100 years after the fall of the Uldein Empire, the continent of Resonail is ravaged by war, with mercenary groups siding with various nations in an attempt to gain their fortune. One such group, in the midst of battle, finds themselves invited to join The Guild, a group led by the mysterious Godfrey. So begins Grand Kingdom, recently released for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Once you’ve chosen the name of your squad and ventured through the comprehensive tutorial, you’re ready to explore the world of Resonail, however you see fit.
Grand Kingdom plays like a mash-up between a board game and a JRPG. While much of the battle system and menu screens will seem familiar to JRPG veterans, the maps and quests play out more like a table-top adventure. Each quest provides you with a number of turns for completion, and you guide your troops around areas that can be represented either by standard paths or actual spaces, if you really dig the board game vibe. Enemy units appear on the board as well, allowing you to track their path, and random events, game-changing items and environmental dangers add to the sense that you should really be rolling dice before you take your turn.
The battle system is a little more recognizable, with fights taking place on a 2D screen, with is divided into three different tracks. Characters can jump from one track to another, and an action gauge determines how far you can move and how many commands a character can perform for each turn. While you can customize formations to ensure that weaker characters are further back in line and melee fighters are nearer the front, you can also enhance your formations by purchasing various items such as barrels, towers and barricades in an attempt to create an impenetrable force. With seventeen different types of unit to recruit, Grand Kingdom allows you to create and modify a team suited to your particular strengths.
Though Grand Kingdom features a lot of player customization, and a whole variety of features to explore, this comes at the cost of the first few hours with the game being quite overwhelming. Players are introduced to new features at a rapid pace, resulting in a lot of text and instructions to be absorbed, with the unintended consequence of certain options being forgotten in the wave of instructions washing over you. From hiring and training troops, to online functionality, to the different types of resources and currency to be spent at different types of shops and merchants, Grand Kingdom seems to adopt the approach of throwing everything at the player in a short space of time, and hoping most of it sticks.
Online gameplay is labeled as big part of Grand Kingdom, and it goes a long way to feeling as though you’re part of a larger story, even if it doesn’t seem to have quite the impact on an individual player’s experience as the game seems to think it does. You’re able to sign a pact with one of the four different nations in the game, and from there you can vote on where to attack or defend next, and which weapons or defenses to research, as well as whether you’re willing to donate some of your resource to speed up said research. The nations that you’re closer to give you quests to perform, and the selection of online quests differs depending on what happens in the larger war. Unfortunately, the online gameplay doesn’t feel too different from what’s on offer in single-player, and with each war ending at a fairly regular pace, it doesn’t feel like the online decisions have too much of a lasting impact.
Grand Kingdom is an enjoyable experience, even if its ambitions aren’t quite matched by the execution. The board game aspect of gameplay is unique and enjoyable, and the battle system, while unordinary, is easy to pick up and play, but combined with hiring and training of troops, contains a lot of depth for those willing to put the time in. Though the online aspects of the game aren’t as groundbreaking as the game will perhaps have you believe, they give a good feeling of player democracy, with the result of feeling as if you’re a small cog in a larger war machine. Grand Kingdom isn’t a perfect experience and could prove incredibly overwhelming for those not willing to experiment and figures things out for themselves, but for those with perseverance patience, Grand Kingdom could very well be a worthwhile purchase.