Title: Grand Kingdom
Platform: PS4, PS Vita
Reviewed on: PS4
Genre: JRPG, Strategy
Players: Single player
Written by Whistler 21st August 2016
A constant struggle for any genre is the strive for innovation while not stretching so far out of the standards expected and of course, to be enjoyable.
Grand Kingdom by Spike Chunsoft and Monochrome Corp is one such title that feels like it’s trying to reinvent the wheel without putting much forethought into that last essential ingredient to the concoction. But is it a solid title that just isn’t my cup of tea or does the issue lie on a more fundamental level?
Grand Kingdom is a strategic JRPG that sees you taking command of your own mercenary troupe that joins the guild and must now pave a path to glory and fortune. To do this you’ll need to recruit and train several skilled warriors and plan your conquest as you fight on behalf of four major empires: Landerth, Valkyr, Fiel and Magion. However while there was so much potential for a big open story involving the four kingdoms, the scope is instead scaled so far down it’s barely footnote worthy. Each of the nations represent certain philosophies and the player can later visit their capitals and check on what their citizens have to say. However none of these factions play any kind of factor in the singleplayer campaign. Instead the voiceless player is accompanied by a bunch of incredibly uninteresting characters as they speak for you, and at you. This is by far the weakest element in Grand Kingdom’s set up, and while not being the star of the show is nothing new (and can be just as effective) it instead just removes you from any investment.
At it’s core, Grand Kingdom functions around putting together and maintaining your mercenary band while you take on various quests.
One you set out on a mission you’re taken to a board game style map where you’ll be given a set amount of moves to reach your goal. Often you’ll find yourself struck with the difficult choice of tackling enemy troops head on or to take detours for picking up loot. When your piece occupies the same spot as an enemy’s you’ll enter combat. Played from a 2D perspective your mercs will go up against enemy bands on three horizontal lanes. Operating on a pseudo turn based combat system, mercenaries each take it in turn to freely move left, right, up and down, consuming the character’s movement gauge.
When melee attacks are performed you can chain together combos from a interchangeable moves list; a button will pop up onscreen which if pressed as they flash white allows you to perform a Just Cancel. Successfully pulling off these split moment button presses will jump you straight into the next animation and granting a damage bonus. On the other end of the spectrum, ranged attacks have to be timed to make sure you hit the target when the moving reticule lines up. These small implementations do help in stopping the combat from becoming a snoozefest. Friendly fire needs to be kept in consideration also as ranged attacks have arcs and you can easily end up setting your companions on fire along with the enemy.
In fact building various team compositions is key to tackling certain quests, as you’re limited to only taking one team on mission. Parties can consist up to four units including fighters, rogues, blacksmiths, along with arcanists, archers, and witches amongst a total class selection of seventeen. It’s interesting to see different mixtures of mercenary bands and experimentation is encouraged. And yet it seems so odd that the game then stunts the creativity to be had; only a set amount of classes are made available each time you return to the HQ so you’ll often feel your patience being tested as you wait for a new class to show up. While flawed this is what keeps the game fresh; after a point I had grown incredibly bored of my first troop and so scraped together enough cash to recruit a new batch. As I purposely selected units I hadn’t used before suddenly the gameplay was fun again.
You can customize each party member’s weapons, armour, moveset, skills, spells etc etc. There’s a decent amount of variety available to create a visually appealing squad but honestly doesn’t do enough detract from just how, underwhelming, the visuals actually are for full retail priced 2016 PS4 title. Sadly this is honestly how I feel with the game in it’s entirety. There’s an entire meta game online that has you play against AI controlled player troops as you lend your strength to the four factions in an ongoing online war. Grand Kingdom can be enjoyable. however all of this just feels like something that would be better suited to (and I can’t believe I’m saying it) a mobile format à la strategic titles like Clash of Clans, Kings and every other iteration of them. You’re meant to send out other mercenary bands to smaller objective while you man the helm for where they really need your help on the frontlines and then come back later to see if your efforts will reap rewards and strike back at another player’s attempt to foil yours.
This is all presented on a rather lackluster both in terms of story and visual package with a decent combat system. While I eventually warmed up to Grand Kingdom’s odd format I couldn’t get over the repetitious pattern that isn’t suited to a home console release. Its scope has you so far removed from any interesting that I just couldn’t invest myself in the world and then expects me to continue playing in a virtual world to fight for a cause I had already stopped caring for. It’s a quirky little title that honestly just doesn’t suit the format it’s presented on, it’s cheaper and more suited on the PS Vita but even then at £30 digitally (£40 on PS4) it’s a really hard sell with too many haphazardly put together ideas. Grand Kingdom isn’t so grand, but catch it on sale and you’ll enjoy this summer title.
Interesting mixture of concepts,
Cool meta game online.
Overall average gameplay.
While technically sound, Grand Kingdom scores a 6/10.