Thanks to NIS AMERICA for the review code
Title: Grand Kingdom
System: Playstation Vita/TV
Release date: 06/28/2016
The main game/story
In this game, you take control of a band of mercenaries who decide to join a local guild in order to build a name for themselves and choose to go with one of the four major kingdoms in the game. Outside of occasional plot points to move the story forward, there’s really nothing too in-depth to be seen in terms of the story, and that doesn’t change until quite a ways into the story. Slow start aside, it still makes sense and it does a decent job of giving you a reason to lead an army forward.
In terms of visuals, the game looks OK for the most part. Cutscenes take place with the characters interacting with one another in the form of their 2D artwork, and the menus themselves are simple and quick to navigate. Once you get to the in-game map via a quest, however, things get a bit interesting, as the map is like that of a board game. Moving around with a chess piece to different objectives on the map, (while also avoiding enemies that are indicated by said pieces) your party will be on the bottom part of the screen, moving along with the environment as you make your move, adding an extra little touch to the game world. When it comes to battles, the game looks sharp, with well animated 2D characters against a good variety of backgrounds, depending on where on the map a battle was triggered. The enemies also have a bit of variety in battle, but unfortunately they share the same few sets of chess pieces on the map, making it a bit hard to tell what enemies you’ll end up encountering when you run into a piece.
Music and Sound
In terms of the music, the soundtrack seems to be aiming for a majestic tone, and for the most part accomplishes this well. The title theme is fitting and sets the stage for the adventure you’re about to go on, and the majority of the other songs end up making for a memorable soundtrack. Special props go to the main battle theme for being one of the few in recent memory to not get tiresome upon hearing it over and over again!
In terms of gameplay, Grand Kingdom plays like a Strategy RPG with a bit of an action element added to it. After you complete the initial quest to get to the guild, you’ll be tasked with creating a cast of four characters to send off to battle. Choosing from a selection of classes and customizable voices and clothing, you’ll be off in traveling throughout the kingdoms on a wide variety of quests, with more classes being added along the way for you to try out! There are main story quests to take on, of course, but also quite a few side quests that are quite helpful for getting certain items or materials for your equipment. For example, you may find a gem that can enhance your Melee attack power, which would be better suited for your fighter class characters as it would boost the strength of their sword. When you are at the guild, outside of preparing items to take with you, hiring new members or buying better equipment, you’ll also be able to see the story slowly unfold over the course of the game.
With the main part of the action taking place in the quests you’ll take on during the course of the adventure, this brings us back to the board game map I mentioned in the other sections. You move around the map, completing a variety of objectives, whether it’s getting a certain amount of items or reaching a goal point before you run out of moves or have your whole party wiped out by enemies. As you move around the map, you’ll run into enemies, some of which are stronger than others depending on the appearance of the map piece. Battles are where the action elements come into play, as the perspective is changed to a side view of your four main heroes on the left side and the enemies on the right side. Each character on screen has their own “Action Gauge” and depending on how far you move in a given turn, could be rather long or non-existent. For example, if you don’t move at all and decide to guard for the turn, the amount of resistance you would have for guarding would be quite high, requiring either a back attack or something else to break the defense. Another example would be when casting spells, as some spells last longer depending on how much is remaining of the gauge, allowing for multiple hits on an enemy. Each class learns their own unique set of skills, which you can assign to the various face buttons. (save for X, which for some reason is the end turn button)
It’s important to note however that you can’t just go for the strongest commands and hope to wipe out every enemy instantly, as you can hit your teammates if they’re in the way of an attack, making positioning all the more important. Some enemies will even take advantage of this, trying to get you to hit your own teammate by using them as a shield. Luckily this is where the melee classes come into help, as classes like the Rogue can turn invisible for a certain amount of time and sneak up on an enemy, allowing the perfect opportunity for a back-attack for extra damage! Once all enemies on screen are defeated, the battle ends and you gain experience, which upon leveling up can be used to assign points to any stat you choose, allowing for a nice extra bit of strategy and customization, making no two teams quite the same. However, while strategy and forward thinking is important in battles, it also takes up turns on the map, which can be an issue if you don’t have many turns remaining. You can escape battles by running to the far left during a battle, but its recommended to just go and defeat the opposing forces as fast as possible. This helps encourage you to tackle enemies while also avoiding running in circles just to grind for experience, which keeps the game mostly fair when it comes to balancing.
In conclusion, I found Grand Kingdom to be an OK experience when playing offline. It has a decent story, some fun quests to take and quite a few trophies for hunters to collect during their time with the guild. Battles are quick and easy, and positioning your teammates is an important step to take out the enemies without accidentally injuring yourselves. However, the game does drag on after a while, and I found myself losing a bit of interest after a couple of quests, only to regain the interest after a day’s break and get right back to playing.
Regardless, one of the major features of this game is the online multiplayer, and due to the fact that this game isn’t out in North America just yet, I was unable to test it for this pre-release review. If the online multiplayer ends up adding a whole new layer of fun to the game (Similar to Blanc Vs Zombies from last month), I’ll make a note of that in this review. In the meantime, Grand Kingdom is just an average single player RPG, and while it does look pretty and has a fun battle system, the tedium tends to make this game preferable in shorter bursts, making the PSTV/PS4 arguably a weaker choice for those planning to spend a lot of hours in this game, which makes playing it on the go seem like the best option of choice. Whatever system you buy it on, however, you’ll still have plenty to do offline, and there’s a good amount of trophies to work towards if you end up beating the story mode and need more replay value.
As of the pre-release, I give Grand Kingdom a 7 out of 10, and at the moment only recommend it to those looking for a fun strategy RPG but don’t mind the tedium that comes with this type of experience. As mentioned before, when online multiplayer is tested by me when the game launches in the US, I’ll amend the review or the score if necessary.