Grand Guilds, tactics and luck – First Sip Review
Grand Guilds is a tactical-RPG game with an interesting deckbuilding addition. The game is both developed and published by Drix Studios. Grand Guilds marks their second game to be available on Steam. Their first game Unaided: 1939 (somewhat fitting as it was another self-published game) was released in 2016 and was a top-down stealth game. But the genre isn’t the only change that shows how hard Drix have been working over the past few years.
Grand Guilds takes place in a fantasy realm of swords and sorcery. Set on the continent of Irin which exists on the brink of war. The game opens with a brief history outlining how the previously warring states came to be ruled by a powerful king with the help of unifying the guilds under his command. We then jump forward to find our main character Eliza acting as a royal guard. But there’s really no time to get to know her or the princess she protects because an attack is taking place. Sadly the mysterious attackers are able to take the princess’s life as well as the lives of the other guards. One year later we pick up with Eliza who seems to have survived the assault. She now resides in a small town Ozryn with the rest of her guild.
There is a small scuffle with some thugs and some dialogue that paints a fairly strong picture of Eliza’s character. But even though she has only just returned from a mission it seems like a guild captain’s work is never done. Monsters then attack the village but only as a distraction while a shadowy figure tries to steal the guild’s grimoire. Upon repelling the attack Eliza and her guild decide to investigate further, and the intrigue is amplified when they find out that other guilds have fallen prey to the shadowy figures.
This is, however, only the start of the story. There are plenty more acts to follow and everything I’ve seen has led me to believe they will be well written as well.
The art-style of Grand Guilds is a combination of anime-inspired hand-drawn portraits. And 3D models. The two complement each other fairly well. Each character looks distinct and well designed in their portraits. And each model seems to match the look of the portraits quite well too. The animation is fluid and energetic. Seeing the characters run is nice but seeing them jump and flip around sometimes is even more fun. Attack animations are fairly satisfying and mostly come with colorful impact effects.
Overall the visual style of the game is quite strong. However, the map screen which shows the airship from a top-down view is a little odd. And some of the menu screens could be a little more polished. However, I was playing a pre-release copy of the game so it’s possible the GUI may be updated before the official release.
As the game is set in a fantasy world with mention of vampires and dragons. Along with the swords and sorcery already mentioned. They have opted for a typical orchestral score. And it works well. There are soft emotional pieces when the story requires it. Larger more bombastic pieces before and during fights. And the sort of rousing score you’d associate with a hero’s adventure on the map screen. There were some moments while I was playing where the score was noticeably absent during a scene. However, again I was playing a pre-release copy so it’s possible some cues were just missed or the pieces that filled them in were still pending.
Sound effect wise the game performs admirably. All the noises, selecting, scrolling through options, running, attacking, etc. All of them sound both fitting and pleasant. No issues to report here at all.
Voice acting/dialogue, as a highly story-driven game by an indie developer it is understandably minimal (as a voice actor myself I’ve seen how expensive it can get to hire really strong voice actors [side note, I am always willing to negotiate if anyone is interested in casting me]). The minimal voicing is a trick employed by a fair few games. This is that characters will occasionally say a word or two, and mostly it will be the first word or something generic that matches the sentiment of their speech. Sometimes it does go a bit overboard like in They Are Billions but mostly they hold back. You can also turn the voices off in the options if you want to. And doing this makes it easier to hear that the text has an accompanying noise unlike Frog Detective 2 which I still think would have benefited from it.
Grand Guilds is both a tactical RPG and a deckbuilding game. As such combat sort of comes across as a mixture of Fell Seal: Arbiters Mark (or Final Fantasy Tactics) and Doors of Insanity (or Monster Train). It’s a really interesting blend and it works really well. The basics of the game after the first dialogue scenes and story fights. You are on the map screen and you’ll have quests, story quests, guild quests, and side quests. Each quest will result in a fight and if you win you’ll be rewarded. Rewards are generally in the form of Trills (which is a sort of currency you’ll use to unlock cards), and/or experience to level up.
Each battle will have a goal, to begin with, this is normally “eliminate all enemies”. Battles are fought on maps that are split into squares and like other tactical RPG’s you’ll be able to move and attack based on these grids. However, unlike standard tactical RPGs in Grand Guilds each of your units will have a deck of cards. You’ll be assigned random cards into your hand, to begin with and then draw a new one each turn. However, as mentioned each hero has their own deck so each hero will stick to their own role. For instance, Eliza is built as a tank, able to taunt, absorb damage with shields and deal moderate damage. While your next two heroes are a healer/aqua mage and a spear-wielding damage dealer, so you essentially have a tank, healer, and warrior early on.
Play your cards right
Your cards will be very important to play effectively. While you can move your character once a turn and have a default skill that can also be used only once a turn.
To properly fight you’ll need to make use of your cards, as they will generally be stronger attacks and some can also move and attack or move and draw a new card, etc. The battles I fought were fairly short so I’m not sure if the deck can run out of cards or if expended cards can be drawn again once they are used. But, you can run out of cards in your hand. However, next turn you’ll pick up a card and your default attack will be available. Cards will also carry an AP cost so you’ll need to make sure you use it wisely. This system also means sometimes you’ll end a turn without doing anything, but that’s fairly rare.
In addition to the active cards in your deck, you also have passive cards. As you might expect passive cards effects are applied without having to play anything. However, you do need to set them on the map screen and can only equip cards if you have free slots. New slots are unlocked every 5 levels which increases your overall power along with other tactical advantages.
While the game isn’t 100% unique and has a lot of elements I’ve seen before. The elements it chooses to use are all well done and highly enjoyable. The cast of characters are interesting. The story is intriguing. And most of all the battle mechanics quite fun. So far as I was playing the game I didn’t see any quests that can be undertaken repeatedly to grind for levels and Trills. However, I also didn’t run into any levels that were too difficult to beat. You can also change the difficulty level mid-game if you find things too hard or too easy.
I did run into some slight issues with the game. But nothing game-breaking, mostly a long load time when booting the game (resting on a black screen so I wasn’t sure if it was loading or not until the story appeared). And at one point I was unable to start a battle by clicking and had to hit enter to proceed. I also experienced some issues targeting enemies behind objects or too close to walls. But I remedied this when I realized you could rotate the camera with q and e.
At this stage, the game isn’t what I’d call perfect, at least the current build I played. But, it is well above average and makes me want to continue playing it long after I finish writing this review.
In Coffee Terms
In coffee terms, I would say Grand Guilds is a mochaccino. Part cappuccino and part hot chocolate, but the flavors complement each other perfectly. Both aspects are brewed fantastically and I can’t wait to order a refill when I finish drinking a cup.
Grand Guilds Links
Grand Guilds Review Summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.