Video Game hype, it can become a developer’s best friend, or their worst enemy. Underhyped games can fly under the radar, never getting the attention they deserve. Games that generate the correct amount of hype in regards to their own prowess, generally favour quite well in terms of sales and games that are overhyped to shit, have the potential to disappoint legions of adoring fanboys that gave in to the months and sometimes years of pre-release hysteria and pre-conceived their own hype fuelled expectations.
With so much hype surrounding releases of games in today’s hyped as fuck world, It is not very often that I come into a game with zero expectations.
Grand Kingdom is a tactical, turn based JRPG, developed by Monochrome Corporation and released on the Playstation 4 and PS Vita consoles. Originally released in Japan by Spike Chunsoft in late 2015, the game was eventually brought to western shores by NIS America. But more importantly, Grand Kingdom is a game that I had heard nothing about in my lead up to playing it. Which is both a blessing and a curse. Because while I was very pleasantly surprised by how good Grand Kingdom is, I feel as though this game will fly under the radar and not receive anywhere near the appreciation it deserves.
The game takes place after the fall of what was known as The Uldein Empire. The power vacuum left behind has fostered 4 factions vying for supremacy as well as various mercenary groups, who are out to make a quick buck by doing dodgy deeds for whoever has the deepest pockets.
The whole premise and setup reeks of the style of medieval setting that I usually do my best to steer clear of. Warring factions, mages, dragons, all of that uninspired and overdone shit that everyone but me, seems to have this fond appreciation for. Normally this is where I would rip on the game’s art design, however, despite retaining those medieval influences, Grand Kingdom mixes a healthy dose of anime into the aesthetic and manages to create a colourful, pleasant and rather unique looking game that I have grown to love.
A large amount of that uniqueness stems from the levels that the player must navigate during missions. The top down view of the boardgame-esque maps are reminiscent of old school tabletop strategy games like RISK or D&D. The player controls, what is in effect, a chess piece as they hop around the environment, battling enemies and searching for chests and supplies on their way to the mission objective. In order to reach that mission objective, you are going to need to build yourself a squad of mercenaries.
Building your elite squad is relatively simple, you head off to the medieval unemployment line and pluck out whichever budding murder machines tickle your fancy. There are paladins, witches, medics, gunners, shamans and even crazy bitches riding dragons. The classes you choose to make up your squad will greatly impact the way you approach battles and online play, so make sure to spend a little bit of time with each class and nail down a squad makeup that suits your playstyle.
Once you have assembled your squad of squalor, it’s time to hit the battlefield. As previously stated, Grand Kingdom is a tactical, turn based game. Meaning you will have to have your wits about you when taking on any like-levelled opponents. The battlefield is separated into 3 lanes, with each class being able to jump vertically between lanes and move horizontally along the lane they are on. At the start of a turn, each Squad member is granted a set amount of movement points and action points, using up all these points will result in the end of that squad members turn. These battles are where I am having the most fun, planning out and executing strategies is really rewarding and I really dig the customization you have over each classes build in terms of move-set and level progression. The promise of mechanical combat depth is one of the game’s strongest points and outside of PC and 3DS games, I feel as though Grand Kingdom is one of the best tactical RPGs to date.
Another testament to how strong the core gameplay elements are, is the snorefest of a story. Bland characters and a lacklustre and predictable plot managed to slightly shake, but never derail the freight-train of fun I experienced in my play through of the game. In fact, the closest thing to a game breaking negative that I experienced came from my venture into the online portion of Grand Kingdom. In just a few short hours of online play, I had levelled my squad well past the recommended levels for each story mission. Making my return to the single player story somewhat akin to Godzilla’s return to Tokyo. Or to put it more eloquently, I fucking gutter stomped the CPU.
Speaking of online play, it’s very rare these days that I dive into a game’s multiplayer elements that cuts its teeth outside of the ‘shooter’ or ‘MOBA’ genre’s. I find myself regressing further and further into single player experiences as I become older and more cynical of dickheads online. Grand Kingdom allows you to partake in online combat, without ever having to actually interact with another human being. You and your squad of mercenaries sign a contract with one of the 4 nations, then Declare War against a rival nation as both sides fight to either maintain control of, or take over various countries and land masses. At the end of the war, which usually lasts around 24 hours of real time, a winner is crowned and powerful rewards are handed out to the mercenary squads that pulled their own weight by completing quests and winning battles. You also have the ability to create multiple squads and deploy them to fight in the wars while you step away from your console and partake in everyday, ordinary life. For these additional squads, you can set their actions, positions, playstyles and even abilities that they will carry out in your absence, however I fucking sucked at this mode and none of my squads even managed a single victory when I dispatched them in this way.
I really enjoyed my time with Grand Kingdom. An intelligent and unique experience that houses an addictive and mechanically dense tactical combat experience. If you enjoy games like X-COM, Valkyria Chronicles, Disgaea or the Final Fantasy Tactics series of games, then it’s safe to say you will fall in love with Grand Kingdom. For everyone else, then I implore you to give it a shot. Who knows, you might just end up pouring 80+ hours into this fantastic title, then sitting back and hoping we see more titles like this in the west. Just like I did.