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Many of the games I’ve grown accustomed to playing have been on the PlayStation Vita thanks in no small part to the hardworking and dedicated game developers. Muramasa Rebirth, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir and htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary are a few games that caught my attention and kept me glued to Sony’s handheld device. Grand Kingdom took me completely by surprise with its polished visuals, intriguing gameplay and wealth of character classes in the original trailer. After much anticipation, Grand Kingdom is finally making its way to North America on the PlayStation 4 and Vita.

After the collapse of the former Uldein Empire, the Four Great Nations of Resonail wage wars of supremacy and dominance over one another. As one hundred years have passed, mercenaries are enlisted in place of knights to fight the continuous and endless war for geographical dominance and conquest. Pledging loyalty to fight and conquer respective realms to the highest bidder, you are given a choice as leader to obey orders or venture on your own for bounteous wealth. Developed by Monochrome, the story takes place over a 12 chapter period as a planned skirmish fails with a tactical retreat to join an organization that assists mercenaries in finding paid work and hiring new recruits. Following a short test to prove your worth in the form of a tutorial, you are assisted by the Guild’s daughter who provides guidance and assistance as you bulk up your squad’s reputation and boost your finances.

Combat is reminiscent of games like Valkyria Chronicles and Radiata Stories with inspiration from tabletop RPGs and board games alike. Movement is done via a chess piece on the world map with enemy units and monsters in sync with your mercenary squad. Battles are initiated upon contact with an enemy with an “!” bubble before jumping into turn-based combat. Each character has different attacks allowing you to strategically switch between the horizontal planes to engage the enemy up close or from a safe distance away. Long-ranged attacks from rangers and mages are used to attack distant enemies with a moving reticle and target area to signify your strike. Be warned as friendly fire is common with missed or blocked attacks that inflict damage on your teammates. As you position your squad members, the fun of battle lies in the enemy countering with their own tactics that keeps you on your toes through each respective battle. Obstacles such as boxes, deadly traps and wooden logs are present in select battles that can be used to give you the necessary cover and advantage against stronger enemies. Successful battles are evaluated by the type of enemies killed, item spoils and stipulated conditions with a surprising amount of strategy involved for only three horizontal planes.

Character classes are abundant and include but are not limited to: fighters, lancers, paladins, dark knights, hunters, nobles, gunners, rogues, archers, witches, medics, shamans, arcanist, challengers, valkyries and dragon mages. Each of the units are divided into four types: melee, magic, ranged and specialist. Melee units are characterized by close combat with high attack and defense while magic units use ranged attacks and have a medium attack range. Ranged units have low defense but possess an extended attack allowing them to attack from anyone on the battlefield. Finally, specialist units rely on specialized abilities that are unique to every individual that are not limited to the scope of the previous class units. Every unit type has a distinct advantage over others and employing them strategically is your key to many victories. As commander of the mercenary squad, you are tasked with hiring your first squad while you manage up to six mercenary at any given time.

Quests that you can undertake are separated into four categories: Campaign, Versus, Single and Travel. Campaign places you as mercenary squad leader to travel the continent and move from one battle to another while learning of the unfolding events of the war-torn Resonail continent. Travel quests are designated for your squad to gather resources, collect loot and garner as many experience points as possible. With respect to Single and Versus quests, they are given by one of the Four Great nations and successful completion raises your reputation with the respective nation. Single quests give you various conditions while defending strategic points whereas Versus pits you against a rival player to be the first to complete the quest. You may opt to strengthen your mercenaries and contract nation with bountiful rewards and resources obtained by conversing with blacksmiths, voting on war treaties and allocating resources to boost the nation’s weapons and armaments.

Regarding the online multiplayer mode, you are required to form a contract with one of the Four Great Nations with the length of war varying from one to five years. The longer the duration of war, the more rewards you will receive but it should be noted that the length of war only covers the actual war periods that occur online that will end once the deadline has passed. On the region map, you can view the status of control panels for your respective nation, monitor the occupied territories and view battle progress within a specified region. With your listed control objectives and the acquired points needed to gain an advantage, the control point gauge at the bottom of the screen represents the balance of power between two nations vying for dominance. Battles on the field map are fought through operations with successful outcomes leading to increased control points. It is up to you to secure the most control points before the end of the war to ensure victory.

The nation’s policies are decided by the votes of players who have contracts with that respective nation with tallied votes at the barracks within the nation’s capital. Votes on invasion proposals and treaties will influence the next upcoming war. In the barracks, you can provide the necessary resources to your nation through research and development to develop new equipment and armaments. As these resources are found on the field and purchased at trading posts, it is very difficult to acquire the necessary resources in the absence of cooperation from other players with contracts under the same nation. Inventories in national shops and trading posts fluctuate based on equipment research and the amount of occupied territory. If votes are cast during an operation, they lead to order voting that are executed in battle as Royal Orders that can shift the balance of power and save your mercenary squad in the heat of battle. Guardian Beasts are the divine protectors of each nation with incredible destructive power that can be summoned to annihilate your foes.

Visually, the game is stunning as it boasts a lot of colorful artwork and environments. This is one of the developer’s finest works as the detail and polish in this game is graphically pleasing that comes close to the quality of Vanillaware games. The soundtrack is immersive and engaging as it boosts the adrenaline players feel during the tense and tough battles encountered throughout the game. Whether you are playing on the PlayStation Vita or PlayStation 4, the character classes, special effects and environments are some of the best visuals seen alongside games like Muramasa Rebirth and Odin Sphere Leifthrasir.

Grand Kingdom is truly a grand tactical RPG that starts off slow but gradually builds momentum. The battle system and vast customization are the shining points of this game with a fair amount of trial and error involved. Though it has a steep learning curve and requires much experimentation, Grand Kingdom is a deep and intricate game that becomes quite addictive. With an online multiplayer mode and a variety of character classes to choose from, Grand Kingdom is definitely a grand adventure not to be missed.

 

PROS: Beautiful Visuals, Strategic Gameplay, Deep Customization

CONS: Steep Learning Curve, Pacing

 

SCORE – 8.0/10

This review is based on a digital copy of Grand Kingdom on the PlayStation Vita provided by NIS America.

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