Square Enix just released The DioField Chronicle, a brand new RPG IP from a publisher known for its quality games in the genre. Does it live up to their reputation? It’s out for PlayStation, Xbox, PC and the Nintendo Switch – we tested the PlayStation 5 version.
For a Square RPG releasing for all systems, there was relatively little buzz for The Diofield Chronicle, but we were looking forward to it because of its mix of traditional RPG gameplay with real time strategy mechanics – a rare combination within AAA development. It also promises a fresh new game world grounded in fantasy and medieval elements with a sprinkling of modern architecture and technology.
In that world, you’re thrown into a story of political backstabbing and plotting, where you control a unit of mercenaries through a range of missions that start to play an ever more important role in a growing conflict. The grand drama taking place between nations is interesting and the writing is solid and sometimes even captivating, but ironically the macro events overshadow the team you’re spending the most time with. While the campaign was impressive, the characters we took on a journey through its story felt less memorable.
Perhaps this was a conscious design choice because you’re ultimately controlling a group of mercenaries and in the grand scheme of war those are just cogs in a machine, but it made us wonder if Square’s considering building The DioField Chronicle into a franchise. If they are, then we hope they revisit this world with characters who have an easier time forming emotional bonds with others and exhibit more character growth over time.
The mercenary angle makes for some excellent real time strategy gameplay though, where battles unfold on 3D maps and you move your units at will. Whenever that gets overwhelming, you can hit pause and still issue commands to help you get out of a tricky situation when you need a bit of time to plan ahead. It’s a good mix and it’s satisfying to see your plans unfold and succeed, with new abilities and mechanics gradually being introduced for a pleasant learning curve. There’s hardly ever just one way out of a conflict situation, and DioField Chronicle offers a good amount of tactical options to play around with.
Some of those options come from leveling up your mercenaries, or giving them better gear to work with, but you can also learn new skills directly by unlocking them from a skill tree. It keeps things interesting throughout the campaign, but a degree of grinding for experience and money makes it feel like there’s some unnecessary padding here as well. The combat’s great, but whenever the game made us repeat missions just for the sake of growing stronger and leveling up, we wish we either had some side missions or a game that was balanced differently.
With 25+ hours of solid gameplay in an engaging world, The DioField Chronicle is an RPG well worth diving into. It’s not as memorable as some of Square’s other titles due to its main characters, but it’s audiovisually polished and has some great combat mechanics. It feels like it would have been better positioned at the mid-price range near the $40/€40 mark as the competition is stiff during these weeks, but RPG fans should keep this one in mind.