Grand Kingdom has finally come to Europe and the US, about half a year after it saw the light of day in Japan. Also available for PS4, we check out the game’s Vita version.
In Grand Kingdom, you assume control of a group of mercenaries that you’re able to shape by choosing from a selection of characters that represent no less than 15 different classes. There is a good amount of range between these different classes, and even characters that are seemingly similar have plenty of differences between them. Who you end up choosing is ultimately down to how you classify them all, and the skills that you think you need. Will you opt for a character that is strong when it comes to being up close and personal in melee combat, with support from an archer? Or do you prefer to stay away, resorting only to melee combat as a last resort. Magic is also a factor, as is the ability to heal members of your party.
Since you’re controlling a band of mercenaries, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that combat encounters play a large part in Grand Kingdom. These are turn-based affairs, with strong tactical elements. This starts with the fact that positioning your troops (your group consists of up to four people) is the first step towards success. Group them together and you might be able to retaliate quickly if a fellow mercenary comes under attack, but you might also suffer if an attack includes area damage, taking others down as well. Another aspect of positioning is forcing your enemy to move into certain spots that make it easier for you to take shots at them or swarm them – often done by creating chokepoints through the use of obstacles.
It’s not something we haven’t seen before in other tactical JRPGs of course, but what makes Grand Kingdom different is how it mixes up the formula with different mission types. There are missions where you have to defend designated spots on the maps from enemies to keep them out, and then there are missions where stealth is key and you have to make sure you’re not noticed if you are to be successful. It’s a great way of mixing up a not too lengthy campaign. The story is about 12 chapters long so it’s on the short side for an RPG title, but the good news is that the delay following the Japanese release means that a TON of post-release DLC has already been included here, more than doubling the playtime for Grand Kingdom.
Grand Kingdom also features online play, which is another feature we don’t see too often in this genre. It’s not head to head combat in the traditional sense though, which is unfortunate. But while you’re not playing human adversaries, you are playing human formations. What this means is that you’re going head to head with groups of enemies that were placed in their formation by an actual player, but it’s the AI that controls them while the action starts. It’s not perfect, but it does provide you with interesting and sometimes highly original scenarios.
The audiovisual presentation of Grand Kingdom is excellent – even though the audio portion of the game is fairly generic, the art style is gorgeous and it looks beautiful for a Vita game. There’s a hand-drawn quality and aesthetic to the game’s visuals, which really sets it apart from other games in the JRPG genre. As such, Grand Kingdom is a fine addition to the Vita library and one that will be easy to spend countless hours with over the summer.