A world ravished by political conflict and war in which four nations struggle for supremacy. Who decides who rises and who falls? Mercenaries! Grand Kingdom is a tactical turn-based role-playing game developed by Spike Chunsoft and Monochrome Corp in which you take the role of a mercenary captain in charge of a company of mercenaries. But does Grand Kingdom have enough to offer to buy our blades and loyalty?
Developed by Spike Chunsoft and Monochrome Corp. / Published by NIS America
Available on the PS Vita and PS4. Reviewed on the PS4.
*Review code provided by NIS America.
Grand Kingdom launches us into the land of Resonail in the center of a conflict between four warring nations: Landerth, Valkyr, Fiel and Magion, after the fall of the all-ruling empire of Uld. But unlike many struggles, soldiers and knights are not the secret to victory. In this all-out war sell-swords and mercenaries are the key. We begin the game in battle, commanding a troop of four mercenaries as they fight enemies in a war that you have been hired to fight in. Here we are introduced to the basics of battle and learn how to order our troops in the battlefield.
This first encounter pretty much gives us a taste of what other battles are like. Opposing mercenary troops are positioned on opposite ends of the screen and each mercenary character is on one of three lanes. The characters take their turn depending on where they are at in the initiative ladder and can do various actions depending on how many action points they have available to use. Character movement is pretty straightforward and practical, and using the skills was easy to pick up. Everything works well except canceling actions. I blame the button mapping. Too often I ended up canceling an action by accident or ending a turn instead of using a skill because of how the buttons were configured. This made me cringe too many times, especially when the mistakes resulted in losing a mercenary to the enemy. If canceling an action is an option, it should be more intuitive to minimize these types of mistakes.
Button mapping problems are also a headache when traversing regions of the world, which is done table-top (board game) style by controlling a token to move along predetermined lines. These regions are filled with enemy tokens, traps, natural and supernatural disasters, chests and resources, but the controls made it confusing to know where I was ordering my token to go. Too many times I found my token move up instead of right, or left instead of down making me bite my fingers in irritation when this resulted in me failing a mission. Despite this, the board game style aspect of the game was fun with its own challenges and rewards.
Missions take place in these maps and encounters occur when the player’s token crosses paths with an enemy token or fortification. The battles are dynamic and require thought for there is friendly fire in the game, and mercenaries on the same team can hurt or kill each other. Though this was frustrating at first, it adds a layer of strategy, not only in the use of abilities or skills, but also in which combination of character classes I chose to be together in a troop and how to position them in the battlefield. This also made me be extra careful when using abilities for fear of being the cause of my own doom.
Eventually, we are invited to join the renowned Mercenaries Guild and this is where the game really begins. As the story develops, you discover that though the guild remains a neutral institution allowing members to sell their bloody services to the highest bidder, it becomes a target and a defining player in the growing tug-of-war between nations and the crumbled empire striving to revive.
Within the guild, Grand Kingdom places us in the role of administrator and commander of our own customizable troop of mercenaries. Troops are composed of four to six mercenaries and you can have up to six troops in which to play around with different combinations of mercenary set ups. The game does a great job in providing the tools to make you feel in control of your troops, and there is seventeen different classes ranging from sword and shield wielding fighters, keen-eyed archers, and bookish arcanists, to giant-hammer swinging blacksmiths, dragon-riding mages, and barrel-hurling challengers. Bear in mind that each character can be customized aesthetically, and as each mercenary levels up, attributes are assigned to the player’s discretion. Skills are usually learned automatically as the character reaches certain levels, but these skills acquire mastery points as they are used, and there are also other class-neutral skills that can be learned to accommodate the gameplay to better suit the player’s style.
Grand Kingdom takes the role-playing aspect of the game to heart, providing everything that an RPG enthusiast would expect. There are shops filled with items and gear, customizable character progression, resource gathering, and crafting. Each troop ascends in rank as the troop as a whole gains prestige within the guild. The game also gives you the ability to choose to do side missions (these vary in nature and allows the player to gain good standing with the nation they assisted), travel missions (exploration mission designed for resource gathering), or campaign missions that allow the story to unfold. To top it all off, you can also sign contracts with one of the four nations for a certain number of wars. This gives you access to an online battle ground, plus opens the door to that nation’s capital where you can find exclusive items to buy, and gives you the chance to increase your good standing with that specific nation.
As commander within the mercenary guild, it is your job to administer supplies and coordinate your troops in order to gain victory. Here Grand Kingdom provides opportunities to dispatch idle troops on missions or on war contracts, hire new mercenaries, buy equipment, and analyze the shifts of power between the four nations to land the most beneficial contracts. All of this can be a lot to take in at first, and the game doesn’t do a good job in helping players understand it well. I often found this overwhelming and I didn’t fiddle with those functions until I got to higher levels and felt experienced. Still, these systems augmented the experience and broaden the things I could do in the game.
Grand Kingdom draws us in with its eccentric merge of table-top, roleplaying and strategy, but it is this same combination that can stump players seeking a particular style of game. The game can bombard you with an overwhelming influx of information at times, and this can veer away players that don’t want to deal with the administrative side of running their squad. Its mechanics are also good but need to be more intuitive and responsive to the player’s intentions. Ultimately, Grand Kingdom provides a variety of things interesting and fun things to do that will keep players occupied and engaged for hours.
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