E3 2014: The Punishing, Brutal World of Natural Doctrine

Only the strong survive.

Only the fittest can survive. That's a terrible truth considering how infrequently I exercise, and how much I enjoy fast food, and one that would give me less than a fighting chance during an apocalypse. Luckily, I don't have to worry about the situations that mark the sad reality for the people in Natural Doctrine. As the name implies, Natural Doctrine references natural selection, so we see Darwinian principles play out before our eyes. That's pretty heavy stuff. With dwindling resources and lots of people (and creatures) vying for control of the few remaining fuel sources left (sounds a little like real life, no?), everyone is in a constant battle to stay alive. I'm happy that I can experience this grim reality on my couch while I force others to claw and spit to stay alive just one more day.

The representative showing off Natural Doctrine had a quick pitch to succinctly sum up the game: XCOM meets Dark Souls. It amazes me how many games are now being compared to Dark Souls in some capacity, but it shouldn't be surprising. In many ways, Dark Souls (alongside Spelunky) is the poster child for how to properly implement difficult within a game. Sure, surviving Lordran serves as a feat that is worthy of bragging about (Oh, I should mention here that I totally finished Dark Souls), but there is so much more to enjoy beyond the unrepentant challenge. And I hope that everyone who uses that comparison understands just what it means to say you're similar to Dark Souls. Now, I haven't actually played Natural Doctrine (the developer was playing it instead), but from what I saw, I'm not sure there's much beyond the raw combat, even though that looks particularly well done.

So maybe we should instead focus on the XCOM aspect of that description. It's not humans versus aliens here. Instead, it's humans versus humans (humans are the worst!), goblins, orcs, giant spiders, and who knows what else. Like I said, it's a terrible world, one in which resources are almost gone but giant spiders roam the land. If I had to exist in this universe, I would die of a heart attack right away, or live with the perpetual feeling of a spider touching my arm. Just writing that sounds like torture. It's a good thing that you're aligned with humans (the good humans, presumably) because I couldn't stand a lengthy adventure partnered with spiders.

Combat is a turn-based, tactical test of your strategic cunning. Place your characters wisely around the battlefield to mount an attack without endangering your allies. Keep your sniper far away lest you want her to meet an early end, and push your tank toward the front to engage the baddies. It's all pretty standard sounding, right? Not that there's anything wrong with smart planning, but, if you're the demanding type (like me), you probably want a reason to play Natural Doctrine over other tactical role-playing games. Well, you're in luck, because there is a twist to this basic formula that adds a lot of complexity to your actions.

You can link up characters on the battlefield. This isn't like Fire Emblem Awakening where you can only pair two people together for a quick buff. No, this goes much deeper than that, so much so that I have only a vague idea of what it all means. You see, linking characters together gives you various attribute boosts. You may raise an ally's defense or heal the party, among other things. Still with me? The most important part of linking is that you can switch a character's turn order. Instead of alternating between you and your enemy attacking, maybe you can get everyone on your team to swing away in succession. Of course, your enemies can do that, too, so if you aren't vigilant, you will die. Often. Hence the Dark Souls comparison.

There's also multiplayer for those who don't like to fight alone. Team up against the artificial intelligence, or go toe-to-toe with another person. If you're competitive, you have cards that represent characters (this is before fights, not mid-battle). You earn more powerful cards by winning. Sounds fair, right? And the best part is, you can't buy cards with real money. It's all about skill. I'm so glad this game doesn't have lame microtransactions. And I'm also glad this is going to all three Sony systems. Not too shabby. Check it out for yourself later this year.

See more coverage of E3 2014 →

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

13 comments
Zenwork21
Zenwork21

"how to properly implement difficult within a game" no surprise they did fire you mr. Tom Mc Shea. Anyway all the best whatever you are going to do.

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

Love strategy role play games, hope the story is as good as the clip above. 

ledzaid
ledzaid

i have an eye in this game from the second i know it's existence, i'm even more happy knowing that it will come to all PS consoles.  i know that the graphics looks a bit dated, but at least, if the game have a good mechanic or backgroun/lore ill be happy.

mollarom
mollarom

Dammit, McShae, when you're not playing social justice warrior, you're writing about games I'm totally interested in with the kind of insight I'd have for them.

GunEye
GunEye

The graphics in this game are very dated.. Unlike Valkyria Chronicles, a game I recently finished and I feel like it can lasts forever. This game looks old. Even the CGI looks like Final Fantasy 8's CGI (which looked amazing for its time). The animations, the blocky-ness, the hair, the effects - they look way too lacking. It's just bad for today's standards.

Valkyria Chronicles had ages so well thanks to it's hand-drawn style.. that's why it's still looks beautiful today.

GunEye
GunEye

Is this game available yet in English? which system?

Arsyad00
Arsyad00

look like zoom in disgaea game

necrondude
necrondude

I'm not normally "that guy" but this time I'll say it. The graphics are fairly off putting. It looks nearly like a Ps2 game from what I am seeing.  

DefconRave
DefconRave

Seems interesting, hopefully the characters and plot are decent.

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

@GunEye I just finished Valkyrie Chronicles II for the psp on ppsspp on pc fullscreen and was amazed at the depth, length, and quality the sequel had but was dismayed that it did not make it to console ps3/xbox. This is a very fine series and still befuddled as to why it cannot find an audience outside of Japan. 

adsparky
adsparky

@GunEye Indeed, Valkyria Chronicles is and looks awesome, too bad SEGA decided to drop the graphic engine they made for it.

adsparky
adsparky

@necrondude NIS games are usually unique, but they tend to have really bad graphics.

ratchet200
ratchet200

@necrondude  There's always a chance that what we've seen has been footage from the Vita version (which is what i'm hoping) and it's just been enlarged for the trailer. But yea, it does look a bit on the weak side.