Grand Kingdom takes place in a fantasy world plagued by war. Four nations are battling for control over the continent after the fall of the Uldein Empire one hundred years ago. Players are the leader of a clan within The Guild: a mercenary group who welcomes in those without a home. The larger story involves rival clans and a group of rebels trying to resurrect the Empire through dark means. It goes some interesting places and the leader’s assistants, Flint and Lillia, make for an entertaining duo, but it doesn’t do much beyond Grand Kingdom’s true focus: gameplay.
While the story may be simplistic, the mechanics aren’t so let’s delve through them slowly. First of all, players can create up to six groups of four character parties. Team members can be hired and will randomly generate daily in a pool of eight. There are a variety of classes that’s fairly standard in terms of RPGs including melee, ranged, magic, and supportive roles. Every character can be customized and while it may not be as dynamic as other creation systems, it does the job well enough.
It’s important to use strategy when deciding the lineup even before the battle begins. An obvious statement if ever there was one, but here’s an example of a group Grand Kingdom starts players off with: Medic, Witch, Fighter, and Hunter. The Fighter can protect the party in front, dealing out heavy damage and absorbing blows as the other three, all ranged, can hang back and launch attacks from afar. A useful ability for the Fighter later on forms a protective guard across the whole party making his defensive stance even more useful. As other heroes level up, their diversity on the battlefield also increases and makes the team feel like they’re really evolving from experience.
Running into an enemy icon on the mission map will trigger combat. Each character has a move and action gauge. Heroes can move freely between the 2D space, separated by three lanes, until the meter runs dry, or the player halts progress. Each skill depletes the action gauge similar to a magic meter in other RPGs from standard weapon slashes, to obliterating area magic. Any left over move energy is converted into actions, which is a nice bonus.
Story and side missions are fairly basic involving defeating enemies, capturing points, finishing objectives, etc. There are also a number of free-range territories without objectives littered with loot and enemies to tackle at the player’s leisure and are a great place to grind. Another good way to gain experience is through online play. By choosing a nation to align with, players will support that side in online warfare by going through battles manually, or by dispatching teams. This is a good reason why players should establish more than one party. Diversifying groups and strategically sending them out between online and offline play will grant better and more frequent rewards thus accelerating the clan’s prowess.
As fun as Grand Kingdom can be, there’s a lot of technical jargon to climb over. It’s easy to jump in, but it’s hard to master. The game’s odds are seemingly stacked against the player from the beginning. Once the party, or parties, level up, those options seem to tilt further on the heroes’ side. Like real war, it’s a greats emulation of conquering challenges in the greatest of odds. It’s nowhere near as domineering as say a Dark Souls, but it’s not simple either. It’s a grind, but one worth fighting for.
Visually Grand Kingdom is spectacular on a small scale with graphics reminiscent of a painting. It looks good on the PS4, but even better on the PS Vita’s smaller screen. The music is fittingly similar to Final Fantasy Tactics and the English dub, while minimal, is great too. The game’s overall design in general is spectacular especially with its use of online integration. There are a few pitfalls though including the aforementioned slow build, long load times, and the inability to save while on a mission. Some quests are a bit long without the latter option and can become tedious.
Grand Kingdom is another reason why the PS Vita should exist. The design of the game’s mechanics both online and off are more fitting for a handheld. It’s great the option is there for PS4 players and it runs smoothly on there as well, but for this writer’s money, the PS Vita is the way to go. The few gripes there are become overshadowed by everything else. It’s gorgeous, fun, and addictive as hell: a perfect summertime treat.
Score: 4/5 Stars
Special Notes: The publisher provided a review copy. This article was originally published on June 21, 2016 via my Examiner account before the website shut down. Check out the supporting video review on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.