Grand Kingdom (PS4 Preview)
My History with JPRG’s have been bittersweet at best, my tendency to get bored of repetitive tasks like grinding or lengthy fetch quests often resulted in me putting the game down fairly early in the game. Or better yet all that grinding you have to do to level up or the near impossible amount of hours needed to complete these types of games…Oh did I mention the grinding?? Those aspects aside I’m still in love with the world’s crafted by the developers and the characters usually have more life and snazz than an A-list actor you care to mention. Most notably the strategy required to overcome every adversary changes with every new encounter giving JRPG’s a lasting vigor that keep players on their toes. Monochrome brings all of this to the table with Grand Kingdom, a tactical role playing adventure that puts your wits and ability to strategically approach battles to the test.
You begin as the enigmatically named “Boss” until you deem it worthy to go by an official name once Grand Kingdom’s allows you to change. You and your merrily band of Mercs are simply looking to get by in the continent of Resonail through attaining glory and a wealth of bounty to keep you fed. This was until you discovered the “Guild”, a group of mercenaries which lend their skill to warring nations in exchange for money and prestige. You now align yourself with this guild and build a party of your own to quest and go to war with. Grand Kingdom’s “Lite Demo” doesn’t present any quests other than the initial tutorials to get you started, they are short and sweet but give you all the necessary tips and tricks to get you going in Grand Kingdom’s online mode “War”.
As mentioned above, War is Grand Kingdom’s online functionality. Upon completing the tutorial quests you’ll be given the option to sign a contract with a kingdom for a predetermined amount of time. Within this time period you’ll take part in battles for this kingdom against other players aligned with other warring kingdoms. These mercenary bands that are controlled by A.I. represent the other players that are playing at the same time you are. The whole ordeal is quite disconnected in terms of actual playing “online” with other players, since each mercenary band is controlled by the CPU its not a great example of that player’s true strength or strategies. If you are victorious then you’ll be reward with a surplus of items, XP, and faction points that further your allegiance to the faction you chose to defend.
Battles don’t take place instantaneously, to participate in one you must first navigate a grid like board and choose who you wish to face; or avoid if they seem to out of your league. You and your enemies move in a turn-based scenario where every move uses up a turn; once all your turns are used up and you haven’t reach your objective then it’s game over. These rules only apply to Grand Kingdom’s main quests, War works slightly differently. There is no specified amount of moves nor are the other online players locked into a turn based movement scheme. The battle has a set time limit attached to it and it’s up to each player to make their own way to an enemy fortress and fight their way through a series of fights to “deal damage” to the structure. I stress the “deal damage” part because the damage you do on your own as an individual player is minuscule and not noticeable. The only way to take down a fortress is to have other online players engage in battles within a fortress at the same time, so it’s all down to luck if you nations players are attempting to tackle the goal at hand or simply doing something else with their time.
Now, here is where the meat of the gameplay takes place, the actual battle itself. Battles between mercenary groups take place on a 2D, three-way plane of movement. Each character has their own unique set of traits and can move up and down within a marginal timeframe. No matter what character you control, you’ll have two gauges to keep an eye on: an attack gauge and a movement gauge. The movement gauge is self explanatory and determines how far you can move before you are forced to stop and end your turn. The attack gauge governs all actions from basic attacks to skill moves, such as healing and magic. Attacking is handled by simply mashing the “Circle” button but you are rewarded with greater damage dealt if you time your hits accordingly to deal combo damage. Unfortunately you’ll need to pay attention to your surroundings as you also have the ability to harm your teammates and heal enemy soldiers, poor placement of mercenaries can have an adverse effect on battlefield movement. As with all good RPGs there are plenty of classes to choose from, 17 in fact, but the demo only allows for 4 to be used. You have the Warrior, Healer, Archer, and Witch. You can probably grasp that these are you four main archetypal characters for any RPG, so I won’t waste time explaining what they do but I will say that each class doesn’t have to adhere to their class standards as you can teach them skills and techniques that may be exclusive to other classes through Grimoire upgrades. For example, Healer is primarily a support character used to heal characters on the battlefield, but you can learn the Quick Heal skill from the Grimoire upgrades section allowing for other characters to heal themselves.
When you’ve had your fill of plundering and warring then you can return to the Guild for some R&R, spend your riches, and level up your recruits to battle hardened heavy-hitters. The Guild is your command hub where you can set up new contracts with kingdoms and change round equipment for characters and you battle formations. If you chose to, you can leave the Guild and venture to a capital that you have a high standing with and receive news from citizens regarding current events or earn extra rewards by offering them materials for inconsequential quests. Each capital has its own ruling leader that holds your statistics of battle one and enemies defeated, Blacksmiths are be located in each settlement as well. A Blacksmith’s services range from constructing weapons or building reinforced structures and cannons for use on the battlefield. The visual appeal for every kingdom is quite striking with plenty of vibrancy in the range of colours and the huge tower spires littered in every scene. The world may be in 2D but the anime-like artwork really bounces out of the screen from characters motions being extremely fluid to very few 3D areas such as the Guild which uses a panning camera to show off some 3D assets.
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sink my teeth into a decent JRPG and with my lack of enjoyment over grinding and going on terribly long and arduous quests, I can be quite picky. Grand Kingdom delivers a more compact experience with every quest carried out in bite size chunks and grinding is left to a minimum as you can still feel like you’re progressing when doing so, by taking part in Wars you feel like you’re still contributing to the story. With only a few hours of play into Grand Kingdom’s demo I’m already itching to play more and see where this grand adventure takes my young band of merry mercenaries but alas, I’ll need to still wait a few months for the final release.