Grand Kingdom Preview
Developed by Monochrome and licensed by NIS America, Grand Kingdom bills itself as an SRPG. While this usually conjures images of isometric viewpoints and grid-based movement, Grand Kingdom favours a 2D side-on perspective and incorporates a 3 lane approach to combat. Set on the continent of Resonail, four great kingdoms wage war against one another using mercenary forces to tip the balance in their favour.
In the liteDemo version provided, it was difficult to get a full sense of the story at hand given only three missions were playable, seemingly taken from the game’s introductory sequence. Whilst cutscenes are fully voiced, the limited character and background animations, an abundance of pronouns and a new set of battle mechanics all vied for my attention. At this early stage, I’d have to say the latter was the most intriguing.
The flow of Grand Kingdom is fairly standard; following a story cutscene, my party and I were sent on a Quest with a capital Q. This involves moving a pawn piece representing the party from the start of a map to the goal point along a maze of paths dotted with enemies and treasure. To spice this fairly ho-hum mechanic up, enemies on the map move similarly to FOE’s in the Etrian Odyssey series; as the player takes a step, so too do the enemies which means they can be avoided by even slightly observant players depending on the maze layout. Once an enemy is engaged, the view switches from an isometric view to a side-on encounter, which looks more like a 2D fighting game than a SRPG.
As expected in this genre, there are mechanics aplenty to wrap your head around in battle. Firstly, there are 17 character classes to choose from but only 4 available in the demo, which is coincidentally the number of characters you can have in your party. Combat takes place along three parallel lanes which run horizontally across the screen. This three-lane system seems to be the most unique aspect of Grand Kingdom, simplifying the positioning aspects newcomers might find daunting about the SRPG genre. Character classes in the demo were split between close range and long range, with a mixture of the two needed for best results.
In battle, movement and action is restricted by a gauge which decreases the farther a character is moved. Too much movement will lower the gauge to the point that actions cannot be performed, but a quick button press allows all movement to be undone. This is a very welcome option for players as it can be hard to judge the range of archers and spellcasters, which would otherwise result in wasted turns and rising frustration. I did however get the feeling that there will be situations later in the game designed with this ‘mulligan’ mechanic in mind. Characters can also perform a secondary action at the end of their turn if assigned, such as the fighter taking up a guard position which encourages some aggressive manoeuvres into enemy territory.
Following the completion of the two available missions, I wound up my time with Grand Kingdom. While the sliver of story revealed in the demo didn’t whet my appetite, the flow of battle is paced nicely and provides plenty of strategic options, despite being seemingly limited compared to other entries in the genre. For players wanting to dip their toes into the SRPG genre, extensive tutorials and the 3-lane battle system make for a warm welcome.
Stephen del Prado
It was whilst toiling away in the bowels of the now mythical Australian Gamer forums that Stephen’s attempts at writing were recognised by then up-and-coming Matt ‘Hewso’ Hewson as “not terrible”. Since then he has contributed to such sites as The Age’s now defunct Screen Play, the now-long retired Black Panel and currently serves under Editor-in-Chief Hewso for Player2.net.au, at least until the pattern of decline obvious in his previous engagements is picked up on by Hewso and he is exiled from games journalism forever.
Writes on Yugambeh land.