Turn-based strategy RPGs could always use a little variety. Thankfully, Grand Kingdom is here to provide an immersive and unique experience but is it a war worth fighting? Keep marching forth and let's find out.
Grand Kingdom is such a massive game that I don't know where to start. Playing it basically puts you in control of an army of soldiers who fight wars and perform tasks to increase their reputation. Battles are generally structured in two phases. The first involves moving a chess piece around a map one space at a time while your enemies move at every step you take. Then, you enter a battle whenever you land on the same spot as an opponent. These battles play like a turn-based Guardian Heroes where you move your soldiers between three planes in order to unleash a fury of attacks on your foes and take them out as effectively as possible. Overall, it's an impressively unique battle setup. The combination of slowly traversing the map then engaging in exciting intimate battles is superbly implemented to craft one addictive gameplay formula.
On top of this fantastic battle system is one of the deepest party customization dynamics that I've ever seen. Before you set your party up, you have to hire each soldier individually. There are many classes to choose from yet they seem quite balanced so it's up to your personal preference. Obviously, you can level up and equip your characters to maximize their capabilities but many more systems are at play. Levelling up allows you to assign points to each fighter's list of attributes. Also, attaching pyroxenes to pieces of equipment enhances their stats while using grimoires teaches characters new passive and active skills. These skills are entirely configurable seeing as you can assign them to buttons and switch between technical or simple controls depending on how comfortable you are with that character's move set. Finally, placing your warriors in predefined positions while also setting up items such as blockades and traps could give you the upper hand in battle. It's amazing how much control you have over your troop.
Grand Kingdom's visuals are vibrant and colourful which contrasts well with the theme of war. Characters are charming with suitable animations and voices while environments are full of life. One aspect of its presentation that I fell in love with over time is the soundtrack. After I get this review up, I'll look into buying it because the orchestral pieces manage to both set the mood for combat and be super catchy. In the end, this is one of the best looking and sounding games that I've played so far this year.
As I've touched on already, Grand Kingdom is a massive game. There are so many ways to play that it'll make your head spin. Of course, there are story missions to work through but if you want to get the full experience and train your party to overcome any situation then you'll need to do much more. Optional quests will have you gathering resources, infiltrating enemy compounds without being spotted, taking over your foes' bases, competing with other players to see who can accomplish tasks more efficiently, and just freely exploring with no pressure. After you pledge your allegiance to a nation, you can send your parties off to fight wars either automatically or under your command. Oh, did I mention that you can have multiple parties? While all of this is happening, players are competing to see who has the strongest nation. It'll likely take a handful of hours just to understand the basics of how all this content works together.
Although I absolutely love Grand Kingdom and consider it one of the best surprises of the year, it does have its problems. One of the biggest issues is the inconsistent controls. You push all of the face buttons except X for different attacks but whenever you're prompted to perform an assist attack, you push X to confirm it. Frequently, I pushed circle out of habit thus cancelled the attack by mistake. There are a few other examples such as how accidentally brushing the touchpad makes the camera pan which is disorienting.
One problem that's difficult to overcome is the fact that Grand Kingdom as a whole is incredibly complex. The many intricate systems take forever to figure out which may be too much for many gamers to handle. Therefore, ensure that you're up for a steep learning curve before enlisting to war. On the other end of the spectrum, once you start to get comfortable with everything then progression starts to become far less rewarding. I reached a point where the shops stopped stocking new items so now if I want better equipment then I have to forge it at the blacksmith. After about the twelve hour mark, each mission started feeling more like a grind although it never got so bad that I was bored. That being said, I can't see myself continuing to play in lengthy sessions.
Grand Kingdom is definitely a must-buy game for anyone looking for a new kind of strategy RPG. It may not be the best one ever made but what's here adds up to one great turn-based experience.
- + Unique, deep, and immersive gameplay
- + Colourful visuals and fantastic music
- + There's an unbelievable amount of content to work through and master
- - Inconsistent controls are problematic
- - Complex systems are very intimidating
- - You'll eventually reach a point where progression starts to stagnate