Have you ever wanted to create a band of mercenaries? Abandon all concept of loyalty and honor for fame and fortune? Then look no further, as Grand Kingdom, a game by Spike Chunsoft, may be for you. Grand Kingdom is set in the fictional continent of Resonail where war is a way of life. The four great nations are in constant battle with one another, and it’s up to you and the The Guild for whom you contract with & turn the tides in favor for.
Grand Kingdom has a very story driven campaign, but falls short in being anything of substance. It makes it very clear, in my eyes, that the story is only there as a sad attempt at giving life to the world of Resonail, as well as aiding you in understanding the mechanics and different unit types. Despite the lackluster campaign, the shining star is the creating and development of your characters. At the start, you’re limited to only contracting a few of the classes available, but in no time you’ll have full access to all 17 classes as you play and gain more gold and fame through your adventures. With a troop limit of 4, the strategy of complimenting your chosen classes strengths and weaknesses make up a major portion of how the game flows. Another major game mode is the online wars. As I mentioned before, you can choose a nation to contract too and partake in battles against other players, though the AI does the fighting for them. Online battles are not limited to you playing actively, but you are also able to dispatch units to automatically fight for you – so gaming as you sleep and hoping for rewards is another potential option.
The menus in which you develop your characters can be a little confusing at first, as the tutorial briefly goes over them. As you play, though, you’ll get a grasp of it and realize it’s a relatively simple system. Between the stat and skill assignments, all your typical RPG elements are presented and easy to understand. If you have a strong familiarity with RPGs in general, you’ll pick up on things rather quickly, despite some small stumbles in the beginning. If you’re not too familiar with RPGs, this game may offer a bit of a learning curve and can be quite frustrating, but the payoff is satisfying.
The battle system is interesting, as it escapes the traditional grid-battle system for tactical RPGs and instead uses a three lane battlefield in which the character can move about and perform actions, which are dependent on their movement and action gauge. This leads to some very interesting strategic moments in which you must plan two to three moves ahead in order not to block yourself out due to bad positioning of your own unit. There is also the knock-back feature, which literally moves a given character back (or forward), messing up the positioning and perhaps leaving you not able to complete a series of moves, or prevent a follow-up with another mercenary. Even then, traps and obstacles can be placed on the battlefield and it is not exclusive to just you either. Many times I’ve lost a fight or quest by badly positioning units and getting caught in a myriad of traps that hindered my units before I could even move and attack the enemy.
The movement of the game on the map is something also interesting. You move as a chess piece of sorts on an assembly of roads and within a certain amount of turns you must reach your objective. To hinder and prolong you, there are traps which can be dispelled with an item or waited out in exchange for turns, enemies to fight which move when you move (similar to roguelikes), resource nodes, as well as treasures if you feel like giving up some turns to take your chances on a prize. To make matters more complicated, some enemies are invisible and the only way you can see them on the map is dust being kicked up by their movement or hidden treasures which aren’t shown on the map. Though you are limited to certain amount of turns, I never felt hard-pressed to get to the objective and had no trouble clearing a majority of maps completely before going for it.
All-in-all, Grand Kingdom is a game that dependent on what you put into it. Despite the underwhelming campaign story, the battles are engaging and require strategy as well as great soundtrack to tie it in all together. With the addition to the online gameplay, you get some solid gameplay and replay value. If you are willing to put the time in, you will enjoy what I consider to be one of the best turn-based games that’s come out this year.
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– PSI Team.