INTRODUCTIONGrand Kingdom is a Tactical RPG for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita developed by Monochrome Corporation and published by Spike Chunsoft and NIS America. Set in a world where mercenaries are hired to fight the 4 nations' battles instead of the traditional knights. The visuals can be compared to Vanillaware's games and gameplay somewhat similar to Intelligent System's Fire Emblem series, released on June 17th in Europe and June 21st in North America.
STORYGrand Kingdom is set 100 years after the fall of the Uldein Empire and now, instead of knights fighting wars, the battlefield is fought by mercenaries. The empire has split into the Four Great Nations of Resonail who are at war for complete control of the continent.
You play as a nameless protagonist who works at The Guild, a base for mercenaries who the four nations hire to fight their war, joined by your right-hand-man Flint and your assistant Lillia, you must complete various quests for the four nations, or choose to side with one of the four and lead them to victory in one of the additional campaigns included in the Western release.
The story of the game has a very interesting premise; what if mercenaries roamed the battlefield instead of traditional knights? It's a great concept, but over the course of the main campaign nothing really happens in terms of plot to really warrant putting so much time into it. That said, there are additional campaigns that were originally DLC in the Japanese release, but are now included in the Western edition natively. These flesh out characters and locations seen in the main campaign.
Speaking of characters actually, definitely the best part about the story sections of the game are the characters, specifically your team members Flint and Lillia whose interactions are constantly entertaining and are very well written. If it weren't for the characters, their interactions and their great voice acting, I'd definitely be trying my best to skip every cutscene.
GAMEPLAYThis game is a tactical turn-based RPG where you can create a number of parties and use them all for any mission. The game has a unique combat system where it almost mixes turn-based with an action RPG by giving you an 'Action Gauge' and a 'Move Gauge' each turn, these separate gauges make you think more tactically before you make your move.
The gameplay is unit-based, similar to games like Fire Emblem. Each unit specialises in a different medium of combat, whether it's sword-based, magic-based or an archer, each class has their own special techniques and skills to learn and there are 4 to choose from, altogether consisting of 17 units in total, making for some very diverse parties to be formed.
Speaking of which, unlike any other RPG I've ever played, party creation is one of my favourite parts of the game. You start by choosing a unit type you want and from there you can customise them from their name to their hair, to their voice and you can even change the pitch of their voice. I won't lie that I've literally spent hours just customising units and creating characters out of them.
The main gameplay has you crossing a grid, portrayed as a chest piece on a board, you can encounter enemies head on or face random encounters. You can find ways around the enemies by following animal trails to get to parts of the map previously inaccessible, or by using certain skills to teleport to various sides of the map. No matter at what point in the gameplay you are, you're always thinking ahead and planning your next move.
The quests you can take part in are split into 4 modes: Campaign, Versus, Single and Travel. The Campaign quests are obviously the ones that mix into the story, these can consist of getting to a certain point on the mission's map, Versus has you trying to compete against a rival group trying to complete an objective before them, Single has you trying to control or defend certain points and Travel has no other objective than you exploring Resonail to grind and collect treasure. The most fun of these are the campaign quests as they feel more grounded in design, but there's not really much difference between the quest modes. They all play exactly the same just with different success and failure conditions.
The game also sports an online multiplayer component called 'War' where, if you're contracted to a specific nation, you can battle other players who have contracted to opposite nations. I was sadly unable to try this mode for myself.
Grand Kingdom consists of a very unique and tactical battle system and is very lengthy, totalling at 48 story chapters if you choose to play all 5 story routes, but sadly this doesn't save the game from becoming repetitive relatively quickly as the game throws pretty much everything it has to offer in terms of combat at you right at the beginning of your adventure and you're left with the same gameplay mechanics for your entire roughly 20 hour long journey with no new introductions. This is worse if you intend on playing through again, working for a different nation.
UIThe UI in the game may seem intimidating to first-time players, but after the tutorial battle, it proves to be a very intricate and detailed UI system that makes decisions easier to make during gameplay. The main gameplay can be seen in the centre of the screen, while your commands are placed at the bottom. Using one of the shoulder buttons on the console you can switch your command lists, should you have any more equipped. The action and move gauges can be seen on the bottom along with a timeline for who attacks next, which I personally always respect in turn based games. The top of the screen show your and your enemies' orb collection. These orbs are collected by pulling off combos during battle and the more you collect, the more EXP and health points you can obtain after a battle.
VISUALSThe in-game artwork is stunning. The game uses animated visuals that are very similar to Vanillaware's games such as Odin Sphere and Muramasa, where the almost everything in-game is sprite-based. While this is definitely well suited to the game, during cutscenes there is very little going on on-screen. Everything is shown to you in the style of a visual novel, which is normal for a game like this, but a big portion of the backgrounds are cut-off by a border around the screen and while I'm sure this looks fine in the PlayStation Vita release, it comes off as very noticeable in the PlayStation 4 release and makes you wonder why you're not just playing this game on a PlayStation Vita, because the game was clearly made with that system in mind, most evident in the visuals.
That said, the visuals are beautiful, the animation is very smooth and the game altogether runs at 60 frames-per-second on the PlayStation 4, which I'm not sure if it crosses over to the PlayStation Vita release.
The character designs are good for what they are, I do really like the art style for the game, as you can probably tell, but while to some the main characters may look like generic anime characters, the enemy and boss designs in the game can be very well designed and the bosses definitely impose a feeling of threat to the player with their intimidating designs. Can't help but feel a little envious of the people who plan on getting the art book with the game.
AudioFor what it is, the music in this game works really well and there are some really good battle themes in the game, especially the main one, which is always appreciated, but there's none that will really stay in your head for more than 5 minutes after turning it off. The voice acting is very well done, especially since in class customisation there are a lot of voice actors to choose from for making your character. Their voices all suit their characters in design and personality. Certain fans will also be happy to hear that there are dual-audio options available in the game, which is always welcomed in any localised Japanese games nowadays.
VERDICTOverall, Grand Kingdom is a fun and somewhat addictive tactical RPG that has a lot of depth with beautiful visuals to boot, but the generally uninteresting story and repetitive gameplay keep this game from being one of the more memorable PlayStation 4 JRPGs at this point in time. I would definitely recommend it to those interested and if you're looking for a new JRPG on the PlayStation Vita to suck some time into, I'd definitely say to give it a shot, there's a lot of time to be spent with the game over its 5 possible campaigns.
| + Unique battle system with lots of potential|| - Gameplay gets repetitive too quickly|
| + Good characters|| - Boring story|
| + Gorgeous visuals|| - Definitely wasn't made for consoles|