Grand Alliance Review – Underutilized Potential
Title: Grand Alliance
Release Date: September 22, 2020
Reviewed On: iOS
Publisher: Crunchyroll Games
Genre: RPG Brawler
Crunchyroll Games hasn’t been putting out too many notable games since they’ve been focusing on the mobile market. Their most recent publishing venture, Grand Alliance, is the closest thing to beating my expectations, but not by much. Still, it’s nice to see an original IP in the sea of anime licenses available.
Grand Alliance is set in an industrial-steam punk style world where a war rages over a powerful magic source known as Spires. It all began when Amelia’s father and kingdom were betrayed. The actual intro was pretty impactful and helped set the gravity of the situation for Amelia and the war that was about to take place.
Thanks to the writing and brilliant voice acting of their star-studded dubbed anime cast, with Erika Harlacher, Christina Vee, Faye Mata, and many more, I was able to care about all the characters from the start. There are quite a few twists and turns that’ll take you for a ride during the campaign. I only wished that the voice acting remained for the majority of the story. They seem to be only used in key moments of the campaign, which is a shame since they have so many big names credited.
When I first heard of Grand Alliance, it was touted as an “RPG brawler.” I was expecting a beat-em-up style game with a lot of button mashing. However, it was totally the opposite experience and actually plays more like an MMORPG. Each stage has you take three squad members to run around and beat up bad guys and monsters. There’s no button mashing. Your characters auto-attack nearby enemies and you can activate abilities depending on what the situation calls for.
Over time, you’ll build your Overdrive meter on each character and can launch unique attacks or spells against enemies. Each ability is a skill shot, so you need to choose where and when you use them . It’s not the worst gameplay mechanic in a gacha, but I truly was expecting a beat-em-up style game. When it comes to the gacha pulling, you’re looking to pull 5-star spells as opposed to characters since they’re equitable and can create a good variety of ways to approach battles.
Pulling characters is obviously important to flesh out your roster, but that’s pretty much it since certain equipable spells can only work on specific characters. There is a tavern you can go to where you can recruit new characters with the right amount of currency. But again, your main focus will probably be on gacha pulls with the spells as that’s where most of your power comes from.
This was another gacha that came out with a lot of missions but very few chapters. In order to offset it, there’s quite a significant difficulty spike at about chapter 3. Stamina management also came into play here as this game isn’t as forgiving to help you refill the stamina bar in order to continue farming. Playing missions to collect items and leveling up your characters in relation to your stamina felt a little off.
It seemed like I should have been getting more needed materials with the amount of stamina I was paying to enter each stage. Plus, things like class emblems needed in order to limit break your character are only available on certain days of the week. It’s not uncommon to have a system like that but to have that long of an arbitrary wait time just to collect that last emblem was rather annoying.
It basically meant I had to wait a few days in order to strengthen a character to help me beat a level in the main campaign if I needed to. There is also this odd Clash Royale style of obtaining items through opening time-locked chests you can collect. I would often forget I even have these chests so they did kind of just stockpile on my end for a while.
PVP gameplay is rather interesting, yet simple. You just take 9 of your characters against another 9 but in waves. So it will basically be 3 vs. 3 for three waves until one player’s 9 units fall. It’s all auto-played, but it’s a shame as there could have been much more done here to spice up the gameplay. If we were allowed control like in the main campaign such as being able to use our abilities, it would have been a bit more enjoyable.
Otherwise, wins are pretty much dependent on your squad’s combat score instead of any strategic planning or movement. It’s also a bit concerning that the actual leaderboards for PVP have me at a global rank of around 2000 but I only played a few games. It either shows the player base is extremely low or no one really cared to play this mode.
Honestly, I wanted to wait a bit on this review to see if they would add anything more to the game to make it stand out, but it never came. Grand Alliance is a step above what we’ve seen in previous Crunchyroll Games offerings, but not by much. It’s a shame because there was so much attention to detail put into the amazing artwork and well-thought-out suspenseful story, but they didn’t execute on decent gameplay systems tailored to mobile devices.
There is clearly a direction and vision for Grand Alliance, but it’s pretty much downhill after the game’s opening. I know I’ve always touted that I’m into games with amazing stories despite the gameplay, but Grand Alliance made it difficult to stick with that idea. At least this was leagues better than Overlord: Mass for the Dead.
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