Title: Grand Kingdom

Platform: PS4, PSVita

Previewed on: PS4

Genre: Tactical Role Playing

Players: Single player, Multiplayer

Written by Dragoon 21st May 2016

Grand Kingdom is weird. That's the first impression I got from the beta and one that stuck with me as I made my way through the various missions and built up my band of mercenaries. A tactical role-playing game, Grand Kingdom puts you in charge of a company of mercenaries which comprises of various classes of soldiers. You get to choose whatever mix of these classes you want and then sign yourself to a contract with one of the kingdoms to fight their battles and increase your standing. What makes this more interesting is the fact that the other mercenary companies you fight against are ones that other players have made. Does being a bit weird and different work in Grand Kingdoms favor though?

There is a lot going on in Grand Kingdom, so much so that it can be quite daunting at first and I was still finding new menus or options a couple of hours into the game. You are quite limited to what you can do offline in this beta version but the introduction missions I got to play were engaging enough to pique my interest. The story has you taking on the role of leader for your rag-tag group of mercenaries. After being on the losing side of battle one of the soldiers on the opposing side offers to introduce you to his mercenary guild and the story then seems to lead to you joining up and fighting with them. Due to this being a demo we only get to see up to this point but I did enjoy what I saw, the characters are all colorful and charming and the backstory for the war is interesting.

The gameplay is where Grand Kingdom is a bit strange. When you join a battle you are placed on something akin to a chess board, your band is represented by a piece which you then move around the map square by square. As you move, the enemies pieces also move and a fight commences when you run into each other. When you get into a fight they are fought in a map made up of three different lanes which your soldiers can move along or jump up and down to. You can place various objects in these lanes such as explosive barrels or sniper towers to give you an advantage which gives some nice tactical depth. Each soldier has an action bar that drains whenever they take an action during their turn, which can be anything from moving to attacking. When this bar runs dry your soldiers turn ends and they are stuck wherever they ended up until their next turn. This is an interesting system because it makes you think about how your turns are going to play out, if you position someone in the wrong place you could end up getting them killed by your own attacks due to there being friendly fire.

Each class has their own unique attacks and skills for example the mage has an ability, that they have to charge up, which shoots a bolt of lightning down the full lane hitting anyone in its path. All abilities affect anyone in their firing range such as the medics healing bomb, an area of effect flask you can throw at allies to heal them, which means if your aim is off you could end up healing your enemies as well. It's all about positioning and thinking ahead which can create some great tactical moments. If you mess up a turn you can always undo your actions and retry at the press of a button which is a great feature that I made liberal use of.

The main meat of Grand Kingdom seems to be the online war mode. You get to choose which of the four kingdoms to work for and then join in one of the various battles currently happening on the map. These battles are fought by the players mercenary bands so you'll be facing an AI controlled version of them which is a novel feature. The strange thing about these features though, and something that's echoed throughout the game in general, is the fact that this all feels more like a mobile game than a full price console release. You can choose to send your mercenaries out to fight automatically who will then come back after a certain amount of real time with the results and you also have to wait a varying amount of real time for your band to recover if you are defeated in battle. These are really odd features to have in a full retail game but from what I can tell there weren't any micro transactions or anything on offer so it's not necessarily a bad thing but it's definitely weird.

Grand Kingdom has a great art style, it has a charming medieval anime aesthetic and the character sprites are vibrant and varied. You can customise each of your soldiers and there are plenty of options available to tailor them however you want. The story sections of the game are laid out like a visual novel with some great voice acting in both English and Japanese which is always a nice choice to have. The soundtrack is pretty standard for this kind of game but that's not a bad thing, it just doesn't tread any new ground or stand out all that much.

Altogether I was pretty impressed by what was on offer in this beta, the small glimpse of the story was interesting and the online component is novel and has more than enough play value to justify its full retail price tag. Even if it does have some features usually reserved for free to play mobile games this doesn't really detract from the package as a whole. It's aesthetically pleasing and has a great amount of customisation on offer. The biggest issue I had was the fact that it takes quite a while to get a handle on all the different menus and these aren't really explained all that well in game. It's definitely a weird one but Grand Kingdom is shaping up nicely for it's western release and I'll be sure to check it out when it's released fully in June.

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