Grand Kingdom (PS Vita) Review
Not so much?
You are the captain of a mercenary troop, out to earn your living on the battlefield. Fortunately, the four nations of the continent are always at war, so finding work isn’t difficult – once you’ve passed the test to join the Guild. Gather your troops and head out onto the battlefield to prove your name […]
You are the captain of a mercenary troop, out to earn your living on the battlefield. Fortunately, the four nations of the continent are always at war, so finding work isn’t difficult – once you’ve passed the test to join the Guild. Gather your troops and head out onto the battlefield to prove your name as the best mercenaries in the land!
Just when you think you’ve seen all the world of JRPGs has to offer, someone comes along and manages to find something a little different. Such is the case with Grand Kingdom, a strategy RPG with a bit of a twist when it comes to gameplay.
The backdrop for the game is a world that is constantly at war. It’s not a deep and involved war that requires plucky heroes to band together and save the world – it’s just there to give mercenaries a way to earn the money they need to buy alcohol at the end of the day. If you’re the kind of person who plays RPGs for the story, you’ll find slim pickings here – the main plot is so threadbare that story missions are barely different from optional quests.
Each mission takes place on a battle map, where the goals can range from getting your troop to a specific location, to destroying enemies or defending your base. Maps are littered with obstacles, which can either be barged through recklessly at a cost to your HP, or navigated carefully, which saps away precious turns. It’s a gimmick that’s clearly meant to add depth to the game, but it quickly becomes tiresome when your troop is stuck yet again in a thunderstorm because it just happens to be at an important crossroads.
When you run into an enemy troop on the map, battle begins. In combat, you control a party of four units drawn from the usual range of classes – front-line fighters, ranged attackers, mages and healers. All units move back and forth across three combat lines – front, middle and back – with the object being to evade enemy traps and destroy opposing units, all without accidentally attacking your allies. It’s fun at first, because it’s something a bit different, but it soon loses its sheen when you realise that you’re just repeating the same actions for every single battle. And you have to battle a lot just to get to a high enough level to beat the game.
Grinding isn’t the only way to improve your characters, of course. This being a JRPG, there are plenty of menu options to improve your characters, including buying equipment, equipping gems or paying a visit to the blacksmith. Unfortunately, not only are there a lot of these options to wade through, but they highlight another of the game’s flaws – its excessively long loading times. Visiting somewhere new? There’s a loading screen. Finished with a menu? Loading screen. Won a battle? Sit back and enjoy a loading screen.
If the single player experience seems a bit thin, that’s because the developers have also spent a lot of time promoting the online experience – War mode. Here, the four nations are supposed to battle against each other, allowing players to train their troops and earn rich rewards. The idea of dipping in and out of a massive ongoing conflict between four factions does sound appealing, until you realise that the player base is never going to be big enough or enduring enough to make it a going concern.
Grand Kingdom is strong on the visual front – the battle sprites are particularly beautiful, and I often found myself recruiting new units for their looks as much as anything else. The in-game music is also good, with the battle theme proving particularly catchy. The voice acting is inoffensive and doesn’t really intrude upon the game much.
Grand Kingdom has a good go at doing something fresh and original, but ultimately it doesn’t quite deliver. It’s fun to have a quick play around with, but where other strategy RPGs have mastered the art of keeping you addicted for tens or even hundreds of hours, this one quickly loses its lustre.