Sunday
Jul312016

QCF: Grand Kingdom

IS is back with another take on the SRPG formula with Grand Kingdom, a PS Vita and PS4 game that seemingly exists as an amalgamation of every major RPG convention known to the human race. “Awesome!” you might say, but could it real be as great as it sounds; in short, he answer is, “kinda.”

Grand Kingdom has players take on the role of a commander of a band of mercenaries that are fighting in a newly kingdomless land where other bands of fighters fight for wealth and fame. Players manage troops via a central base where quests can be initiated, training conducted, equipment procured and distributed, and so forth—think Dragon Force meets Ogre Battle meets Disgaea. New units can be hired to form up to six troops of up to six fighters each to deploy on various quests.

Quests take on a few different forms as well; Campaign quests progress the overall story while Single quests allow players to earn extra cash, materials and prestige with various nations. Most quests must be completed in a certain amount of turns, which reduce in number with every action taken, whether it be via combat, item collection or simple movement. Exploration quests also exist that allow players to beef up their units' levels while collection additional materials and items with no set amount of turns. Players can also retreat to base at any time.

Movement around any given map feels an awful lot like Unlimited Saga with a game board-style piece that is moved around at set intervals. Players can customize this piece to their liking with several different ones that are made available in game or as extra DLC in the PlayStation Store. Players will discover new routes and hidden treasures along their travels – as well as hidden foes and hazards. Having a party that has a number of additional field-specific spells and abilities can make things easier to traverse and having decent equipment and a solid understanding of each unit's strength and weaknesses is super-helpful.

Enemy units will also be wandering about any given map. These units will have various colors depending on their difficulty; purple are normal strength while red ones are more difficult. Gold ones represent marks that are also higher in difficulty than your typical foes. When the player piece meets with an enemy piece or a hidden foe, battle is engaged and players are taken to a side-scrolling battlefield to conduct combat.

This battlefield sports several tracks, just like the side-scrolling RPG-brawler, Code of Princess. Players move along and between these tracks using an AP style gauge like many other RPGs. Player actions like attack, healing and item usage also take up some of this AP too, so careful management is critical.

There is a huge variety of different class styles to make up your party with, and they all have an equally wide variety of attack types and styles, which can complement or contrast one another. Additionally, powerful armaments like Ballista’s and Cannons will either hinder or help the player if a battle is engaged within their area of effect, and whether or not the Armament is friendly or not. Finally, players can also deploy obstacles and traps that will hinder enemy movement or cause various effects when triggered. Of course, enemies also have this ability as well.

 

Just as there are enemy pieces, friendly pieces exist too, allowing players to purchase exclusive gear or heal the party. Finding these characters is usually always helpful, especially with the Healing Sisters,

Earning victory in battle will allow surviving units to gain experience, as is the typical everyday RPG norm. When level-up occurs, players distribute ability points to any of the characters attributes that they see fit, indicated by stars. When all are filled, bonus points are applied as well. Player characters learn new combat skills and abilities with higher levels as well, and faster mastery can be achieved if their equipment is augmented with various stones.

This all sounds pretty straightforward, and maybe even solid, but the applications of most of these elements are actually pretty obtuse. For example, training your units would be great and all, if they didn't fall back to level 1 when they were through. The grind required getting units up in strength takes hours on end and players can't even use healing items on the field.

Worse still the battles, while full of an enormous potential to be fun, are a complete pain in the ass. I haven't fought a single battle where I have gone first, instead always having to take the brunt of a full-on enemy assault before getting a single move in. It makes for a tedious and completely one-sided system that heavily favors the computer and totally bones the layer every time – to the point that even with a clear level advantage, players can consistently be wiped the hell out in seconds.

Worse still, a lot of the game’s core features are dependent on online play, which features a system that is somehow even worse than the singe player issues. The “Wars” in Grand Kingdom are a great concept, but I hated every second of the online play that it requires.

On the other hand, the art, design, UI, Music and VO are all top-notch here. The story is well written and is well delivered by the voice artists and it's interesting on the whole... but it's just so boring grinding to each new campaign quest. It's a shame that such an amazing presentation and artistic grandeur is sullied with such frustrating gameplay mechanics.

As a game that incorporates so many elements from greats like Ogre Battle, Dragon Force, Code of Princess, SaGa, and so many more seems like a dream come true... the reality is, it's probably best to keep the greats as they are; totally separate. Grand Kingdom is definitely a jack-of-all-trades, and it does a decent job of trying to keep it all together, but ultimately, it's a master of none.

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