I tried the Grand Kingdom beta a few days ago. First off, I really like the art style of the game, and the animation is nice. It's like a good version of Battle Princess Arcadias.
The gameplay is pretty unique, like a mix of rpg and board game. You move around a map as a chess-like piece. There are treasures and shortcuts around the map, and a turn limit. If you come into contact with an enemy piece, a fight starts.
Your four person party fights on three planes against another enemy group. Each character has a movement meter that shows how much they can move, and an attack meter than depletes with each attack. Attacks are pretty neat, since melee people have a combo you can execute, and can even launch opponents. Archers and mages have a target mark that moves through the area, and you have to time your press to correspond to where the enemy is. They also get multiple attacks you can chain together. It takes some getting used to, since the mage's targeting isn't as nice as the archer's.
It worked...well enough for the most part. It was way too easy to hit your own people (heals can also work on enemies, yuck), since the target areas and arcs aren't accurate. Plus a rebounding enemy can hit other characters causing some damage, which is more annoying than I would have thought. Battle controls aren't very intuitive, and took me some getting used to. Even after an hour or so I would mess up the buttons occasionally. The in-game tutorials teach the map and battles well enough.
What they don't teach is some of the other nuances. While they over-explain some things like menu selections, something as important as the stats of your characters are left up to your imagination. When you level up, you can give some bonus points, but I wasn't sure if some things affected others. Str gives physical attack damage, but does it affect bow attacks? Usually that is dexterity or agility, but no stat in Grand Kingdom mentions bow damage. I wouldn't be so bothered by this, but I always get the sense that I was messing up my characters, or not getting what I should be doing with their growth (more on that below).
Even so, the single player experience was really fun. After doing the one map, you are then forced to do some of the multiplayer versus. It is thankfully not actual pvp, but more kingdom v kingdom. I don't fully understand it all, but I had to do it, which isn't fun. I tried it once, won a battle, and then the entire war was lost. I have no idea why, it just said it was over. The enemy group was the same level as my party, but a really hard fight. That's where I started thinking I messed up my bonus stats, since player enemies had much longer combos than I did. At least you can just leave the AI to do it for you, and I'm hoping the full game has enough single player that I can ignore the pvp nonsense. I'm game to try it!
Nice art style, unique gameplay and the fights were fun.
I don't like pvp, and it didn't make much sense here. Hopefully it isn't forced in the full game like it was in the beta.
It seems the beta is the "lite" version, so maybe the pvp focus is in some kind of free-to-play version which will bump up the people playing the game. Or people will just do it on alternate accounts to beef up the armies they want to win...