The PlayStation Vita is no stranger to some fantastic role playing games. It seems to be the handheld to go to when it comes to interesting and unique RPG experiences. One thing right off the bat, Grand Kingdom is quite different from any other RPG game I’ve played (which is a ton) and it offers an experience worth checking out, even if it’s bit intimidating from the start.
Grand Kingdom takes place in a kingdom filled with four nations. Each wanting control and power. The player controls the captain who gets involved with a wide variety of characters that are pre-determined in the story. So imagine, the player perspective is almost first person in nature, with other characters interacting and reporting to the player. It’s an interesting way to deliver the story and puts the player into the player’s perspective. Visually it reminds me of a RPG with a “Dragons Crown” like aesthetic with some great 2-D animated sprites and backgrounds.
Battling is part turned based, part strategy placement, and also real time. Yes that’s a mouthful but it has a combination of all these mechanics and it’s great if not a bit overbearing at the start. Yet before players jump into combat they need to hire and create their ensemble of fighters. Ranging from mages, warriors, dragon riders, and more with plenty other types to pick. Each character can be created and tailor made as they are level up and the stats set. Starting with 4 characters, the max that can be used with one troop, leads to eventually having various troops of characters to pick and choose from for battles and when exploring the regions. With these 4 characters battles take place across three horizontal planes. Requiring players to move them between the lines, back and forth, while keep an eye on their points that are used for moment and actions. This leads to some interesting up close and long range attacks. From slashes with an axe, to poison arrows raining down upon the enemies, what attacks and placement of characters factor in a huge way. Not just for the enemies, but also the player’s team as friendly fire can and does occur. Too many times I’ve hit my own people, with the character responding “my bad” and while it gave me a chuckle, I still always felt bad. Then some attacks require button presses in tandem with timed moving mechanics. It’s a wild mixture of various gameplay mechanics, but after some time with it, it comes together quite nicely.
Exploring is done in a unique fashion also as it reminds me of both chess and “Oregon Trail” It’s an odd combination but let me explain. The player, symbolized as a chess piece looking caricature, moves the troop around the battle field. Coming across chests, enemies, and even environmental elements. It’s pretty simple, run into an enemy piece, expect to fight enemies. If there happens to be a storm in the way, players can decide to wait it out, which knocks points off the total spaces allowed for that map. As captain, players can risk crossing it anyways but at the cost of potential loosing heath for the group or other status effects. This leads to some risk and reward when playing even while exploring but time and again it reminded me of the tough decisions when trying to cross the rivers to Oregon long ago. Mission variety also depends on the quests at hand. Some involved getting to a specific spot in a certain move limit. Others will see you trying to harvest enough material on the map. It can be frustrating when loosing these goals, but experience stays even if the mission fails. Also getting farther into the game allows players to explore a map with no limits of time to level up and find resources.
If I haven’t done a good job at detailing some of the reasons why I believe Grand Kingdom is vast in its mechanics, let me say this: Even with everything detailed here and already dsicussed, there is still the online portion that has players aligning with a legion for bonus points and an overall online score and perks. There is blacksmithing and skills upgrades for better weapons and abilities. Grimoires to discover to unlock more abilities and the list goes on. Grand Kingdom is not a typical role playing game in the slightest. It might have a very charming and simple look with a fantastic soundtrack I might add, but it’s completely deep and offers players a ton of content to get through, characters to level up, and missions to complete. It’s just a unique experience that comes highly recommend to RPG fans and even with the game being on the PS4, the Vita is perfect for this style of game and the way it delivers it missions and content. Feeling overwhelmed playing this game at the start will happen for most players, but persevere, learn the rules, and it will start to come together. I can’t recommend this to all RPG players and it’s a shame there doesn’t seem to be a cross save feature, but otherwise Grand Kingdom is another excellent entry to the RPG genre and one that sticks out with its uniqueness even if other elements are more par for the course.
A pre-release PlayStation Vita code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.