Review: Grand Kingdom (PS4/PSV/PSTV)

grand-kingdom-review-banner-yr10

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
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Title: Grand Kingdom
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (PS4 4.98 GB) (PSV 1.47 GB)
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Original MSRP: $49.99-$79.99 (PS4), $39.99 (PSV)
ESRB Rating: T
Grand Kingdom is exclusive to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita download versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Grand Kingdom is a pretty unique tactical, turn-based JRPG where you take command of your own mercenary squad to fight wars between the four major countries on the continent of Resonail.

Gameplay:
The core gameplay consists of creating troops of four characters and taking them into battle against enemy factions and monsters. As you begin the game, you get a brief history of the world you’re about to enter and from there you’re taken directly into a tutorial with four temporary characters.

Once you’re past the main tutorial, you’re allowed to form your own mercenary squad where you’re able to choose a name for yourself and your squad. After that, you can hire four members to add to your first troop, and then you’re pretty much set loose to do whatever you wish.

From your mercenary base, you can go to the quest screen where you can play through the story, play versus quests where you compete against other NPC squads, single player quests, and open world exploration quests.

The battle system is divided into two sections: a game board map and a 2D battle. The game board section shows your team as a little chess piece and there are enemies, hazards, and armaments set throughout the board.

PS4

The actual battles are carried out on a small 2D level with invisible boundaries on either end. Your characters start the battle at the left hand side of the area and can move left and right along three invisible swim lanes on the screen. Each of your characters has their own movement bar, so you’re only allowed to move as far as the gauge allows. Once the gauge is depleted, you are no longer able to move.

You’re allowed to reset your character after moving if you have not performed an attack or hit any of the traps or hazards that may be spread throughout the battle level.

… You cannot skip a character …
Once you are near an enemy, you’ll use the face buttons to attack them. Some types of characters use simple controls, where the same button pressed will give you a different attack each time, or they’ll have technical controls, where each action is mapped to a different button.

The battle system is turn-based, and is sort of like a battle in Valkyria Chronicles, except it’s in two dimensions. Once your character has performed their attack or action, their turn is over. If you cannot get close enough to an enemy, you can end your turn and you’ll have to wait until your next turn to progress further.

PS Vita

The turn order is represented by a linear gauge at the bottom of the screen, and it shows whose turn is next. I haven’t quite figured out how the turn system works, because some of the characters on the team will start, but then one or two enemies might be next. I think it has something to do with the agility stat on the characters, but I can’t quite tell.

One thing to note is that each character gets only one turn. You cannot skip a character and use the turn for other characters, so you’ll have to plan out your attacks wisely.

… the selection of the mercenaries for hire …
There are seventeen different types of troops in the game, each having their own unique style of attacks. I can’t name and detail them all here, but you have your basic fighters, magic users, medics, and ranged-attack characters.

When you start the tutorial, you’re granted a fighter, a medic, and two other characters. However, once the tutorial is over, you must build your own team from scratch. To fill out your squad, you’ll have to hire your characters from a choice of about five or six different characters.

PS VitaPS VitaPS VitaPS Vita

You are not able to choose the class, so you must pick one from the options presented. After each quest, the selection of the mercenaries for hire will change randomly, so you’ll need to keep going back to the hiring screen if you’re looking for a particular class.

Not only are the classes on the hiring screen randomized but the stats are as well. Each individual unit has their own stats such as strength, health, agility, etc., and each is labeled with a rating from F up to A – and possibly S, but I haven’t even seen an A stat yet, so I am not certain. Also when you hire a unit, they’ll have a bonus point value associated with them.

… the stat rating …
Once you choose a unit, you can change their basic appearance, such as costume color, hair color, face style, skin color, and name. You cannot change their class nor can you change their gender. Once you get past the customization screen, you’re then able to distribute the bonus upgrade points on the various stats, this is where the stat rating comes in.

Each stat rating corresponds directly to the ease of upgrading that stat. So a rating of F takes more points to upgrade it to the next level. Likewise, higher ratings have lower amounts of upgrade points needed to upgrade them.

PS Vita

I say stat level since they’re denoted by a number of stars that are filled up when you allocate a point towards the stat. When you use one point, the star will fill up and when you fill up all the stars, you will get an extra bonus point allocated towards the stat. After that, the stars are all reset and you will have to accrue upgrade points by leveling up your character.

When I hire characters, I look for higher stats that correspond to the character’s class. So for fighters, I look for a D or C rating in the strength stat. Likewise, for magic users, I look for high stats in magic. This strategy makes it easier to increase the stats that make your units easier to upgrade effectively.

… no reason to worry if they die …
You’re allowed to hire fifty different characters, and you can allocate up to twenty-four of them within six troops of four units. Each troop that you command has a designated leader, and if the leader is killed during the battle, the morale of the your troop will be diminished for the rest of the battle.

Unlike other tactical games like this, your characters won’t permanently die or be lost if they’re killed in battle. So if you have a favorite character, there’s no reason to worry if they die.

PS VitaPS Vita

Once the battle is over, any dead characters will be given one HP and you’ll have to replenish their health. If all of your characters die in battle, depending on the quest type, you’ll lose the quest.

Aside from the battles and quests, you have a shop in the mercenary guild base where you can purchase weapons, armor, character upgrades, and items that you can use during the battles such as health regenerating items, or items that help you dispel traps, among other things.

… more of a tactical turn-based RPG than a strategy RPG …
As mentioned earlier, there are for main countries in the game and you’re allowed to travel to each of the town squares. Within each town, you can go to the plaza and talk with the townsfolk, go to the shop, barracks, or blacksmith. Some places in the town are only accessible if you have a contract with that particular kingdom.

I found Grand Kingdom to be a really fun game. There are quite a few things to do in the game and I really liked all the variations in the weapons and armor for the characters. I’m not a big fan of strategy RPGs, so I was happy to learn that this one is more of a tactical turn-based RPG than a strategy RPG.

PS Vita

Visuals:
This is really a great looking game. I especially like the art style of the clothing and facial expressions of the characters. The hand-drawn art that is used to tell the story is also very well done.

There doesn’t seem to be too much difference between the PS4 and PS Vita versions as far as graphics go, save for maybe some more detail in the backgrounds in the PS4 version. I expected the game to load faster and perhaps look a bit better, particularly in the mercenary guild base, but there really aren’t any detectable differences.

… Signing up for a War contract …
Audio:
The soundtrack is very well done, but there’s not much variation to the music. Pretty much the same track plays during the battles, and it becomes fairly repetitive. The game features both English and Japanese voice tracks, and the voice acting seems very well done.

Online/Multiplayer:
The online component of the game consists of the War functionality. Aside from the singleplayer quests and story, you can contract your squad out to one of the four major superpowers.

As you do your single player quests, some of them are actually contracted by these four countries. When you win a quest that’s requested by a country, your reputation with that country will improve.

PS Vita

As you improve your reputation, the rewards that you gain from contracts with the country will improve. However, if you go to war against another country, your reputation with the opposing country will diminish. Also, some quests are against another country, and while you might gain reputation with the requesting country, you might lose reputation with the opposing country.

Signing up for a War contract is pretty easy. You just access the menu and sign up for a term from one to five wars. It’s sort of tough to determine what an actual war is in relation to your contract.

… does not feature real-time battles between characters …
Many times, I’d sign up for one war and I’d log back in and see the War End screen, yet my contract had not yet expired. So it’s pretty unclear to me how long these contracts actually last.

Once you’ve chosen a side and signed up for a War Contract, you can then dispatch your troops and fight the war. This section features asynchronous online multiplayer, so as you fight battles, you are joined on the battlefield by other player’s troops that are controlled by the computer.

PS4

You can either dispatch your troops and fight in real time, or you can choose the Troop Detachment option to send them off to fight automatically. Unfortunately, the game does not feature real-time battles between characters, so when you’re fighting in the war, you’re facing other player’s dispatched troops and vice-versa.

Another way that you interact with other players is when you’ve dispatched your troops, other members can hire them to fill out their troops. Normally, a troop only has a maximum of four units, but in the War gameplay, you can hire up to two units from other players over the network. When you hire them, there’s a set number of gold that it costs to do so, and that is then transferred to the other player upon their next logon.

… the lack of Cross-Save functionality …
In fact, playing online and dispatching troops is the best way to gain gold. I did notice on the PS Vita version, there seems to have been much more activity, so my characters were able to level up very quickly and gain lots of gold while I was offline.

This brings me to what I feel is the biggest missed opportunity of the game, which is the lack of Cross-Save functionality. Even in lieu of full Cross-Save functionality, I would have liked a way to at least transfer your character from one system to another.

PS Vita

So many games accomplish this – especially Musou games like Dynasty Warriors and the One Piece games. Since it takes so much effort to customize and build up your units, it seems like a no-brainer to have a way to transfer your play data across platforms.

But back to the Troop Detachment functionality, it’s actually surprisingly complex. You can give your troops marching orders to go straight for the action, ambush other characters, head for the outlying forts that are away from the stronghold, etc.

… turn over all of the offline play to the AI …
Then, you can set each individual units actions, such as what position of the field they’ll be on, who to target (i.e., strong units, weak units, ranged units, etc.), and what action they’ll perform on each turn.

You can then do a Combat Exercise to see how they perform so you can tweak your units to be more effective. And, if this is all too much for you, you can turn over all of the offline play to the AI and let them battle automatically.

PS Vita

I played the PS Vita version much more than the PS4 and I found my PS Vita characters were able to win many more battles and gain much more money. In addition to gold, there is a second currency called Royals that’s used primarily to purchase weapons, armor, and materials from the shops within each Kingdom.

As you fight in wars and on quests, you’ll gain materials throughout the map. These materials can be used to forge weapons, or they can be donated towards the war effort. As you donate materials for your contracted country, new weapons, armor, and accessories will be manufactured.

… a fantastic game overall …
From there, these manufactured weapons will appear in the shops of each country for you to purchase. One thing to note is that the weapons and armor are fairly unique and generally are not available in your own shop that’s in the guild hall.

In fact, on the Vita version, I leveled some of my characters to fifteen and there was a message that said something to the effect of, you’ve reached the maximum level for weapons and armor. So to get more advanced weaponry, you’ll either have to find them as rare items on quests or spend Royals to buy them in the shops.

PS Vita

Conclusion:
I found Grand Kingdom to just be a fantastic game overall. It’s got all the addictive components that make you want to fire it up and advance your characters.

I really love the art style of the characters – they just look so cool. There’s so much variety in the character classes and it’s really fun to mix and match the different classes within your troops to see how well they can do.

There’s just so many more little facets to the game that I wish I could go into, but it’s probably best experienced first hand. If you are a JRPG fan and like turn-based tactical gameplay, this game should really fill that niche for you.

If you’re new to JRPGs or don’t normally like them, I think I could safely recommend this game to you. It’s not really heavy on story, and all sorts of subquests, so it can be easily picked up and played.

The multiplayer is also very enjoyable and a great addition to the game. The lack of Cross-Save or a way to transfer your characters, is a huge oversight, but if you have a PS TV, I would recommend getting the PS Vita version so you can play it on the big screen as well as on the go.

Even with the few problems I had with it, I think Grand Kingdom is a wonderful game and I’ve really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature and the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Jason Honaker

Jason Honaker

A software developer for over 15 years, originally from St. Louis, MO and currently living in Seattle, WA. Started gaming in 1979 on the Atari 800 8-bit PC. I play all sorts of games, but am partial to RPGs and 3rd person brawlers and shooters.

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