By: Uma Smith
Once in a while, we’ll come across a game that pushes one’s patience to the limit. Such is the case with Natural Doctrine, which sees just how much players can tolerate. For those looking for straightforward and enjoyable gameplay from the start, then it will only be “natural” to lose interest here.
Theoretically, Natural Doctrine is easy to navigate through, given that you can see the button guides at the bottom of the screen. The problem lies with the fact that there is so much on the screen that the whole appearance is convoluted and unorganized.
This is further exacerbated when there is even more clutter from all the characters moving about in an uncooperative camera angle. Considering that a lot of the buttons on the controller, along with both sticks are being utilized, strap in for one hell of a learning curve!
Although the portraits have a beautiful and artistic look attached to them, you’re not going to get the consistent quality with the rest of Natural Doctrine. The environments, including the dungeons, appear quite bland and uninspired while the characters are detailed to the same degree as you expect from a PlayStation 2 game.
The audio adds further to Natural Doctrine’s lackluster impression. Musically, the score isn’t memorable nor does it help add any excitement. On top of that, the effects hardly go beyond their functionality, so you’re not going to get any heart-thumping moments. Luckily, all is not lost on the audio front. The voice acting is well done as they breathe life and personality into their characters.
Humans are facing extinction, and the only road to salvation is this scarce mineral called Pluton, which grants magical energy. You take on the role of a group of professional raiders, known as Bergmans, who are tasked with journeying into these dangerous mines to collect minerals. Prepare yourselves as dangerous beings are waiting to greet you with a warm welcome.
Natural Doctrine is a turn-based strategy game that allows your characters to move freely in a given area. However, the order of your turns can be changed as you see fit through the link system. To illustrate, your friendly units that happen to occupy the same or adjacent area can override the priority of the turns and thus give you the opportunity to attack immediately.
While the gaming concept seems basic and perhaps even interesting enough to attract players, the tutorials fail to explain sufficiently. Consequently, trial and error will dictate your success in not only completing your levels but also performing basic commands in the game. It can get confusing very quickly, thereby robbing players the opportunity to enjoy the battles.
But the most agonizing part of Natural Doctrine is during situations where your enemy can quickly wipe you out, thus resulting in a game over. Just take one wrong step, and the enemy will take advantage of the link system and kill your units off.
Believe me, with plenty of chances to make the wrong choice, this occurrence will be frequent. And because Natural Doctrine has a slow pace to its gameplay, these death moments are time-consuming. When you know you’re done, it’s best to bite the bullet and move on quick so that you can learn and change your approach. In the case of Natural Doctrine, however, you have to wait through all these enemy attacks and animations as well as make confirmations of the enemy movements!
One positive thing is the ability to play with others via the versus mode or even through online. Here, you can take control of other creatures, including goblins and minotaurs, which is a nice change. Aside from the complicating appearances on screen, this portion of the gameplay does make the experience way more entertaining. That being said, perhaps this particular title is more suited as a multiplayer affair.
Natural Doctrine has a lot of occurrences that can lead to dissatisfaction and irritation. Now, if you can overcome these frustrations, the game can actually be enjoyable. Nonetheless, you may get a more fulfilling experience with other titles within the same genre as this without having to experience the headaches.