Grand Kingdom Review
Grand Kingdom is a complex, open ended tactical RPG in which you recruit, manage, and play as mercenary troops, questing and conquering on behalf of nations. With rich character customisation and levelling, and a robust PVP war system, the game will keep turn-based RPG fans happy for a long time.
Grand Kingdom tells the tale of a mercenary squad recruited by the illustrious Guild, the largest and most powerful mercenary organisation in the land of Resonail. As part of the Guild, you’ll recruit new mercenaries to your roster, forming playable troops of up to four characters which can then be sent out on quests or exploration.
The Guild is the management area of the game — you’ll visit capital cities for trade and weapon/armor upgrades, check which quests are currently available, and arrange your troop formations, skills and equipment. You’re also able to take a look at the roster of characters who can be hired, with random classes and stat distributions; the roster updates periodically.
Beyond the standard archetypes of long range hunters and sword ‘n board warriors, Grand Kingdom delivers roles such as the challenger, who wields barrels and boxes as a weapon — and can sacrifice himself in an eruption of explosive fervor, killing or seriously injuring all other nearby characters.
Another interesting class is the dragon mage: a magician atop a huge draconic beast, capable of smashing and belching flame, though at the cost of taking up two of the four available character slots in a troop.
Quests available are broken down into campaign/story progressing quests, randomised missions offered by the various nations, as well as special versus quests which pit you against other players. Once a quest is selected, and your troop is chosen, you’ll embark.
Out in the field, gameplay is broken up into two distinct parts: navigating the field, and battles with your foes.
The field is an area map on which your troop, represented like a chess piece, can move tile by tile. Populated by pathing enemies, the maps are procedural, and hidden paths and items can be found by diligent players; however, most quests have a hard limit on how many steps can be taken, shown as an action count. Waste too much time, and you’re out. Adding to this, each round in a battle counts as a step, adding an extra layer of strategy. Balancing the amount of fights you take on for gold and exp, versus having enough time to spare until you reach your goal, is a surprisingly difficult task.
Certain quests impose interesting conditions on top of the typical “reach X in time”. Fetch quests scatter the necessary loot around the map, which enemies can take for themselves, forcing you to either hunt them down for the loot or explore further and hope to reach enough supplies in time. Particularly difficult are the intel gathering quests, which is a standard point A to point B mission with the punishing condition that any enemy engagement instantly fails your quest, booting you back to the Guild in shame.
Winning battles earns TP, which can be consumed while on the field to cast special skills that troop has. Each character offers a different field skill — some may damage all enemies on the map, others can teleport you to nearby treasure chests or enemies. While the map is home to many obstacles that will damage, slow down (at a cost of action points) or outright prevent your passage, certain field skills can eradicate them entirely.
While on more casual travel quests — built with no action limit and ideal for collecting resources to help craft or upgrade gear — you’ll find bounty targets around the map, which are challenging foes with solid rewards. The game warns you that they are “very tricky”, which is putting it mildly: my level 4 party, in a level 1-5 zone, approached a bounty target and was promptly obliterated by a squadron of six level 15 lancers before my characters could even get a turn to move.
Battling is the lifeblood of Grand Kingdom, and something it does very well. Combat is turn based, and each character has a chance to move and/or attack during their turn, with the option to skip their turn if preferred. More mobile classes such as fighters and nobles act sooner, allowing them to quickly close in on ranged classes.
Battles are highly tactical. The less a character moves on their turn, the more additional action gauge they’ll have to spend on attacking. Most skills have very precise distances and zones of where they can aim; hunters for instance can only hit targets from a very long range, and are helpless against melee foes who are closing in on them if they have nowhere to run.
Skill complexity is compounded by limited uses. Certain skills — such as quick (self) heals or the hunter’s long snipe, the only way he can hit people in close range — can only be used a particular number of times. Once they’re used up, they’re unavailable for the rest of the quest you’re on. The gunner class is unique in that each skill has a particular amount of ammo, and once expended cannot be used again in that battle; unlike other skills however, ammo replenishes between encounters.
Friendly fire exists in Grand Kingdom, and it has a huge impact on how you’ll prepare for and participate in battles. Raining burning hell down onto your enemies is great fun, but if your team is in the way they’re going to feel it. It takes a little time to get used to how certain skills fire in order to not accidently hit your teammates by accident, especially with skills such as the medic’s acid flask which travels in a deceptive arc, and can easily hit a nearby teammate even when the onscreen indicator says it’ll fly over their head.
Successful attacks and kills in combat earn support points, with up to six available at any time. These are used in a couple of ways; two points can be spent when one of your characters receives a fatal blow, triggering a grit system and saving them. They’ll still have minimal health, so if the enemy has more turns approaching before you can heal or get them to safety it can be a waste of points as they’re easily taken out for good.
An excellent feature of Grand Kingdom is its assist chance mechanic. When attacking, if the enemy ends up with low enough health, a fellow companion can assist with an attack of their own to finish off the opponent at the cost of one support point:
While battles are typically well balanced in terms of difficulty, the AI sometimes does very weird things. Enemies frequently run through damaging areas on the map, such as flames, even if they cast those damaging effects themselves. AOE attacks, such as the witch’s lightning which hits the entire row ahead of the witch, also often damages or even kills off their allied units. Poor tactical planning and lack of environmental awareness means that the AI usually has to be higher level or better equipped to truly be a threat.
Grand Kingdom uses asynchronous multiplayer, meaning that you’re not directly playing against other players in real time, but rather their troops are controlled by AI. While this may seem unusual at first, the mechanic makes sense in practice — being a turn based game, this cuts down on the waiting times that would arise from having other players each move along the map or around the battlefield.
Versus quests will pull in one or two random opponents with troop size roughly near yours — my level 5 troop would typically face level 4-8s — who will compete with you to achieve the mission goal first, whether it’s to snag a particular amount of loot or conquer the most enemy forts.
War is the main multiplayer area of Grand Kingdom. Players sign a contract with one of the four nations available in the game, representing them for the duration of the contract and locking themselves out of quests offered by anyone currently at war with your chosen nation.
Wars are persistent landgrab efforts by every nation, each seeking to expand and improve their territorial control. Once signed to a nation, you’ll be able to see which others you’re currently waging war against and where, and you’re able to jump in to the battlefield.
Similar to versus quests, players from both competing nations in a battlefield are AI controlled, and will be fighting each other for control of resources, attemping to take over forts and destroy enemy armaments which rain down cannonfire and hails of arrows onto their foes. You’re able to increase your troop to six people in war mode by hiring randomly-offered characters from other players’ troops for a small gold fee. Players whose characters are recruited by others for war efforts receive gold bonuses, adding further incentive into improving your characters as much as possible.
A novel feature of War is a hands-off system whereby you can dispatch troops to go fight in the war without requiring any input; you can recall them later to check their progress and reap any rewards they gained. This is a great way of improving the stats and abilities of your characters while you’re away from the game; having your troops fight automatically as you sleep or work means they’ll be improved for when you get time to sit and play.
Grand Kingdom is a rich game with a long lifespan. Offering excellent party customisation through gear upgrades and add-ons, as well as different formations and class setups, Grand Kingdom is one of the best tactical RPGs to hit the market in a long time. Despite some AI issues, and some mysterious mechanics being unexplained by the game, it’s a fun title and a great way to spend your evening.