The trailer for Grand Kingdom suggests that it’s a “deep tactical RPG,” and that seems to be correct. There’s a ton of gameplay elements going on with NIS America and Spike Chunsoft’s latest offering, and it can be quite overwhelming at first. There’s a class system, a grid-like traveling mechanic, and a very intricate war between four factions that can be accessed online.
But let’s start with the basics. Grand Kingdom is set in the continent of Resonail, where the great Uldein Empire that used to control the land had collapsed leaving four factions to fight for control. The factions rely heavily on mercenaries to do their bidding, and you are in control of one of those mercenaries, leaving it up to you to hire your team, which faction to align with, and fight to control the continent. There is a main story quest line for those who want to learn more about the history of Resonail (as well as a good way to start leveling up your team), but that is mainly for those who may not have access to the online multiplayer portion which is really the meat of the game.
Gameplay and Design
As mentioned before, Grand Kingdom has a lot of things going on. In fact, every single new option or window you come across comes with its own tutorial screen. I will highlight what I believe are the most engaging portion of the game which is the battle system in quests and the online multiplayer.
Battles are turn-based and are on three linear planes, similar to most Tales games. Participants of the battle are four members of your mercenaries, which can consist of melee, spell casters, and ranged units. Finding a perfectly balanced (or overpowered) team is a trial-and-error process, but the tutorial portion of the game gives you a fighter, medic, witch, and hunter, which is probably a well-balanced team. The developers of the game were gracious in giving the North American release the valkyrie, paladin, dark knight, and archer classes—four classes that were downloadable content in the Japanese version, so that gives you more to consider when creating your perfect team.
Fighting battles in a quest is based on engaging a enemy symbol in the map. Sometimes you fight monsters and sometimes you fight other mercenaries. These monsters and mercenaries will always be around the same or average level as your mercenaries. When you are online however, and are engaging in some multiplayer quests, there will be other players’ mercenary symbols on the map and engaging with them will pit you against that player’s team against yours. It’s not quite PVP, since the other player will not be controlling his/her team, but rather just playing that team with the computer’s AI. The problem, however, is that the game randomly generates other players’ mercenaries, and you may be pitted against a much higher leveled team (like your level 10 team against a level 60 team), and you’ll be wiped much instantly. Fortunately, a defeat only means waiting for nine to five turns for a full restoration.
What does waiting turns mean? Well, quests in Grand Kingdom are objective based. You are given a set amount of turns to complete a quest, and these quests may be resource collection, fighting targets, or finding hidden treasures. The enemies (and other player mercenaries) in the map just serve as obstacles that can hinder you from completing the objective in those set amount of turns. So if you keep engaging that level 60 team with your level 10 team in hopes that you can be a badass, you will definitely fail the objective. The best tactic, in my opinion, for completing quests is to figure out a way to not engage with every single enemy on the map and complete your objective as soon as possible. Besides, you’ll get much more experience completing quests than beating higher-leveled enemies.
Once you do have your perfect team assembled and comfortably leveled, it’s time to engage the multiplayer aspect of the game. The first step is to figure out which faction to align with: the knights of Landerth, the warriors of Valkyr, the refugees of Fiel, or the mages of Magion. Do not worry about figuring out which is the right faction for you; since you are a mercenary, you are free to align with any of the four factions at any time—just not at the same time. When you align with a faction, you sign a contract with them for a number of wars, and you gain access to their resources.
Fighting wars means you are thrust upon a land in Resonail that is in conflict between your faction and another faction. Whoever reigns supreme in that land will gain control of it, and that is the main idea of the online multiplayer for Grand Kingdom. When you set foot in the land in conflict, there will be a lot of player mercenaries scattered on the map, and the goal is to gain control of several structures in the land and dwindle down the other faction’s forces. At the end of the war, which is typically a period of 24 real-world hours, you can see which factions retained or lost control of new lands. The best part of multiplayer is that you can align yourself with the reigning faction one day and then align as with the underdog faction the next day.
Grand Kingdom is the game for you if you love strategic RPGs and love the great customization it gives you when creating your team. This is also great for those who love the multiplayer aspect to work with other players to control the world of Resonail. You can also show how your team is the greatest when you’re dispatching other players’ teams.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.