A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Grand Kingdom is a turn-based strategy role-playing game. Players create bands of customizable mercenaries of both genders, picking skin color, face, and voice for each, then accept battle contracts from kingdoms. The concept of what it is to be a mercenary is at the core of the story; characters can frequently be heard talking about getting paid for fighting. Combat involves swords, hammers, and other medieval weapons, but there's no blood or gore. Attacks are accompanied by flashes of light. Characters call out in pain, collapse, and disappear when defeated. Some female characters are dressed in pretty skimpy outfits and can be given a voice type described as "ditzy." Voice and text dialogue includes mild but frequent profanity, including the words "ass," "damn," and "prick."
What's it about?
GRAND KINGDOM puts players in command of multiple squads of powerful mercenaries roaming a fantasy world filled with monsters and enemy soldiers. Each squad is composed of characters hired from a roster of soldiers of fortune spanning more than a dozen classes, and players can customize the way they look and speak. Once assembled, a squad can embark upon quests that see them traveling along a gameboard world composed of branching paths that contain roaming enemy units, treasures, and traps. Turn-based combat begins whenever the player's token bumps into an enemy token. Battles take place on a trio of lanes, where each movement a character makes -- running along a lane, jumping to a different lane, changing direction -- consumes part of his or her movement gauge. After moving, players can choose to make their characters attack or use healing items or special abilities, always with the ultimate aim of wiping out all enemies. When a quest ends, the squad heads back to camp, where players can spend the money they've earned to hire more soldiers, buy better gear, and chat with nonplayer characters to further the story. Camp is also where players can join massive multiplayer wars. These wars force players to enter into a contract with one of four kingdoms vying for control of several territories. Squads that join online wars can be controlled directly by the player or left to automatically engage in skirmishes while being controlled by the computer.
Is it any good?
It would be easy to dismiss this strategy game based solely on its presentation, which runs more along the lines of what we might expect from a $6 iPad strategy RPG than a $60 game made for powerful home consoles. The world we explore is surprisingly barren and featureless, the voice acting is the pits, and narrative scenes are too few and choppily animated. This is a game clearly made on a tight budget. But if you can get past the lack of graphical glitz, you'll find a surprisingly deep turn-based tactical experience that requires thought, planning, and long-term strategizing on multiple levels.
Combat seems simple to start, with players needing to do little more than figure out how to attack effectively from a distance and up close. But it becomes much more nuanced as players begin to understand tactics such as initial troop positions, how to exploit objects within lanes, how to use the assist gauge to perform combination attacks, and the importance of focusing on enemy leaders early on when possible. Traveling around the world board also grows in complexity as the game progresses. In early quests we're given far more actions than necessary, but as the campaign progresses, the need to smartly navigate paths -- and defeat enemies as quickly as possible -- to conserve actions becomes a key part of the player's overall strategy. Online wars are crucial, too. Deploying squads you aren't currently using can be an invaluable means of generating extra cash and experience, even when you're away from the game. So long as you don't demand blockbuster production quality, Grand Kingdom might be worth a look for fans of turn-based tactics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about marketing to kids. What is the value of various types of downloadable content, and do games need to have this content to improve gameplay? Is this just a way for companies to get more money?
Families can also talk about gender roles in games. This game allows kids to customize their heroes, but why are some outfits and voices for female characters sexualized stereotypes? Do you think the female characters you usually see in games are representative of women in the world?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: NIS America
- Release date: June 29, 2016
- Genre: Strategy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- ESRB rating: T for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.