bitparade: Grand Kingdom (PlayStation 4)

A few weeks back I joined in on the beta for Grand Kingdom, a turn-based online JRPG, and actually quite enjoyed it so have been really looking forward to its final release. Despite being released on both the PS4 and the Vita (NISA do seem to be keeping Sony’s handheld ticking over in all territories…) I opted to play it on the former, the reason being is that I’m mostly housebound at the moment and dont tend to take handhelds out anymore anyway, so if I dont have access to the TV I can still play via Remote Play and enjoy it that way. So yes, I’m playing Grand Kingdom via PS4 but I honestly can’t see there being all that much difference between the versions.

As already mentioned, Grand Kingdom is a turn-based strategy RPG, although it does things a bit differently to what many of us expect from the genre. Its a side on, almost PS1 era Final Fantasy-esque in battles, but still uses a rudimentary grid system, with you having an upper, middle or lower path that you can switch between/move along depending upon how full one of the many status bars is for each character. Once you’ve moved a character into position its time to give them an action, some of which can be combo-ed whilst others require you to have a certain range from your foe.

Grand Kingdom’s focus is on a kind of �big picture�, it is, first and foremost, an online RPG. You enter into �wars� to which you contribute towards a chosen faction by achieving certain tasks, contributing resources and by defeating online opponents. There are single player, story driven chapters, but they’re mostly designed to give you an idea of the world at large and introduce you to the games mechanics, there’s also not a whole lot of them. Theres a few single player skirmish type quests too that are updated from time to time, fight of X number of enemies, get to the end of the map in Y number of moves, that kind of thing. But again, the meat of the game is its online integration.

The biggest problem with all of this is that it can be really overwhelming. The core of the game takes place either in the menu’s that accompany your guild HQ or the four cities you can choose from to represent (you sign contracts for a number of wars and can change, if you wish to do so, at the end of said contract) or on a tile based map that you move a chess-like piece around to collect resources, take over fortresses or battle against other players/AI opponents. You’re usually told that failure comes from exceeding the number of turns you have on a map, but from my experience its pretty hard to fail in this way and more common aspect of failure comes from being unable to continue a mission as your Troop (of which you can have six, of up to four characters) are unable to continue as they lack health, morale or TP (which on the maps allows you to use skills thaqt replenish the other two, TP is earned via winning battles).

I touched on the battles before, but they deserve a little more information. Mainly because the make-up of your Troop and the members within it can have a significant effect on battles. At the point of writing this my party is made up of a Blacksmith who wields a hammer and is really rather strong, her melee attacks are generally all assigned to the circle button and after some experimentation with the order of which attack appears after which button press in the combo she has a devastating juggle/ground smash system going on. I also have an Archer who is great for picking off Troop Leaders from afar and weakening my opponent for the rest of the battle, a mage of sorts deals out fire damage whilst I have a Witch that I have jumping between lanes to deal out healing potions (although these are heavily limited so its a good idea to teach all of your party members the Quick Heal ability). Jumping back to the mention of Troop Leaders, you’ll assign your own from one of your 4 party members for each Troop, as will your opponent. If you focus your attacks on these at the beginning of a battle and succesfully take them out, it lowers your opponents Morale and thus their attack and defense also drops. Its a fairly simple tactic that comes in useful time and time again.

It’s only really the overwhelming nature of everything thats in Grand Kingdom that would make it difficult to recommend, if you’re into SRPG’s you’ll pick it all up with no problem, its just that theres a lot to remember and its not always streamlined enough to make particular things feel natural when you’re playing. That said, its deeply interesting and thanks to its less than formulaic nature is a breath of fresh air. I know this review is pretty short, and the game probably deserves something much lengthier and in-depth, but theres such a lot of stuff going on here that Grand Kingdom is definetly one of those games that you have to experience to even begin to understand it

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