There has been an awakening…with RPG’s this year. With Dark Souls III, Bravely Second, Pocket Mortys already released while Final Fantasy XV, Pokémon Sun and Moon, and Persona 5 are on the horizon, there certainly is no shortage of RPGS. With all these, can Grand Kingdom find it’s own place in the RPG world? The Beta for the past few days allowed us to create some thoughts on the topic.
Grand Kingdom begins 100 years after the fall of the Uldein Empire. While the four Kingdoms of Resonail are trying to repair themselves, strife still occurs, but instead of knights fighting for honor, hired mercenaries take their place. You begin your adventure as a typical mercenary, until there is a confrontation with a guild of other mercenaries. After playing through the tutorial, you’re accepted into the guild and are entrusted with quests to progress the story. Unfortunately, I felt that the story, thus far, was merely an afterthought. Though the sporadic voice acting wasn’t terrible, I found myself cringing at the writing. Yes, there can be whimsical humor and exposition, but from the beta, there only seemed to be shallow story writing. Hopefully, the full game will give a grander story.
The single-player gameplay, luckily, is the highlight of the beta. Similar to numerous other RPGs, Grand Kingdom sends you off to quests, often with specific criteria to accomplish. Your team must traverse through the area incrementally through a grid-based movement system, while also encountering treasure, resources, and enemies along the way. Though we’ve seen this type of system before, the game played up the fact that this is essentially a chess board – moving parts and stationary parts affecting your decision on how you want to traverse to the end.
The battle mechanics also grabbed my attention. Through the quest board, there are three different types of enemies – normal (enemies that move throughout the board), strong (significantly more powerful enemies that are often stationary) and hidden (just like normal, but cannot be seen). Once you and an enemy are in the same slot, a battle begins and another form of strategy emerges. Like many turn-based tactical RPGS, you have a set amount of movement power to roam around the three-laned terrain. Once happy with your location, you can then decide what you want to do – slash your blade, heal a partner, buff some stats, among other actions that are at your disposal. The added layer of detail comes with the precision of your location and attacks. Not only do you need to select an optimal location, but several attacks and abilities require you to time your attacks for optimal damage and combo building. I found this to be one of my most intriguing parts of the beta. Instead of just pressing a button and seeing an attack, you are still engaged in the battle beyond deciding what action you’re choosing. Many of the beginning battles were very straight forward – attack some random wolves or another simple mercenary team – but later battles have you thinking about each move, never knowing if you just made a critical mistake until it’s too late. It’s also worth mentioning that the artstyle of the battles is a beautiful 2D design that gives a nice anime and classic RPG feel.
The beta also grants you the use of four classes – fighter (melee), hunter (range), witch (magic) and medic (specialist). Each of the four have distinctly different battle strategies tailored to your specific RPG gaming style. What’s even more interesting is the ability for players to create their own mercenary team from the ground up. Once you select the class, you can decide on their voice, color scheme, hair color, eyes, and more. Want to create a clone of yourself? Sure. Interested in creating an adorable medic with the deepest voice possible? Who wouldn’t. I found myself spending way more time on this than I would like to admit, but it was so much fun that I couldn’t stop.
Aside from the single-player campaign, you can send your mercenary team into the online fight between the four Kingdoms. After selecting which Kingdom you’d like to fight for, you’re thrown into a field map full of other players defending a stronghold or attempting to capture one. Once you land on a stronghold or bump into another player’s piece, a battle begins just like the single-player experience. These battles offered a much higher stake and ramped up the difficulty much more than the other aspects of the game. Though I enjoyed the online multiplayer experience, I felt that in the grand scheme they were insignificant battles. After several battles, there were no change in the war I was participating in nor any major changes in the terrain with strongholds. Perhaps this is indicative of the beta, but I would be interested to see how this evolves in the full game.
Grand Kingdom was not a blip on my radar at the beginning of 2016. However, this Beta has given a nice perspective to the game that has assuredly raised my interest. Though the sterile storyline quickly lost me, the voluminous amount of customization with the classes of characters and highly engaging tactical-RPG battle system still has me interested. Time will tell if this will be among the list of successful RPGs of 2016.
Grand Kingdom releases on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on June 21, 2016 in North America and June 17, 2016 in Europe.