A GRAND ADVENTURE
(IT’S EVEN IN THE NAME)
After getting a taste of Grand Kingdom with the Beta in April and May, I was excited to finally try out the full-fledged game. The intriguing battle mechanics and customization seemed to be the highlight of the Beta, with the loose storyline as its hinderance. Did Grand Kingdom offer a grand adventure or grand disaster?
Grand Kingdom begins 100 years after the fall of the Uldein Empire that reigned over the Resonail continent. Now in chaos, the Four Great Nations of Resonail are fighting for control and dominance of the land. Players become the leader of a mercenary squad and are charged to lead the troops across the continent fulfilling a variety of objectives from all the nations. I was happy to see that the “noble knight” protagonist was thrown out the window for a more hero-for-hire approach. However, my compliments for the story stops here.
The arc of Grand Kingdom is a loose and poorly written concept either because of its concept or its localization. There’s little attachment to the various characters that are thrown at you and all the typical tropes of a standard RPG are glaring. I felt myself hoping that the storyline would improve, but time and time again my hopes quickly dissipated into oblivion. I kept thinking that Grand Kingdom had a really interesting Game of Thrones vibe with it’s constant fighting for supremacy among the nations, but it totally missed the intriguing story associated with it.
Even with a disappointing story, Grand Kingdom offers some positive presentation skills. The graphics of the game as a whole give a nice hand-drawn feel with the characters, environments, and backgrounds in battle. The 2D artist rendering of the characters is a nice artistic choice that focuses on their movements rather than trying to distract players with overdone 3D characters. There are a few moments where battle hazards provide a 3D effect, and though it is jarring, it does not detract from the gameplay too much.
The music is passable, but with little variety, can become irritating quickly – especially with the battle medley. What’s not passable though is the voice acting and character dialogues. Even with some issues with the story, I was hoping for at least some decent quibs and meaningful lines from the characters – neither happened. The dialogue with characters is often painfully simple and the voice acting does very little to entice players to keep the volume on. It is worth noting that this game released in Japan last year, so localization occurred. But with so much time in between releases, I had really hoped for a better result.
With all this, the mechanics of the actual game utterly shocked me – in the best way possible. The game can mostly be categorized into two clusters – maneuvering and combat. When you are in the midst of a quest, your character piece must maneuver through the area in a board game-esque layout. Often enough you’ll have a movement count that you cannot exceed, so strategy in traveling towards your wide array of objectives is imperative (though most of the maps can easily be completed well below the limit). If you’re daring, you can also explore more spots of the map – either for hidden items or visible treasure chests that can really support your actions for the upcoming events of the map. On the map you’ll also face various hazards, but with careful utilization of items in your supplies, they hardly offer any real problems.
As you progress through a quest’s map, you will eventually find yourself in a fight. Sometimes it’s a cluster of creatures, other times it could be a cohort of other mercenaries. Regardless of who your mercenary team is facing, the combat is among the shining stars in Grand Kingdom. The battle mechanic begins with three lanes where players need to position their characters into optimal locations to match their specific abilities. Archers need some space from targets, Fighters need direct contact, etc. Once you’ve decided on a target, numerous attacks require precise button pressing to get the full power of the attacks (reminiscent of various rhythm games). This dynamic turn-based battling system gave me the opportunity to actually feel like my choices and decisions mattered much more in the fights. Other RPGs just let you press one button and see all the combos and firepower occur – Grand Kingdom throws the responsibility onto you. This, along with several other subtleties within battle gave me the perfectly low barrier of entry but with a high amount of strategy.
With the Beta only including four character classes, I was happy to see that the variety opened up almost immediately after the tutorial. I quickly started hiring the different character classes to join my mercenary team to experiment with battle strategies. Before long, I found myself crafting various teams, experimenting with pairs of characters, and losing track of time far too quickly. The mindset of “Ok, I’ll play for one more battle” kept occurring to me over and over again. Not because I was frustrated by a fight, but rather because I was constantly finding a new and interesting way to fight with my mercenaries. Progression with the characters felt great, and I never felt resentment for playing characters in order to gain more powerful abilities.
The customization doesn’t stop with simply the character classes. To my surprise, there is a near overwhelming amount of equipment for your mercenaries, formations for battle, and even items to how your characters look. I “accidently” started to customize my characters into the Avengers – my Archer was Hawkeye, Shaman was Scarlet Witch, and Fighter was Cap (color schemes as well!). The little attention to details with these customizations also gives players a wide array to essentially guarantee your troop will be uniquely yours. Furthermore, various accessories for your characters, which play pivotal roles in battles, also change your characters’ appearance. My Medic, for example, has a flower headband that also boosts her defense skills. These are just the tip of the customization iceberg. With a Blacksmith coming into the fray, crystals to boost your weapons, and more – the possibilities continue to grow.
With all this single-player action, I was a bit hesitant to try the online multiplayer. The beta left me with little excitement, but since the character classes opened up so much more, I was hopeful for this as well. The online multiplayer, War, continues loosely with the story of the game where your group of mercenaries temporarily joins up with a Nation to fight under their emblem. Once you’ve aligned yourself with a Nation, you’re thrown into an area within the continent of Resonail to either fight to keep control of the area or invade to take control. Though there were some intriguing ideas with the online capabilities, I found myself more interested in seeing other players’ teams for future combinations instead of getting lost in the war. In the end, there was little motivation for me to play this style of gameplay.
The Verdict: 8.1 out of 10
Grand Kingdom is a fun, fully-customizable, RPG experience that shines with its stellar combat system and deep strategies. Though the storyline is borderline frustrating and the online multiplayer is essentially forgettable, neither take away from what the profound gameplay offers.
A review copy has been provided by NIS America for this review.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.