Grand Kingdom is a curious game. On one hand it features superb artwork and style and a great cast of talented voice actors. On the other, it is a game deep with different mechanics that make its appealing exterior almost daunting at first. If you’re like me, you might feel ready to give up on it shortly after the tutorial ends. I urge you, keep with it. Grand Kingdom is deceptively fun beneath its piles of mechanics and is a perfect fit on the PlayStation Vita.
At first, Grand Kingdom seems like a simple enough game. You’ll navigate an almost board game esque field of play and interact with enemies and other items on tiles. The real depth comes out of combat and off the field. Your mercenary squad exists to fight in wars, but first you have to build your troops up. This requires you to hire new troops and understand their abilities, maximizing their strength through leveling up and classing up. Then you have to decide on how you actually want to wage war, setting strategies and voting on field bonuses with other players.
A big part of Grand Kingdom is its online component which has many players joining the same battle impacting its results. While you were busy trying to take an enemy fort, they could be taking three of yours. You can even engage troops sent by other players to act on their own, just the same as you can send idle troops to fight in the war to earn exp and money. In this way, Grand Kingdom can be very hands off once you’ve level your troops. You’ll only need to call them back to receive the rewards and possibly to equip them with new items.
Once you get the hang of it, Grand Kingdom is very easy to play and becomes a bit routine. The real struggle is understanding the various mechanics and putting them to good use. The game throws a lot of information at you and sometimes you can’t quite process it until you do it on your own. My “a ha” moment was when I completed the tutorial and built up my second troop which has since far surpassed my first in strength. When you take away the hand holding of the tutorial and can actually make mistakes and learn from them you will finally feel stronger.
Story and Modes:
The game does feature a single player story which plays out in more or less the same fashion as the multiplayer, albeit with narrative in the missions. You’re the leader of a mercenary group seeking prestige that joins the mercenary guild. The Guild is home to many of the strongest groups in the world. After quickly rising through the ranks, the old Kingdom of Uld returns, forcing The Guild to war. The story is okay, but serves only to introduce players to the basic mechanics of the game to prepare them for online. It almost seems like a waste given the obvious effort put into voice acting. The characters are a likable enough bunch but each fit a very obvious cliché. Multiplayer is where you’ll spend most of your time.
Visuals and Sound:
Right away you’ll notice that Grand Kingdom is a beautiful game. It has a very Vanillaware style to it, which makes the world and every action really pop. Enemy designs are nice, but there aren’t many which results in several color swaps. Character animations are good too with some moves being especially flashy. As mentioned, voice acting is quite good, almost surprisingly so given the online focus and fairly cliché characters. The music is good, but not great. Major fights have a pretty solid track, but everything else is basic RPG music without any soul.
You probably haven’t played a game quite like Grand Kingdom, but I bet you’ve seen a game that features elements it borrows. Combat is turn based and required positioning to be effective. The tile based map with other pieces moving about, the tale of a kingdom rising from the ashes for evil, we’ve seen it before. Having it on a large scale online with other players, that is something I haven’t seen much of. This isn’t like Clash of Clans or something, it’s deeper than that. For the right players, this is a game that will be just as enthralling as any AAA release.
At $39.99, Grand Kingdom is not a game for everyone. Being that it can be very hands off, you may find yourself content letting your troops fight on their own for weeks at a time without checking up on them. Those who do dedicate their time to managing their full complement of troops and take the time to lead them in battle will certainly get their money’s worth. It is a game that requires a long term commitment to get any real value. Just fighting a single war or playing the story is not enough to justify the purchase. The value is there, you just need to earn it.