Spike Chunsoft teaches us an early lesson in the art of war
Grand Kingdom, the upcoming strategy RPG from developer Spike Chunsoft and NIS America, is poised to wage war on the PlayStation 4 and Vita next month. We’ve spent the past few days commanding our armies across the game’s four kingdoms in the early Press Beta, and now we’re here to bring you taste of what to expect when the game releases on June 21, 2016 in North America and June 17, 2016 in Europe.
The story of Grand Kingdom is set after the fall of the once-prosperous Uldein Empire over one hundred years ago. Since the Empire’s decline, the Four Great Nations of Landerth, Valkyr, Fiel and Magion now clash to gain control of the continent of Resonail. Players must assume the role of leader of a band of mercenaries and complete contracts for each nation as they fight to achieve the upper hand in a constant power struggle, as well as enlist their armies in online skirmishes and work together with other players in epic campaigns to determine the future of Resonail.
Players embark on their path of conquest from the Guild menu, which acts as your hub for your budding band of mercenaries. It’s here in the Guild that you can take on quests to advance the single player campaign’s story, hire new mercenaries to fight among your ranks, shop for new armaments and gear to use on the field, as well as draft policy such as alliances and declarations of war to participate in the game’s online skirmishes. You can even form detachments of AI-controlled parties who will participate in wars and report back with their results, allowing players to influence the game’s underlying online power struggle while they push ahead through the main story.
Missions in Grand Kingdom take place on large maps that players must navigate in a somewhat board game-like fashion. Your mercenary party is represented by a game piece which you move along various paths to reach your objective within a set number of turns. As you work your way across each map, enemy units do so as well, forcing you to plan your path to the objective carefully in order to avoid participating in unnecessary or potentially deadly battles. When you inevitably do collide with an enemy unit, it initiates a a battle sequence.
These battles prove to be one of the most fun and engaging aspects of Grand Kingdom‘s package, playing out like a bizarre but insanely addicting amalgamation of the SEGA Saturn classic Guardian Heroes and a traditional turn-based strategy RPG. Each battle has four lanes, one for each of your party members. Players can jump between lanes freely as they advance towards their enemies. As you move towards your opponents, your AP gauge depletes, meaning a Fighter who sprints across the map to reach his target will be able to perform fewer attacks on his target than if they were already close to one another. Considering the game’s emphasis on combo attacks, this means you’ll want to plan around your AP accordingly before rushing headlong into a group of enemies with full AP meters.
Each of the classes has a wildly different play style, which does a nice job of keeping the action engaging. Fighters are typical melee brawlers who excel in close-quarters warfare. They can unleash barrages of sword attacks and juggle their opponents, making them the ideal choice for front line soldiers. Archers can attack from far away but have extremely low defense, meaning you’ll want to keep them well protected. Once you target an enemy with an arrow, you can see the potential trajectory for each shot move around the targeted area. Successfully timing each shot from a the volley of arrows can deal tremendous damage to even the most hardened adversaries. Magic users can punish their foes with elemental magic, which is targeted in a similar fashion to the archer’s arrows as a moving reticle dances around the targeted area. However, their most devastating spells can take an entire turn to charge, meaning you’ll need to plan ahead a bit when using them. Lastly, medics are a specialized class who can toss healing potions to allies, leave health packs on the battlefield for allies (or opportunistic foes) to collect, and even toss acid in the faces of their enemies.
Friendly fire is another thing you’ll have to consider quite a bit when waging war in Grand Kingdom, as your arrows, magic attacks and healing potions can impact both your allies and enemies alike. There’s nothing more embarrassing than chucking a health potion into the hands of mortally wounded enemy who, now fully healed, proceeds to hack down your party’s leader. As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s entirely possible for reckless players to inadvertently unleash a barrage of elemental magic into a cluster of friendly troops, wiping out half of your force. Additionally, some battlefields are within range of cannon emplacements, encouraging players to stay mobile to avoid crushing barrages of artillery fire in-between turns. That said, despite the brisk pace of the game’s combat engine, you’ll want to keep a cool head and pay attention to what’s going on around you, as one wrong move can spell a humiliating defeat if you get careless.
Overall, Grand Kingdom‘s potent marriage of traditional RPG conventions and hands-on combat mechanics manages to be both cerebral and immediately satisfying at once – a feat few games are able to accomplish.
The online component of Grand Kingdom is satisfying as well. To join a War, players must form a contract with one of the Four Great Nations. These contracts can fun anywhere from 1 to 5 wars, with longer campaigns reaping greater rewards. After choosing an area of operations to deploy in, you’ll join other players as they work to overthrow the fortresses scattered across the map. Each time a fortress is captured, you take away control points from the opposing team. A war is decided when the enemy army’s control points fall to zero or by who has the most control points before the time limit expires. These online battles are fast and frantic, and award players with Royals, a currency exclusive to online Wars that can be spent at the Four Great Nations’ capitals.
Grand Kingdom offers players a wide degree of freedom when creating their party. While only 4 of the 17 classes were available in the Press Beta, each character can be customized in a variety of ways. You can choose from a variety of cosmetic options, including each character’s color palette, head, hair and voice, allowing you to create your ideal character. It’s just a bit disappointing that each character is gender locked, meaning you won’t see any female fighters waging war out on the field, or male warlocks trading spells with enemy witches. Even still, considering the full game’s lofty number of classes that will be included with the title when it releases next month, we’re all but certain there will be plenty of variety when the full game releases.
Our early impressions with Grand Kingdom are overwhelmingly positive. The game offers a smart blend of tactical gameplay and tight combat that is unlike anything else out there. While only time will tell if the game’s online component will take off following its release this summer, we have little doubt those looking for a wholly unique and addicting adventure for the PS4 and Vita will want to keep their eyes on Grand Kingdom.
If you want to take a stab at the game ahead of its release you won’t have to wait long. Grand Kingdom‘s PS4 public beta kicks off on May 3rd.
Grand Kingdom is now available for pre-order on the NISA Online Store, in both standard, as well as the “Grand Edition” ($99) that’s pictured above. So, do you plan on taking part in the public beta when it kicks off this week? Let us know in the comments section below!