Platforms: PS4, PS Vita
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Release Dates: June 17th, 2016 – EU
June 21st, 2016 – NA
November 19th, 2015 – JP
Something compelled me towards the strategy RPG that is Grand Kingdom, and it was most likely due to the gameplay and visuals. After many hours of surprising enjoyment, I can’t seem to put it down. It does have a fault or two, albeit small ones. But let me tell you why Grand Kingdom is a fantastic game.
So, how’s the story?
First all, the story isn’t exactly a timeless classic, nor is it dreadful. The only problem with the story is that it’s not particularly interesting and there isn’t anything you’d say that’s memorable or outstanding and this is a little bit of a let down for me since I’m a huge fan of single player campaigns and such. The campaign starts off with you, a mercenary leader with a troop of four who get involved in an incident that affects the continent. The game also has a chunky 40+ hours of story driven content split between four completely different nations, which is a lot for you story enthusiasts to eat up (you can visit these four nations unless you’re contracted to one of them). While the campaign is a little generic, it’s at least diverse.
Okay, so the story isn’t spectacular, it’s everything else that makes up for it and more. Grand Kingdom features incredibly unique gameplay mechanics with a turn based system that governs combat and the travel system while questing. While on a quest, you move your troops to the destination(s) or complete the objective required. Each time you move a space, you lose an Action Count (a turn), and each quest has a different Action Count limit. A quest that requires you to gather a bunch of supplies or to do something before an enemy will have a tighter Action Count limit than a simple, ‘get to this place’ quest and that’s what makes each quest truly satisfying.
Quests are also not as straight forward as you going from point A to B. Yes that’s what you’re ultimately doing, but there’s obstacles such as enemy troops who also move in a pattern as you move, which you should probably figure out before diving straight into. It’s not just enemy troops, there are resources, supplies, chests, traps (such as storms and ambushes), a healer and secret paths. There’s all of these that are elegantly crammed into the map for you discover, which also means you’ll move around the map more, further limiting your Action Count.
During these quests, you can either choose to fight or avoid enemy pieces. Sometimes you can’t avoid fights so you have to be prepared and other times it may be better to go into battle rather than suffer a few turns stuck in one of those irritating traps you’ll find scattered around the map. This is a what makes Grand Kingdom a fine strategy game. You have the freedom to go down different routes (mostly), instead of being forced down one path every time.
Tutorials in games are usually boring. But in this game, the tutorial doesn’t feel like a tutorial. Mostly, you’re in control with a few pointers here and there and while it could do with a better explanation of the Action and Move Gauges, you can easily figure it out as you play. Let’s also not forget that you can auto-play cut scenes instead of pressing a button after every chat bubble. How convenient is that!?
Unique and engaging battles
Grand Kingdom‘s combat is a breath of fresh air with a unique and engaging battles, which is based off a turn system (with no turn limit but adds toward the Action Count limit). Each mercenary in your troop gets their own turn to take part in battles. You can attack with skills and move around the field, both being limited. The number of times you can attack is based off your Action Gauge, the same is said for Move Gauge but for movement. This adds a lot of strategical game play as you’re figuring out which moves to make and where your mercenaries should be placed. Good placement is essential as it can mean the difference between a victory or defeat. Along with the combat mechanics, the animations and visual effects of each skill used is beautifully done, with a high attention to detail, and it extends to the intricate environment and character designs.
Battles can be plagued with obstacles such as barrels, walls, spaces with fire (no, fire doesn’t heal you), although they can either be used in your favour, or against you. These obstacles can protect your weaker enemies against a Hunter’s Shoot skill or a Medic’s nasty Acid Throw. These can be destroyed simply by attacking them or waiting for them to expire, which might I add, can give you extra rewards if you’re on a quest requiring you to destroy a certain number of obstacles.
One of the banes of a gamer is friendly fire and this game has plenty of it. Skills that affect an area such as Acid Throw, Shadow Skull and Shoot will damage your own troop if they’re within the area. With some skills you can get away with it since you can target in an area, but with something like Acid Throw, you’ll soon learn that throwing it from behind and ally is not the best thing to do. If your ally intrudes the trajectory of the throw, he or she will get hit, instead of the enemy you intended to attack. In many games friendly fire is a pointless mechanic, but Grand Kingdom, it adds another layer of strategy and makes you think more carefully about your placement. Sometimes you are your own enemy!
A great strategical advantage is the ‘Leaderless‘ status. When a leader in a troop is defeated, the rest of the group is stricken by a debuff called ‘Leaderless’ that reduces damage output. A lot of my game play revolves around taking out the leader first, if possible. It makes the rest of the battle less damaging to your troop. Oh, it applies to your own troop too.
Now it’s not just questing and battling. There’s a whole bunch of exciting things to do while you’re hanging up your boots. You can hire more members to fill up your five other parties (maybe to mix and match groups or to keeps things fresh with different playstyles), browse what quests are available to you (and refresh the list to get a different list of Single type quests), training to get used to characters and to ‘class up’ (explain?), have a look at some shops, check the War status/prep, leave for the capital (more shops, 4 other nations but keep in mind you can’t go to the nations you’re at war against, until your contract with the nation you’re with expires), research mercenaries worldwide or have a look at the war rankings. One of the best things about this game is that it’s deep and every aspect about it is so. Character customization, quests, Wars, nations, travel, you name it. It feels like a true strategy RPG.
Online multiplayer comes in the form of Wars. Wars involve the nation you’re contracted with (up to 5 Wars), and the aim of the game is to gain control of enemy strongholds. You can dispatch your troops automatically or manually control them like you do on a normal quest. There aren’t any Action Limits in Wars so you can move freely without any restrictions. You fight troops from other online players and while you don’t actually fight them in real time, they’re still other players’ mercenaries. Wars are greatly enjoyable, especially now that there are more people have have the game. It’s been incredibly fun and I’m going to be doing so for a while!
Stats, Classes and Customization
As it’s a strategy RPG, there are a bunch of stats to pour points into and they add an extra layer of depth to the game. You can allocate points which are gained each time a character levels up and it’s probably best to increase the stats where each class excels at. My fighter is geared as a tank to take heavy damage during Guards but if I wanted to, I could have, or still can, turn him into a heavy damage dealer if I put more points into strength. This stat system allows for many different builds for each class. Mind you, there are 17 classes to choose from, making for multiple compositions. You could have an all Hunter group, a tank group, a group designed for pure offensive power, it’s almost endless. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface in this regard and I’m excited to from some interesting group compositions.
Gear is also available from quests and shops to enforce your character power and it’s good to update gear when available (ideally), so you can take as little damage and do as much damage as possible. You can get gear from each nation’s shop, with unique items available if you’re contracted to a nation.
Grand Kingdom offers great character customisation (appearance wise), after hiring members, but the only thing I have a little gripe about is that classes are locked to a gender. So a Rogue is always female and a Fighter is always male. This part does go against the RPG idea, but I’ve come to get over it. One of the customisation features includes a whopping 24 voices to choose from with the ability to change the pitch. It’s a nice little feature that will obviously change how your members will sound during battle and it’s one of my favourite features in the game.
Grand Kingdom is a charming game with well polished features that are incredibly entertaining, and although the story isn’t glorious, everything else is. It’s a game that I strongly recommend any strategy or RPG fan try out. You won’t regret it!
What do you think of Grand Kingdom? Is it your kind of game or will you pass on it?