Grand Kingdom (PS4 Review)
A couple of months ago I managed to sink my teeth into what was arguably one of the most digestible and approachable JRPG demos I have had the luxury of partaking in. Grand Kingdom’s demo presented very little in the way of narrative focus and missions, but concentrated more on the online multiplayer War aspect of the game, giving me little in the way to play and I was simply thirsting for more. Thankfully my wait is over as Grand Kingdom is finally here in its fullest form and I’ve already lost countless hours to its graceful gameplay.
From the offset I was granted the ability to carry over my progress from the demo that i had played months back, which was great since I no longer had to catch up on myself. My overall character progress though was laughable as my squad was not upto scratch to endure my third campaign mission available to me; meaning I had to level up elsewhere first. Grand Kingdom offers more than the single player campaign missions as a source of conquest. You also have side missions which take on two forms known as “Single” and “Versus”. The Single quests act as individual side quests separate from the main story which are randomly generated, you can use these quests to level up your squad of merry men or simply use it to gather resources and materials for upgrades. The unfortunate consequence of these continuous quests is that they mostly tend to be structured the same way. Either recover resources, deliver a message, kill all enemies or defend an area…by killing all enemies. The lack of variety does tend to make these engagements a bit dull, especially if you’re going to have to continuously do these missions to level up.
The Versus quests function exactly the same as the Single quests with one minor difference, you have another player’s squad to attend with. It’s probably important to note that these player squads are AI controlled, since Grand Kingdom is a turn based game and battles take place separately outwith the playing field. Nevertheless these opponents tend to be a tad more difficult than your ordinary NPC controlled mobs. Every player squad will have their own custom equipment and unique characters on the field. They may not utilise the same playstyle as the player they belong to, but they are still foes to be reckoned with. If neither of the Single and Versus quests are to your liking then you can choose a Travel quest where you aren’t limited to doing an objective or a set amount of turns. You can essentially do as you please until you deem it fit to return home, hopefully with enough experience points to take on a campaign mission.
When you do come face to face with an opponent you’ll be hurtled into a non-traditional battle. The battle zone consists of three lanes in which your characters can move, fight and place traps/obstacles. The idea here is to make full use of each of your party members range and abilities. Placing ranged characters in the back and tank-like characters in front. If placed incorrectly then some party members could be in the line of friendly fire or even accidently block their movement, limiting their capabilities in the fight. Some characters even take up more space than others like Dragon Riders for example, they will take up a larger area on the field and tend to not move very far. But come on, who doesn’t want a dragon??
After every battle you’ll be sent back to the battlefield map, which is how you navigate to the quest objective. This grid-like field acts as a chessboard with the player and NPC’s moving in the traditional cardinal directions. At the start of every quest you’ll be given a “No. of Actions” count. This determines the number of interactions you can have on the field before failing the quest. Everything from taking a step forward, opening chests, disarming traps/hazards and even participating in battles counts towards your total actions. So plan your moves wisely.
The online functionality called “War” ecompasses a larger game world right off the bat. Before you can participate online you need to sign a contract with a governing power of the world; Landreth, Valkyr, Fiel and Magion. The importance in choosing which land to side with can reflect on the side missions available to you as relations with the government that you go to war with will worsen, leaving you some side quests short, forcing you down a particular path. War is the only differing game mode you’ll have available to you. The main objective is for you and all other allied players to attack enemy encampments and fortresses on the battlefield, all within your own gamespace. As I said before, this does not play in real time, all allied players will be A.I. controlled, but in each player’s world they will still be battling in the battlefield you are right now. It’s all slightly confusing.
Between quests you will travel back to your Guild hub, home to all that nation’s mercenaries. Here you can invest time in upgrading your equipment at the blacksmith or train your troops to learn new skills increasing their overall versatility on the battlefield; you can turn a medic into a heavy hitter or a mage into a tank with enough investment. Above all else you can hire new members to join your squad, or simply create up to six squads simultaneously. I said in my Beta preview for Grand Kingdom that i wasn’t a fan of grinding in JRPG’s and that Grand Kingdom avoided that, here is were grinding unfortunately comes into play. Since you can only have up to four party members in one squad and with more than 12 playable classes in the game it would be wise to create multiple groups to deal with different scenarios. With all these squads available to you, you’ll need to hammer away at those Single and Versus missions to level each squad up separately. At least players will get longevity out of Grand Kingdom if nothing else.
Visually, Grand Kingdom is a as graphically striking as the Tales seires of games with thier cartoonish -almost childlike- approach to charatcer appearance and environment design. All of which is renderd in a 2D plane of view, having hand drawn characters detailed enough to pop-out of the artistic backgrounds make Grand Kingdom look like a painting come to life. Some of the animations can be a bit jarring, as they’re not as fluid as you’d expect and give of the imprestion that the frame rate has drop drastically, but in reality this is not the case.
After a few months of waiting I was glad to have gotten my meager hands on Grand Kingdom. Its overall style of gameplay is very approachable to people looking to get into JRPG’s (me in particular), especially at the start of the game. The further you get into the main story the more tactics you’ll need to employ. If you’re looking for a fun and inviting JRPG to pass the time within 2016 then why not give Grand Kingdom a try, you won’t be disappointed.