Nippon Ichi Software gave us the chance to check out the Vita version of Grand Kingdom, a new tactical role-playing game that recently arrived on PlayStation Network. Will it manage to separate itself from the crowd?
The story of Grand Kingdom places you in the role of a band of mercenaries who find themselves allying with one of four kingdoms vying for control over a continent. As mercenaries, you’ll shift allegiances quite often, based on which nation offers up the most interesting contract, and, as you complete or fail the missions, your relationship with the respective kingdoms grow or declines.
There were a total of 12 missions in the main game when it arrived in Japan originally, but the team has decided to include the four Great Nation campaigns that were DLC in Japan as part of the main game. This bumps up the total missions to 48, and these new missions help you dig deeper into the motivations and history of each nation, introducing you to new characters as you discover the deeper ties binding rulers to family and nation, and perhaps even something about yourself.
The added content included with the North American release really helps flesh out the four Great Nations, adding more spice to a campaign that can start to feel like just an excuse to go out and battle.
The gameplay behind Grand Kingdom is where the title shines the most. It is broken into two segments; The overworld map and the battles you engage in.
Each mission will place one of your teams of mercenaries on a map broken into squares, which honestly feels a bit like a board game. You will need to move around the map to achieve your objective before the pre-set number of turns runs out. Things aren’t quite as simple as they sound, however, as each map features enemies and some even feature traps.
The enemies on each map moves as you do, and some even have special abilities, such as moving twice for your every one. Things are evened out a bit, as you gain abilities that can be used to avoid some obstacles, however. In addition, there will also be (not on every map) some secret paths for you to discover, so you really need to consider the risks versus rewards as you move throughout the fields.
In terms of battles, these are also turn-based, with each battlefield featuring three rows that units can move between at will as they move. Your goal is typically to wipe out the enemy, and the different units available have a great variety in utility on the battlefield. You can, for example, utilize front-line soldiers to block enemies from passing as they dish out damage, while your healers and mages utilize their skills to heal, grant boosts, and dish out some magical damage to your foes. There are also gunners, who need to operate from a great distance, and the dragon mages, who are absolute beasts in battle, but take up two spaces of your roster of four, and more.
In addition to the variety offered by the numerous units, friendly fire is a very real thing in this game. Explosions, line spells, such as Lightning, and more can hit enemies and allies alike, damaging each. If a unit is somehow thrown and collides with an enemy or a friend, that unit will take quite a bit of damage as well.
The enemy AI can also be quite ruthless when it sees an opportunity, so victory in battle truly feels rewarding in many cases.
You will be doing this all across a variety of different missions. Some may simply require you to reach a destination, while others task you with seeking out a certain number of enemies. Others even ask you to defend a spot for a given length of time.
Outside of battle, you can juggle a lot of units at once, forming a variety of ideal teams. As you can customize individual units, Grand Kingdom becomes a title that micromanagers should love as they seek to customize a range of statistics, equipment, and skills, as well as determine the best team, as a successful team will require having mastery over a group with differing abilities, and bringing them together so that they work well together.
Grand Kingdom is quick to push your unit management abilities to the limit.
In addition, there is an online mode in which you can form contracts with your choice of the game’s four main nations, sending off your troops to the battlefield to represent the nation in question. You can choose to control the units, which puts you in real-time action against rival warbands, or to designate your units to fight as you do something else.
The sheer amount of variety can be daunting, and some may need to read the tutorials a few times to grasp everything, but the variety definitely keeps the game feeling fresh for hours on end.
Graphics and sound
In terms of graphics, the artwork, which can remind one of titles such as Dragon’s Crown, is beautiful, rich in both color and detail. Each unit moves about with elegance, and special attacks are quite interesting to behold. Maps are also laid out nicely.
The soundtrack is also interesting. Unfortunately, the soundtrack does seem to lack a bit of variety, which can make things sound a bit repetitive after a while. The voice work is also fantastic.
Grand Kingdom can be a bit daunting to jump into, due to sheer amount of content available, but those who can be patient to learn everything will find a very worthwhile game to be enjoyed. The interface can feel a bit clunky at times, and some may dislike the lack (at least on the Vita version) of multiple save slots, but it is still an entertaining tactical role-playing game for those interested in the genre.
Final score: 4.25/5