Grand Kingdom – PS Vita

Grand Kingdom is a turn based tactical RPG and the debut game of Monochrome Corp, published in the west by NIS America and it’s available on the Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita. This is a review of the Vita version. The premise of Grand Kingdom is that you are a leader of mercenaries, who after briefly being independent, is invited to join an even larger mercenary group. From here, after a brief introduction to your new clan, your skills are tested in the tutorial.

As Grand Kingdom is a turn-based tactical RPG the gameplay constantly switches between two fields. The main part of the gameplay will be in the missions where you’ll move your team across the map on set paths, encountering and fighting enemies. It’s very board game-like, especially since your unit is represented by something resembling a chess piece. Maps are often surprisingly large, but mostly linear. There are a few different routes and hidden paths to take, but that’s about it really.

The other half of the game will be spent at your headquarters where you prepare your troops, check missions and even interact with people. Sadly it’s all done through still images and menus like a visual novel or an Etrien Odyssey game. I can understand the reasoning behind this style. For one, it’s much cheaper than building an explorable world and with a limited budget you have to do what you can.

The most disappointing aspect of Grand Kingdom for me is the story and the characters, especially regarding your character and your companions taking a back seat to the action. Your character is literally faceless, voiceless and has absolutely no ‘character’ at all. You’re joined from the beginning by long-time comrade Flint and new assistant Lillia who act as the odd couple. Flint is the rash overly zealous warrior who thinks nothing more than charging head first into a fight. Lillie on the other hand is cautious, prudent and thoughtful.

The continent, on which the story is told, is divided into a handful of warring kingdoms and your mercenary faction is stuck in the middle of it. The current division of the continent was a result of the collapse of the old Uldien Empire, although shreds of its past still exist which plays a big part of the story.

Probably the most important part of an RPG is in its battle system, considering the whole game is built around it. Your motley crew of 4 customised mercenaries stack up against other soldiers and beasts on a three-lane arena. Each character has an Action gauge which dictates how many actions they can do per turn, whilst also having a movement gauge which as you can guess, sets how far you can move per round.

You have multiple different attacks at your disposal which vary according to the soldiers class (which I’ll get on to shortly). While set ups can differ, attacks are mapped to square, triangle circle, then holding the L button, it switches those buttons to three more attacks, for a total of 6 abilities. There are tonnes of variables to encounter during battle whether it’s your enemies abilities, laying traps, having obstacles in the way, support fire from catapults; there’s a lot going on in such a small arena.

As you hire your units, you’ll find there are many different classes available. Strangely, you only have a handful of available warriors to hire at a time. Every so often the stock of available mercenaries will be refreshed for you to eye up. I found this unnecessarily restrictive considering no matter what all new hirelings start at level 1. It would have been better to have them all available at the same time.

Once you select your newcomer you can customise their appearance to a decent level. Although again, this makes the game have less character than it could have. Although they may look unique they’re just blank portraits still, have no stake in the story and therefore no meaning in the grand scheme of things.

As you level up your fighters they’ll gain new abilities that can be equipped (or not), and each characters move set is really quite customisable. Another problem I found is that once I had a set team, I found it very awkward to change it since new members begin life so lowly levelled, making integration rather a pain. You can send them out on quests by themselves to gain levels and also allow them to form different squads (which fighters of similar abilities) but it’s not really an ideal solution.

There’s actually a lot going on in Grand Kingdom. It’s really quite overwhelming. It’s one of the reasons this review has taken so long, just having to wrap my head around the game and let it sink in a little. It’s not a negative per se, but I think more explaining over a longer period could have done the game wonders. A better tutorial system rather than just text boxes would have been nice for me personally.

Grand Kingdom looks absolutely gorgeous. The artwork of the characters and monsters look magnificent. The whole 2D hand drawn style really pops out of the Vita’s screen. Sadly enemies are often repeated and it doesn’t seem like there’s too much variety, but since it’s so well animated and looks amazing, it bothered me much less than it should have. The music is really nice too.

There’s quite a large online component to Grand Kingdom. It’s quite overwhelming to be honest. The structure of missions is different to the offline game, but the gameplay is just the same. For the online you can form contracts with one of the handful of kingdoms in the game’s world. You will fight for them in the struggle against the other factions, who will hire other players around the world, invading or defending your territory. It’s much more chaotic compared to the offline game. Enemies will move on the map in real time now, whether they’re controlled by other players or AI is really unclear, either way, it’s a sudden shift that takes a while to get used to. The actual battles remain the same. The slightly different take on missions makes it an interesting diversion and it definitely needs to be tried a few times to get to grips with it. Even now I’m struggling to form a full opinion of it due to still not fully ‘getting it’ as of yet.

Overall, I can recommend Grand Kingdom to RPG fans with a Vita. It’s not quite as amazing as I’d hoped due to its limited scale, but it’s still got fun action with the battles and plenty of content to get your money’ worth. Sadly the story and especially the characters aren’t up to much but the gameplay alone will keep you going in this sometimes overwhelming game.

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