It’s all a bit grand.
You would be forgiven for not having heard of Spike Chunsoft and NIS America’s Grand Kingdom. This strategic RPG was released over here in the UK with little fanfare, sitting among the ongoing collection of novelty Japanese games that make their way to these shores. Personally, I admit to knowing almost nothing about the game or what to expect when I started playing it. With a name like Grand Kingdom, it could have been almost anything. But I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.
Grand Kingdom is a slightly generic title, and there is certainly a generic approach taken to the setting and story. A typically fantasy world called Resonail which will feel comfortable to any fantasy RPG players sets the scene, and four factions are fighting for control. The main campaign story, which is broken up into 12 chapters, is pleasant and enjoyable, if holding no surprises, and is nicely presented for the player. The version released in the UK packs in quite the substantial amount of additional content which was initially released as DLC in Japan, adding loads more chapters to play through and keeping the player entertained for ages. There is also an online mode padding out the content, which we will discuss later.
Anyway, the player takes the role of an unseen leader of a mercenary company and takes on contracts offered by the various factions. In a similar way to XCOM, players will have to manage their mercenary warriors both in and out of combat as they build their company into a force to be reckoned with.
Grand Kingdom is a surprisingly deep game, but there is a well presented tutorial that will give players the basics that they need to at least move on in the game. Outside of combat, the gameplay takes place on what is essentially a board game style setup. Players will move their piece around the board, heading towards their objective which must be reached within a limited number of turns. Failing to reach the objective within the allotted turns will result in failing the mission, but outside of this limitation, players may approach the journey as they see fit. The board will have enemy counters moving around, so players can plan their approach according to whether they want to engage these enemies or take a longer, or secret, route avoiding them. There is also loot to be gathered, often at the risk of spending too many turns, and obstacles to get around. Field items can be used to heal members of the party between encounters, and there are a variety of field skills that can be used, enabling the player to show hidden enemies for example, or hop past a tough opponent that is blocking the way forward.
When battle does commence, the whole game becomes quite different. Battles are played out from a 2D side view, with the battlefield split into three planes across which your mercenaries and the enemy can move. It is all turn-based and, as is often the case, turn order is dictated by the speed of the characters and their enemies. A movement allowance limits how far each character can move in a given turn.
Grand Kingdom has a great selection of different classes from which the player can build their mercenary company. From fighters and hunters, to healers and witches, there is plenty of choice to suit a players style. Each type of character comes with different abilities and attacks. Melee warriors will have to get up close with the enemy, while ranged attacks can hang back and attack from afar. Positioning is very important in the game, as is the formation of the players mercenaries. Not only does the player have to worry about defending the weaker characters by placing them towards the back, but they also have to worry about damaging their own units as friendly fire is always on. Things life fireballs or even simple arrows can find their way to damaging a friendly unit that gets in the way. Similarly, healing spells can also accidentally heal opponents.
The different abilities and attacks of the characters each have their own interactive component, keeping the combat more hands on than your usual strategic RPG. When firing an arrow, for example, players will be given an area of effect and a moving target. It is then down to the player to press the button when the target is over the enemy, and not their own unit. Even the melee has a simple button mashing mechanic. It is a great system, and when combined with the different character classes, obstacles on the battlefield and even hidden traps, it makes for a really enjoyable combat experience. It may be tricky at times, and frustrating when things don’t work out, but when they do it is incredibly satisfying.
Then there is the online component of Grand Kingdom. Here, players choose a faction to represent with the goal of helping their faction to control the largest part of the map. Being able to directly control your team, or leave the game and come back later to find out what happened. The online component really is very tough though, and probably best left until the main game has been completed at least, and the player has improved their skills.
All in all, Grand Kingdom is a great game. It is not an easy strategic RPG, but it is well worth the time and effort to learn all of the mechanics and improve your strategies. The fact that the game is relatively unknown really beggars belief, as Grand Kingdom is one of the best SRPGs of recent years.