Natural Doctrine (styled as NAtURAL DOCtRINE) is a Nintendo Hard Turn-Based Strategy RPG set in a world where a rare magical element called Pluton is essential to life itself. Unfortunately, it's downright lethal to humans, so they have to raid monster dungeons in order to gain supplies of refined Pluton, which is safe to use.
The story starts with Geoff and Vasily proving themselves to an explorer named Anka, with a bit of help from veteran mercenary Zeke. They go on what appears to be a run of the mill dungeon crawl, until they encounter a vicious group of carnivourous insect monsters called Gorians...
The game is played out over a series of grid-based maps. Any character is capable of moving two squares each time they move, and attack either adjacent (for melee weapons) or up to three squares away (for ranged). What Natural Doctrine brings new to the table is Initiative and Links.
Rather than playing out Player then Enemy turns, each character gets their own turn, alternating between player and enemy forces. But, characters can Link their actions together, allowing them to move multiple characters before the enemies next turn. Alternatively, they can simply kill whichever enemy has the next turn, skipping over their move.
It becomes a balancing puzzle of risk and reward, because if you move too many of your characters, the enemy will get free reign with their own forces, but if you don't pull off the kill, they'll Link all their attacks to kill one of your characters, and trigger a Game Over.
There is also an online multiplayer mode, rare for a turn-based SPRG. Notably, you collect cards that represent units so you can ause them in your party. What's more, you can collect pretty much any unit in the game. Yes that includes enemies, NPCs, and the size 4 giant bosses.
- All Trolls Are Different: Curled up and asleep, they look just like rocks. There's one in the first goblin mine, in the jail cell in the hidden corridor. Opening the cell wakes it up. It counts as a size 4 boss.
- Artificial Stupidity: The enemy AI is designed to dogpile fragile units in hope of a kill. Unfortunately, it doesn't take unit collision into regard, and will happily channel all their long shot attacks into a tanky character standing directly in front of a weak character.
- Allied units have the same bloodlust, unfortunately, and will move into direct danger if it means they can attack something. Makes missions where you need to protect them pretty difficult. And there are some missions where you need to avoid killing specific enemy units...
- In the trial of the water, you face two giant boss Gorians. All they would need to do to win would be to have one go forward, and the other to circle around the back to get the party in a pincer. But they'll both go after whoever is closest, meaning that it's a simple matter of pulling them into a long corridor, and letting Nebula go to town while Mel repairs Aizen. Then again, isn't this game Nintendo Hard enough?
- BFS: Zeke starts with one. If Geoff invests enough skill points, he can wield one as well.
- BFG: The few occasions you see Orc gunners, chances are they'll be wielding one. Geoff and Tatyana can wield them too, with the right skill investment.
- Big Eater: Tatyana spends most of her dungeon crawling talking about eating. Normally eating whatever she's shooting at.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Nebula suggests that Ingbert did this to the enemy captains. Considering how Mel's HeelFace Turn took about three sentences after Steim's/Stein's destruction, it's probably true. Ingbert all but confirms this later on.
- Combat Medic: Anka. Her class name is even Battle Medic. Sure, she gets the most potions, but she can also learn most of the ranged skills Tatyana can, and is the only team member able to use explosives to knock down walls.
- Contractual Boss Immunity: Although not outright immune, giant bosses tend to have so much vitality that any attempt to put them to sleep is almost guaranteed to fail. Enemy captains that are required to survive the mission, however, are fair game.
- Crippling Overspecialization: Zeke is a good melee fighter, able to rack up lots of damage on a group without any defences. But in a game where every ranged unit gets to throw in a free shot at any battle fought in their range? His lack of a shield tends to get in the way of doing anything useful. Although he can pick up the counterattack skill, Geoff and Vasily can do so as well, and they have a lot more defensive skills to pick up the slack in counterattack's down time.
- Critical Existence Failure: Somewhat averted. No matter how much damage someone takes, they're always ready to contribute in battle. But when their health gets low, they go from moving two squares a turn to only one.
- Dem Bones: The earliest you can find them is in the second goblin mine. There's also the realm of the undying, which is literally overrun with them. What's left of Tatyana's real parents also count.
- Difficulty Spike: The mines that open up at the same time the skeleton kingdom does are a huge climb in difficulty. Enemies will appear out of nowhere, and all move immediately, meaning whoever was unfortunate enough to trigger the ambush won't be able to guard against the attacks.
- Disposable Woman: Vasily's entire role is to be eaten by Gorian's so that Geoff and the party would have a motivation to kill them.
- Empty Levels: One reason why this game is so tough is that gaining levels means you get one new skill and nothing more. This skill could be a small increase to a stat or a modification to your class ability. This means that your character could end up getting a few extra hit points, just in time to fight a new type of enemy who'll ream them out in one hit. Since there's a fairly low level ceiling, most of the real game-changers will come from new equipment you find and not your experience levels.
- Extreme Omnivore: Tatyana is quite happy to eat whatever she can kill. This includes goblins, golems, people, Gorians, lizardfolk, and skeletons. This is probably due to her being raised by Orcs.
- Final Death: The last 3 levels of the game change things up in that if someone dies, they are dead permanently and the game continues. Depending on who survives the final boss determines what ending you get.
- Foreshadowing: Mel shows concern about Steim/Stein getting rusty in the rain, despite him being made out of stone. This suggests that this isn't the Golem she's used to.
- When the party finds Aizen, he suddenly switches on, shortly before the enemy catches up with them. Said enemy is Mel and Steim/Stein, and Aizen used to be the former's Golem.
- Golem: Every now and then, you'll encounter one of these, and even recruit one of your own. Made out of iron or stone, and run by a Pluton furnace, they can't move on their own, and require an engineer or Golem Controller to specifically link with them. They can't block or parry, but can take a huge amount of punishment when defending, thanks to a ridiculously high vitality stat. They also appear to be sentient and highly loyal, if Mel's discussions with them are anything to go by.
- HeelFace Turn: When Aizen destroys Steim/Stein, Mel takes about five seconds to go from wanting Zeke dead, to joining the party. Vasily's sister Erna joins the party much later on, but doesn't get over her hatred to Geoff nearly as quickly.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Although interestingly, Geoff can also wield guns, and switch between them freely during his turn.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: Geoff is one as he has access to a lot of things and every time he levels up, he gets two skill points per level instead of one compared to the other characters.
- Little Miss Badass: Mel. She's a young girl that has to use goblin weaponry, because anything else would be too big for her to wield. She controls GOLEMS. Although Nebula suggests that Steim/Stein may have been controlling her...
- Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Geoff, Vasily, and Vasily's sister, Erna can equip shields, and they aren't just for show. Shields all have a chance of blocking an enemy melee attack, which goes up if they use a guard skill. Combined with weapon parry chance, and the counterattack skill, which makes them extremely likely to dodge and counter in the next battle, and these two can be functionally immortal in any melee fight.
- Shields can also be used to attack, not doing much damage, but with a good chance of staggering the foe and preventing them from blocking, dodging or evading.
- Our Goblins Are Different: Apparently, they're the only species capable of mining and refining Pluton, as the substance is otherwise lethal to anyone else. This is why adventurers are often sent into mines to retrieve the stuff, and kill any Goblins who get in the way.
- New Game+: Your levels carry over. It's also possible to save Vasily later in the game if you retrieve her ring on the stage that you lose her.
- Nintendo Hard: Yep.
- Our Orcs Are Different: At one point, the party travels to an orc camp, who can be heard debating whether anyone would notice if they took a nibble. The orc leader, Aslan, is an honourable enough person that he rewards the party for returning his axe. He's also Tatyana's adoptive father.
- Peninsula Of Powerleveling: Patient players can easily level up their gunners early in the game at the first S-Rank mine, Aries Goblin Mine. Start off by killing everything at the first room except for one goblin engineer at the high ground and one golem. Then have the gunners just keep on shooting the golem till it's nearly dead and let the goblin engineer repair it. Rinse and repeat and players will have the gunners pretty powerful a quarter through the game.
- Powerful, but Inaccurate: Later rifles pack a serious punch, but their accuracy is in the 70% range compared to earlier rifles that could be in the 90% range.
- Revive Kills Zombie: There's no revive spell in the game, but skeletons can be damaged by healing magic and potions as well as normal attacks. Whether you'll want to use up your precious supply of life doing so is another matter.
- Run or Die: At some point, you'll be facing Aslan in battle with a fairly early party. Aslan is overpowered with health in the 5 figure digits, far beyond anything you can do to dent him with. Combine this with attacks that can nearly one-shot your heroes and you have yourself an invincible boss. The game even tells you that you must run away from him, as you can't beat him.
- Shoot the Medic First: Aside from being able to repair enemy golems, if you take down enemy engineers, it also prevents said golem from taking any action.
- Lizard Priests can be a serious pain if left to their own devices. They'll cast Steel Protection and Auto Heal on a nearby lizard (meaning that they take less damage, and each time they're attacked, they get healed for a fraction of their health, respectively), making the target very tricky to kill. And if you get close to killing someone, they'll use Healing Light to completely heal the target, and reverse all the progress you made.
- Smash Mook: The Minotaur. He's easily capable of butchering a party member if they retreat too far, letting him circle about and flatten them. When his health gets low, he may smash through a wall, waking up a bunch of skeletons to add to the party's misfortune (Or even unintentionally do it, if he uses Bull Charge while standing next to a weak wall).
- Spell My Name with an "S": The game goes back and forth on whether its Steim or Stein
- Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: You get an unlimited supply of Pluton for the upcoming trial of the water. Said trial involves fighting against TWO giant bosses at the same time. And the following battle throws a huge number of enemies in an enclosed space at you, whose combined attacks can put even Aizen at risk.
- Squishy Wizard: Nebula. Because Pluton is very difficult to come by, most of the time he'll be hanging in the back, hoping not to get shot. But the few times you need it, his buffs, incredibly healing, or flat out high powered magic gets the job done right.
- Tempting Fate: Vasily complains about the Gorians being exactly why she didn't want to come back to the mine. A few seconds later, she's eaten by said Gorians.
- The Medic: Anka. Although she can learn the same ranged attacks as Geoff and Tatyana, chances are you'll want to spend her skill points on a vast collection of potions and her party-wide buffs.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: At least it's kind enough to tell you how it cheats. Giant Bosses get to jump the initiative queue for every player turn that ends with a player character next to them, lizardfolk ignore the movement restrictions of water, enemy mages don't have to worry about Pluton Reserves, and so on.
- Unusual Weapon Mounting: The Orc king that adopted Tatyana, has a 3 foot-long, jagged blade sticking out of his crotch. Subtle...
- Wake-Up Call Boss: The Minotaur. Up until now, any really difficult fight has been totally optional. The Minotaur is mandatory for story progression, and unless you opened the jail cell in the first goblin mine, your first encounter with a size 4 boss. For reference, this means that every time you end a turn with an ally adjacent to him, he immediately jumps the initiative queue to attack again.
- We Cannot Go On Without You: The entire party. If someone falls, it's an immediate game over.