Noobs need not apply
This tactical JRPG is made for a very specific type of gamer. Do you relish in methodical calculations of your every move, knowing full well that a single mistake could bring you to ruin? Are you a fan of medieval fantasy, but tire of the rampant fan service that saturates the JRPG genre? Could you bring yourself to look past visuals to appreciate deep mechanics? If you answered "yes" to all of these questions, Natural Doctrine might be your new strategy obsession.
I'll put it bluntly: the visuals here are ugly as sin, with graphics that look identical on PS Vita and PS4 yet recall the earliest stages of the PS2 era. But in an age where masochistic difficulty levels are all the rage, Natural Doctrine delivers a brutal challenge that should put any JRPG tactician to the test. Gameplay feels like a blend between XCOM and Demon's Souls: you control a squad of heroes (led by the mundanely named warrior Jeff) in turn-based battles on gridded terrain, with the knowledge that the death of anyone on your team means instant failure. No matter your chosen difficulty setting, be it Easy or Lethal, you should never expect to beat a mission on your first try--and intimate knowledge of the way your party members can link their actions together is all but a prerequisite. As in a game of chess, killing an enemy moves your character into their space, potentially exposing them to all new avenues of attack. To succeed in Natural Doctrine, you really do have to carefully plan ahead for every single action.
If you think Fire Emblem: Awakening's Classic Mode is a cakewalk, Natural Doctrine should invigorate your inner strategist. Those who don't consider themselves genius-level commanders should turn away now. But if you crave a tactics game that mercilessly punishes you for any move that's less than premeditated, this JRPG offers exactly what you've been looking for.
Check out the following screenshots for additional info!
Enemies are your typical fantasy fare, with lizardmen, golems, and ogres aplenty
Positioning is extremely important, as is maintaining line-of-sight for your ranged units (and avoiding friendly fire at all costs)
Your spell-powering resource, called Pluton, cannot be replenished in battle, so use your fireballs sparingly
The one-on-one, online/ad-hoc multiplayer uses a card-based system to let you build out the ideal squad (including enemies you normally can't play as)
When the game first released in Japan earlier this year, even their most dedicated gamers said it was too hard