvants) which grant more possibilities on the battlefield. Concretely, the leader will determine the attributes and skills while the adjuvants will provide additional skills (healing, defense, offensive spells, etc.). Initially, especially in the easiest modes, the characters make short work of their vis-à-vis, but the difficulty is exponential and it is then necessary to develop a real strategy to get out of it. Admittedly, this sometimes lacks precision and access to orders freezes the screen, which can give a somewhat choppy pace to certain fights. Also, as we progress, The Diofield Chronicle certainly shows its qualities, but it also displays its weaknesses.
In addition to the slowness of the units (movements are a little too soft, but you can speed up the fights), the title suffers from an obvious problem: its redundancy. The objectives do not vary enough, the staging is extremely flat (despite the choice of English and Japanese voices) and we feel, despite the ambition of the developers, that this game deserved more consideration. We end up repeating more or less the same pattern each time. Fights, return to camp, use of currency (Gulds) to boost inventory and skills, return to combat… everything is too repetitive and the cutscenes never break this common thread. And as the portfolio does not fill easily, we return to it again and again, whether through priority missions or secondary objectives, and weariness eventually sets in. It’s infuriating because the game is really interesting and it’s full of ingenious ideas. But above all, it is very well done!
Final Fantasy and Game of Thrones collide
It’s an improbable mix that The Diofield Chronicle offers us, but it works! The characters and the universe were designed by Isamu Kamikokuryo, a Japanese artist who worked on Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII. In his approach, he was supported by Taiki, the character designer of the Lord of Vermilion series. Finally, to crown it all (the word is not chosen at random), the soundtrack – absolutely exceptional – is the work of Ramin Djawadi and Brandon Campbell, a duo of composers at the origin of many themes on the Game of Thrones series. Suffice to say that there are a lot of beautiful people behind the software from Square-Enix and Lancarse! Unfortunately, that’s not all, and we can’t help regretting the slightly dated graphics (despite some nice effects), even if access to the logbook gives rise to a frozen image with the most beautiful effect, board game. That’s a bit like The Diofield Chronicle, a somewhat hermetic board game for novices, but behind its slightly outdated envelope and a lack of renewal hides an extreme generosity and a catchy concept. And it has the advantage, compared to others, of being translated into French.
- The mix between tactics and real-time combat
- The masterful soundtrack!
- Choice of Japanese and English dubbing
- Texts translated into French
- A game of great generosity
- A sober, serious, unadorned adventure
- The overall pace – despite somewhat slow units
- The opening of the menus chop the rhythm of the fights
- Some inaccuracies (collisions, camera…)
- Too much redundancy (objectives, sequence of battles, etc.)
- All in all relative interest of the transition phases
- A staging too soft
From the outset, we cannot welcome the bet launched by The Diofield Chronicle. Carried by divine music and a gameplay as ingenious as it is interesting, Square-Enix’s game is undeniably generous. Regulars of the genre and lovers of tactical role-playing games risk succumbing to its “retro” charm and its various incantations. Rhythmic, pleasant and more surprising than it seems, The Diofield Chronicle struggles to keep up the pace over time. The objectives are repeated, the free phases do not bring much and the staging lacks energy to widen its audience. Nevertheless, for who wants to discover something other than the usual blockbusters and who is not hermetic to the genre, here is a work that could become cult in a few years or, at least, find its letters of nobility among enthusiasts. Games like that, you don’t find them every four mornings…
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