Publisher: Drix Studios, Keybol Games
Developer: Drix Studios
From its Kickstarter origins to a wide release on multiple platforms, Filipino-helmed strategy game Grand Guilds has taken the local gaming community’s curiosity at best. With a unique take on the trading card and tactical role-playing genres, the title has definitely piqued the interest of strategy junkies.
Fortunately, the game delivers, albeit with a few glaring bumps along the way.
Before you get to the main menu, an intro movie plays and sets us up for the world we are about to enter. The world of Irin was at war. The Triton Empire was on the losing side of a conflict with the Kingdoms of Dunbar until the guilds came along and turned the tides with their feats of valor. Out of respect for their contribution to the war effort, the Triton Empire gave them vast freedom to operate their guilds in Triton territory. Over time, many guilds popped up around Triton, each with their unique modus operandi and creeds.
Grand Guilds follows the story of Eliza, the brave leader of the Lux Deus guild. After failing to save a noble from her abrupt death, Eliza goes into a self-imposed exile for years. The plot then jumps to the present as Eliza finds herself embroiled in a scheme to engulf the continent of Irin in war once more.
The game’s plot, cast, and setting are well-crafted. The story is fairly mature and is not afraid to venture into dark places. The character dialogues are often fun, too. It’s enjoyable seeing your ragtag bunch of guild members interact with each other and seeing the varied personalities clash. The clever part here is the sense of individualism of each character is not only heightened through their personalities and dialogue but also through their character design and unique card decks that reinforce their motif and playstyle.
The problem, however, lies with the writing itself. Some lines are filled with typographical errors and glaring grammar lapses, making a few cutscenes annoying at best. The partial voice acting does not help as it limits the capacity of what this game could offer. Thankfully, these issues do not really hamper my investment in the story.
Unlike other tactical RPGs, Grand Guilds employs a unique mix of grid-based strategy gameplay and card deck building. Each character has a specific motif, giving them set abilities and affecting how far they can move across the field. Some characters have innate skills unique to them, and each of them has their own stats. During a battle, characters are allowed to perform multiple moves based on the number of action points they have at that instance. Most movesets are predominantly determined by the cards you have on your hand, and each card requires a number of action points to be cast in battle. Characters may also perform a default attack that will not require the usage of cards.
Deck building in the game is somewhat limited. While each character utilizes a unique set of cards, the card pool for each character feels scarce, and most cards are a repetition of characters’ standard cards but with a few changes. Moreover, modifier cards do not seem to have any effect at all in battle. For example, equipping Eliza with a +3 ATK modifier will not really give her any damage buff in battle. Taunt cards do not seemingly attract your enemies as well, other than fortifying their armor for a number of turns.
In addition, the range of attacks does not seem to vary with every character. Some characters, while primarily focused on projectile attacks, are not given the privilege of attacking from a farther distance and have the same range as melee characters. This easily restricts the player from carrying out multiple strategies in the game.
Like I said earlier, Grand Guilds hosts a number of bumps that become increasingly glaring as you progress through the game. Loading times feel dragging, and the lack of transition from one battle to another hampers the flow of the game. Character models do not feel thoroughly defined despite the use of cel-shading and may require further work. Skipping cutscenes also affects the camera to remain stuck out of bounds, forcing players to either restart or quit the current quest.
The biggest bump of the game lies within the Dune Sea chapter. Whenever you try to progress through the quest, the game kicks you back to the title screen no matter what you do. I did a bit of research and found out that most players had the issue as well. I hope the developers fix the bugs as soon as they can.
Despite a slew of technical problems, Grand Guilds is a fine beginning for Filipino developers to take stage in the global scene. Here’s to hoping we’ll see more mainstream local game releases in the years to come.
Grand Guilds is now available for the PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PC.
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