Before we begin with this review, I’d like to make one thing very clear,
“I am highly against wars and other things of that nature. I am also very, very vocal about my dislike for them, especially when the aspect of wars or violent things of that nature are celebrated or as in the case of this game, romanticized.” Armed with this information I hope it will put into context the manner in which I approached this title initially.
In just the opening minutes of this title one of the main characters shows a moment of excitement when it is confirmed by your assistant that your team will be able to participate in the wars within the game, which I found uncomfortable. Yes the game is centered around the idea that your team are a band of mercenaries, however I would not like to make the assumption that mercenaries trivialize the meaning of war. It felt unnatural, cringe worthy, and all in all I found that it kept me from truly becoming invested in the plot of the game. A plot set within a medieval fantasy world where four nations are vying for dominance one hundred years after the fall of the Uldein Empire. In this story you control a band mercenaries who must fight in battles for the four main nations throughout what remains of the region. All in all it’s not a bad setting, but I found it hard to emote towards it. I felt like I was just an observer, observing a band of unrealistic cartoon characters doing unrealistic cartoon things, and please try to understand, I do understand that this is a fictional story, however every form of fiction tends to need some grounding in reality to resonate with most people, and this game doesn’t seem to have any real connection to anything that I would consider real.
I like my games to fool me into a sense of immersion
Unrealistic theme aside the rest of the plot isn’t really strong either. If you ask me now what’s it’s all about, I really couldn’t tell you. The game is simply too confusing in the way it handles the story and other aspects of its many parts. If I had to compare it to something it would be a mixture of Lego pieces whereby some are amazing alone, while together they come off as messy and disjointed. This is a prevailing feature of a lot of other aspects of the game too.
The gameplay portrays this metaphor most of all with the war mode (multiplayer) and the Quest Mode (singleplayer) being two very different types of experiences. The former being a complete and utter mess of a multiplayer experience that feels out-of-place and tacked on just to fulfill a check box on some corporate machine’s checklist, and the latter being a brilliant, addictive, rewarding experience. If the developers had completely removed the multiplayer war mode I think the experience would have been more enjoyable for me, and though it can be argued that one isn’t required to play the multiplayer mode, the rewards for playing it are definitely required if you hope to progress through the game in a desirable manner. If one doesn’t want to partake is this mode and would like to acquire the scrolls required to increase a character’s affinity towards a particular attribute then they can pay to for them on the PSN store. Something I feel many may eventually feel forced into doing if they are hoping to enjoy their experience with the game without having to play the dreaded multiplayer.
Some scrolls can be acquired via the daily report, however that takes numerous days.
Adding to the woos, the game doesn’t have a competent tutorial or manual, so during our time with the game a lot of the basics we needed to learn was reliant on trial and error, accompanied by the sharing of notes while we worked on the review. There were moments where we simply didn’t know about important features required to progress through the game, from mechanics while in battles, to just finding things in the game’s numerous menus. It should have come as a no-brainer to the developers, giving the complexity of their game that they should include a proper tutorial or a manual that is not just 5 pages of basic controls along with 12 other pages of FFC notices and warnings. It’s like they were in a meeting discussing the game and someone said, “Oh don’t worry about explaining the intricacies of the game, the gamers will figure that out, Oh and while we’re at it let’s make it auto save so that any of them that are not brilliant enough to get it all on their first try, either have to restart or be stuck with whatever results they get”.
I know I know… It sounds like I truly hate this game with a passion, but that’s far from the truth. After Learning the mechanics of the battle system, I found it to be one of the best I’ve used in a strategy title to date. It is very technical and detailed and most of all fair. What I mean by this is that I never once felt cheated out of a win. Every death, every lost battle was caused by my lack of preparation or tactical prowess. There were times while I was still at level 10 that I’d lose to level 4 enemies, because of my overconfidence, and I felt deserving when I got knocked down a few pegs, to once again build myself up even stronger, wiser, more tactical. The gameplay of moving characters through three lanes, while avoiding traps, considering splash damage from not just your enemies attacks, but also your own, status buffs and knowing which enemy types need to be given your uttermost attention is simply brilliant, and I want more of it.
Partner this great gameplay with a really nice art style reminiscent of greats like final fantasy tactics, the ability to customize the look of each of your playable characters and no discernible difference between the PS4 and Vita versions other than some visual slow down in the menu backgrounds on the Vita is a nice touch, and easily some of the best aspects of this game.
So, who should buy this game? Well The short answer is, fans of strategy games. The long answer is that unless you are willing to learn the intricacies of this title by yourself or with the help of a walk-through this may not be the game for you. If you are willing to do so, then all you’ll have to consider is if you’re willing to either pay for scrolls to level up you classes, play the multiplayer for them, grind through quest without using scrolls or hire characters that have better affinity for the skills you desire. All that aside Grand Kingdom is at it’s best when playing quests and battling the Ai.
A copy of Grand Kingdom for PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita was provided by NIS America.