We previously did an outline of Grand Knights History's role-playing game/online conquest gameplay, but now armed with a full copy of the game, we braved through the game's world filled with goblins, high-leveled archers, and lots of depth.
After picking one of the kingdoms to represent (we picked Logres because the leader King Fausel looked pretty badass), you start off with a set of four squires, with the ideal party containing two knights, a mage, and an archer. If you are feeling bold, you can opt to have just a knight and three other mages or just a team of mages. Don't get too attached to your first party; you will have to send it off online and create a new team eventually.
As we stated before, combat is turn based. You decide the actions of your party, whether it is attacking, casting a spell, or defending. Once that is done, all party and enemy actions take place in order of who is the fastest. Formation is also important; a number of skills can hit enemies clustered together like the archer's blackout skill. If you don't like where your unit is standing, you can take an extra turn to move it on any available space adjacent to it. The majority of your unit's actions need action points (or AP for short).
As a kicker, your units gain one AP for killing an enemy unit. Conserving APs while also knowing when to use your AP-heavy skills to finish off opponents is crucial to most battles. We were also given a quest as a means to get used to the field navigation and battle system. We were given 99, either to complete the quest straight away or just explore the whole kingdom and level up. Taking a single step on the map takes up a turn. Some of these steps would either lead to an encounter, an event that could trigger extra quests, or even to treasure. Certain spaces will either house a temporary shop, a carriage service that transports you to different parts of areas you've uncovered, or a purple crystal. Players can chase down bounties, which are represented by black demon icons that move randomly across the map. Killing these slightly high-level enemies will usually give players rewards like additional funds or items.
The aforementioned purple crystals are demon stones, which contain really tough and high-level enemies that hoard epic loot. The game displays the recommended level to check out the demon stones, so you can decide at least whether or not to take the plunge with your current party. Examples of such spoils of war include the shade cap that not only boosts magic to 49 but also heightens a unit's evasion rating when its hit points are low, as well as the golden bunny hood, which gives a unit an additional 15 percent chance to inflict status ailments onto enemies. We witnessed firsthand the destruction wrought onto us from these demon stones. The Logres stone had four archers that hit really hard, while the Union stone had four sword knights that always took an extra turn to garner additional APs via the psych up skill.
Even if you used up your 99 turns or if your party bit it halfway, quests are still ongoing until you complete them. Finishing quests triggered on the map will give you training licenses to power up your four combatants. After selecting the training option when you're back in your kingdom, you can choose from three types of training; the results of your choice depend on your squire's class and the amount of bravery it has remaining. Training results are also dependent on the personalities set for your created squires. Because training reduces a unit's bravery amount, it's usually ideal to buy items from the kingdom's store to replenish it just before you go out adventuring. Keep in mind that if any unit has a bravery amount of less than 40, your AP count at the start of combat is reduced by two.
As we stated before, using an equipped weapon continuously will raise a user's mastery level of that weapon. From there, new skills and actions will be unlocked. While we were tempted to switch one of our warrior's weapons with a powerful rapier, we stuck it out with the two-handed broadsword because she would earn more proficiency points for that weapon to get more skills. Similarly, a wizard who starts off with a hammer will get more proficiency points for the water element if he or she uses the default heal spell a lot.
When you're back in your country's capital, you can head down to the item shop to buy the appropriate skills for your squires. In just a few hours, we gave our wizard a new powerful ice spell that hit a single target, made our archer use a multi-hit attack, and gave one of our warriors a new buff that made him regenerate his life per turn and strengthen him temporarily.
Of course, we merely scratched the surface of other skills you can get later in the game. The earth element spell, blade hex, boosts your entire team's defense for just three APs while the skill, drain act, steals up to three APs from an enemy party. The passive skill, opportunity, gives a unit a 30 percent chance to recover one extra AP each turn, while the hammer skill, death smash, deals good damage with a small percentage of instantly killing a target.
You should keep watch on the top-right counter; when it reaches the 60th day, you cannot train your units using licenses anymore. The game encourages you to send at least one team of squires to the online warzone because it's a prerequisite to continue the single-player Story mode. Once a player sends squires off to war, which is the online part of the game, they end up there for good. Players will need to train up a new quartet of squires from scratch.
Speaking of which, the online mode is a never-ending tug-of-war among the three nations where each kingdom competes to earn the most points by the end of the day via player-versus-player conflicts. Like we mentioned, you can either fight manually or set AI commands and patterns to handle the online battles against other people online.
We also checked that at this point in time, there are more players representing Avalon (29,000 players to be exact) than the rest of the kingdoms. Our guess? Not only is Avalon the first kingdom displayed on the kingdom selection screen, but the shapely leader is voiced by Kikuko Inoue, a popular veteran voice actress in Japan.
While we expected a gorgeous-looking RPG, we didn't anticipate appreciating the breadth of depth within the combat and skill system, in addition to the ongoing online mode. Western gamers will definitely get a chance to sample this interesting hybrid once it hits North America in early 2012, presumably as a downloadable title on both the PSP and the PlayStation Vita.