For those of you that prefer to read, and because the various exports and renderings of the video are taking a decade (I may be exaggerating), I’ll provide a written alternative to the Grand Kingdom Video Preview Special. “Why is it special?”, you ask? Because SEO wanted two more characters to make the title of the article “long enough”. Anyway, enough with my nonsense, let’s talk about Grand Kingdom!
I don’t dabble too much in Tactical RPG games. They suck up a lot of time that, when you’re a one-man review army, you can’t afford to sink in to one title. Grand Kingdom, however, intrigued me before we even received the code for this “LiteDemo” version. With its Japanese art (reminiscent of anime, as always) and war-time focus, it appealed to me at a glance.
You’re thrown in to the narrative with Flint, the head of your mercenary team it seems, addressing you – the player – as the Boss. This sets the tone of you being a faceless Captain with all of the characters referencing you, but Flint appears to be the mouthpiece. If he’d stop referring to all of the women as “sweetheart”, that’d be fine with me.
A tutorial skirmish kicks off the game and you find yourself controlling your chess piece on a board-game like map. The goal is to reach the designated exit of the area within the allotment of turns you have. Each step taken counts as a turn, but it seems to give a generous enough amount of turns to give you a chance to explore the side-roads for treasure chests or hidden items.
During this initial tutorial, you’ll encounter enemy pieces and be sent in to a battle-phase. The battles take place on three horizontal lanes with each character taking turns. In order to move along the lanes, you will use “Action Points”. You can use this allotment to move closer to or further away from the enemies which, depending on the class of the currently controlled character, will vary. You then have a separate attack phase for that character that doesn’t require the Action Points you’ve used to move. Instead, you’ll be met with an area of effect indicator depending on the skill being used. For instance, an Archer has a moving target line over a space on the ground and you have to hit the corresponding skill button to launch arrows at the enemy within that space. The fighter, on the other hand, must close in on the enemy and manually hit with combination attacks at the right time to extend the amount of hits. A key point to the battle system is that each team has a “Leader” unit, clearly labelled, and taking them out impacts the team negatively as a result. Likewise, if your leader is killed, your team will also be less effective at taking and dealing damage. It doesn’t make victory (or defeat) a guarantee, but it does make wiping out enemies easier (or defending yourself more difficult).
Following the battles, your characters earn experience, gold and TP. Experience levels up your characters, granting stars that act as stat points, allowing you to invest points in to their various statistics. They’ll also learn new skills as they level up that’ll be available to equip back at the barracks. Gold can be used to purchase items, as you would expect. TP allows for the use of techniques whilst on the field. These can be incredibly useful for evading traps, increasing experience earned in future battles or healing the squad between fights. The latter being very useful as the team heals only a slight percentage of HP lost in the previous clash when advancing. For this, you can also use any items you’ve brought on to the field with you.
When the tutorial is done, you’re taken to the barracks to meet your assistant; Lillia. Having been recruited to a major mercenary guild, you are now granted access to the management side of the game and that’s where the game gets its depth. You’ll put together your own squad of customisable mercenaries, albeit with limited access in the preview version, as well as being able to rename them. I’d put the customisation on par with a Dynasty Warriors Empires: not vast, but reasonable. You can also purchase new gear for these characters, provided you have enough gold, and eventually you’ll be given the ability to improve their equipped items at a Blacksmith. If I’m not mistaken, the game will feature 16 recruit classes, but the demo only allows you four: Fighter, Hunter, Medic and Witch.
Once you’ve put your team of four together, you can participate in Wars or embark on one Quest the game gives you access to. The Wars are a little unclear to me at this point, but it seems to feature online connectivity that has you align with one of the four main Kingdom factions and generate reputation with them for access to their special facilities, such as their unique items or Blacksmith. You can also visit their Kingdom and get friendly with the people who may give you things. This is all presented in a visual novel style.
The Quests seem to be the story progression, hence why you only have access to one for the duration of the demo, but you can participate in War as much as you like. War is somewhat confusing, featuring forts that need to be taken over, but in my experience, I’ve had one battle per war and won a war then lost a war despite winning both of those fights. It’ll require a little more study upon release for me to fully grasp.
Within the War system there are bounty-like quests that grant you rewards for completion, such as move 100 steps or win a battle etc. It’s pretty basic but I imagine it’ll help you improve your characters and earn valuable items as you take a deeper dive in to it.
As for your mercenaries, you can also customise their move sets. For example, the fighter can be set to having a basic control scheme wherein his combination attack with trigger to the next move automatically when you press the corresponding attack button, circle in my case. If you’d prefer to have more control over his actions, you can switch him to Technical style and have the button presses do separate moves at your behest, which could be more useful to you depending on the circumstance and your own personal expertise. There are assist moves and support moves you can assign that enhance your characters effectiveness in battle. Assists afford you the chance to finish off an enemy after an ally puts them to near death. Honestly, there’s a lot going on here and some of it is currently beyond me unless you’d like a dissertation, which I imagine the review is going to be, so maybe I’ll just leave it there.
Ultimately, what you really need to know right now is that Grand Kingdom looks promising. If you’re after something that’ll eat up a load of your time, this appears to be an upcoming gem, but whether or not that time will be well spent, we’ll have to wait and see for the full release. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic and concerned about how little free time I’m going to have in June with these massive games coming out.
Correction: Gold is obtained after Quests and Wars, seemingly not at the end of battle.