If you don’t know by now then let me tell you, I LOVE RPG’s! Grand Kingdom is a new treasured piece in my collection, offering refreshing gameplay that sits between classics like Final Fantasy, Fire Emblem and Etrian Odyssey, but can it call checkmate to such well established series? Read on to find out!
Game: Grand Kingdom
Developer: Monochrome Corp/Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd.
Publisher: NIS America
(Review code provided by publisher)
The story takes place 100 years in the continent of Resonail, once ruled by the mighty Uldein Empire. The long and brutal war has left the Four Great Nations; Landerth, Valkyr, Fiel and Magion crippled and impoverished, their honour and virtue are distant memories. Now a land without knights, the battlefield is dominated by mercenaries as the Four Great Nations vie against each other for complete control of Resonail. Most mercenaries fight to put food on their table, others for bounteous wealth, not for any nation but their own pockets. You are the leader of a group of mercenaries where in the midst of battle against a guild the enemy raises a white flag, making all of your previous effort and any more action meaningless. Now facing the issue of providing food for your men, the guild proposition you to join their ranks due to your overwhelming skills. Your acceptance thrusts you into a great mystery, fighting to survive as you discover the truth and ultimately effect the fate of Resonail.
For me, soundtracks can often be disappointing but I can honestly say that I have not enjoyed a soundtrack as much as this since Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture! They really have outdone themselves here, everything flows so well, whether be it in battle, story progression or perusing the menus. Fantasy meets medieval and folk melodies in a harmonious, orchestral unification that truly is magical. The voice acting also doesn’t hold back with both a dubbed and original Japanese cast included! The dubbed cast has been very well matched, portraying their characters personalities perfectly. Personally I love playing with the original Japanese cast which includes actors from series such as Naruto, Fairy Tail and Free. In fact, the soundtrack overall is comparable to Fairy Tail, one of my favourite series and fitting for the theme! Flint was character I instantly loved, not only for his personality but also thanks to Hiroyuki Yoshino, who also plays the voice of Heisuke Todo in Hakuoki, *swoon*.
There is little to fault with the graphics, which have been gorgeously illustrated in 2D. These are not glossy, anime styled characters or backgrounds but have a loving, rough, handcrafted painting texture to them. They really have put a lot of detail into its craft! If I do have one criticism though, it would be the animated guild menu backgrounds, which sway back and forth like you’re on a boat, clearly not running at 6ofps like everything else, though I believe this to be an intentional effect. The illustrations themselves are not always static, but subtly sway with life, a little detail that impressed me.
Grand Kingdom is a turn based, tactical JRPG that consists of strategic gameplay in both single player and online modes. In fact, tactics are prevalent in all aspects of the game! Lots of information is thrown at you, even past the tutorial there is always more to learn as you come across different situations. Once you have a grasp of the basics however, everything else comes naturally. The real difficulty comes with your own personal strategic planning. Grand Kingdom also likes to break the fourth wall. Characters constantly acknowledge you during cutscenes, either by name or by looking and pointing directly at you. You are not simply watching their story unfold, you are shaping it with them! You are their leader, who they (literally) look up to. It is your power being challenged and it is you who must lead them to victory!
When creating your own mercenary squad there are a plethora of options available to you. There are 17 unique unit types spread across 4 classes: Melee, Ranged, Magic and Specialists. A well balanced team is key to victory. You can create up to 6 different troops, each consisting of 4 units that you can switch between at any point, allowing you to change your battle tactics as the situation requires. Melee units are your close combat fighters, with good attack and defence whilst Ranged and Magic classes are best behind front lines. Each class has a specialist unit with limited individual abilities. A Medic is your standard healer with a few defensive attacks, the Challenger is a reckless hitter, serving best as a destructive sacrifice and the Dragon Mage is the best of both, able to use magic attacks whilst on her dragon mount which can also execute melee attacks.
A total of 50 units can be hired at any one time, with new units becoming available as you complete quests. Each one is unique, with individual base stats and abilities. All stats are ranked from F to A and can be raised by allocating points as you level up. Units can be customised from their hair to their voice. I came across a few lovely ladies with the most fascinating manly voice! One thing perhaps they missed an opportunity on was gender. Each unit type has a set gender, such as a female blacksmith and a male hunter which cannot be changed. Characters can be further enhanced with stronger gear which can be purchased between quests or forged from blueprints at Nation Capitals. Equipment can be further enhanced using pyroxene in allocated slots with varying effects.
Gameplay is spilt between 2 modes, Quest and War. Quest is split into 4 types; Campaign progresses through the guilds story, Versus is linked to War and pits you against another opponent facing similar objectives available for a limited time, Single sees you accepting various tasks from any of the 4 nations and Travel lets you explore Resonail across 17 areas for resource collection and grinding. Each quest has an objective and a failure condition. Difficulty can be increased for a more challenging play, however this can only be changed for Versus and Single quests. The game plays much like chess, moving a piece around square tiles on the field within a set amount of action points, with everything requiring AP. As you traverse the field you will come across Symbol Enemies, clearly visible as pieces, each colour representing their strength. Others are invisible but are traceable every 3 turns. You may stumble upon random events, most of which are optional but offer unique challenges or developments, a nice change to otherwise repetitive battles. Objectives can be hindered by unforeseen elements such as a blocked pathway, a storm or a Flint’s own stupidity. In these instances you are presented with 4 choices; use caution, force, remove the obstacle with an item or leave to find an alternate route. Rash decisions here could leave you less time to reach your goal or deplete your troops HP. Some battles can be easily avoided, it all depends if you play cautiously or thirst for battle.
Once you do find yourself in battle this is where the real tactics come into play. The combat grid consists of 3 lanes and 36 squares. Your formation includes your troop units and may also consist of objects that can offer protection against enemy attacks. Analysing the battle thoroughly is key to victory. View Power is a powerful tool, by swiping over the touchpad you can view the entire battlefield whist using the D-Pad or control sticks allows you to view individual enemies stats and abilities. Combat takes place in turns, with order shown by a timeline at the bottom of the screen. Keeping an eye on this is important when planning your course of action and anticipating enemy movements. Each unit has a Move and Action Gauge that allows you to move and attack until depleted. Careful execution is needed to gain the upper hand as wasted moves could spell disaster! Units can execute a variety of moves and combos in 2 operation modes; Simple allows multiple moves to be mapped to the circle button, allowing easy execution of combos through mashing, whilst Technical allows you to assign moves to individual buttons allowing you more control. Within your limit you can freely move around the lanes to attack the enemy but your positioning can be deadly. No one is safe and you may find yourself taking friendly fire, I often accidentally attacked my own units, especially when some attacks can launch the enemy towards those around them. Perhaps worse than this are buffs, which instead of affecting only your team actually effect the whole field, meaning bolstering your own defence will also boost your enemies too! A good way to weaken the enemy is by taking out the designated Leader first for a Leaderless status, in which doing so lowers troop morale and decreases the enemy attack power and movement. Be sure to take care of your own leader!
Most attacks are swiftly executed whilst others need to be charged for devastating results however these leave you open to attack with potential to be interrupted. Be sure to never ignore defence, guarding is key to protect your health and leaving your back turned to an enemy leaves you more vulnerable to attacks. Item use is restricted to the field outside of combat, health can only be recovered in battle by medics or skills, once a unit is taken out they are gone for the remainder of the battle. You must work together as a whole unit and utilise special skills when the opportunity arises. As you attack, your Assist Gauge fills allowing another unit to attack after you when an enemy is near death, dealing the final blow. Should you find yourself near death the Assist Gauge can be used for a Grit Chance, allowing you to survive the blow with 1 HP, but beware the flow of battle as this could only prevent death for a single turn!
Those thirsty for battle against fellow gamers need only head for War, home of online play where you can join forces, pledging your allegiance to one of the Four Great Nations in a battle for territory. Nothing is better than claiming victory against other players like yourself, however Grand Kingdom uses an asynchronous system which requires other players to be actively online. This however makes battle more exciting as the situation can suddenly change and keep you on your toes! Wars typically last for 24 hours and combat works the same way as single player as you work together with others to take down enemy strongholds. Grand Kingdom also allows for cross play with PlayStation Vita systems! As with Quests, some battles may be successive with varying rounds, however fighting through all rounds here is optional. Participating in Wars frequently increases your influence over your comrades in voting for the next invasion or military tactics such as supportive fire armaments which can turn the tide against enemies in battle. To my surprise the multiplayer works really well here and there are many ways for you to play. If you don’t fancy taking control yourself, set up a Troop Detachment with pre-selected actions or let the AI take over whilst you participate in other quests or battles for (hopefully) double glory!
I have been patiently waiting for this series and was not left disappointed! I am in love with the soundtrack, the graphics and a game has not got me thinking so tactically as much as this for some time. You can see that a lot of love has been put into creating this game and whilst the battles may get a little repetitive, it does not decrease the overall enjoyment. Even the simplest of things add a loving touch, like the way your characters are animated at the bottom as you traverse the map. There is a lot to get your head around, so much that I can’t put into words here and so I implore you to go and experience this for yourself, it has so much depth and truly is one of the best tactical games I have played in recent times! My only concern with longevity is that should people tire of War, the multiplayer portion may become obsolete for current and future mercenaries of Grand Kingdom. With no one actively voting there will be no war, however there still remains the option to replay the story with another of the Four Great Nations and I for one will be playing Grand Kingdom for a long time to come!