Title: Grand Guilds
Developer: Drix Studios
Release Date: March 26, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Drix Studios
Genre: Tactics RPG
Tactical RPGs come in all shapes and sizes, but over the years, developers have found some unique systems to improve the genre. Sadly, developer Drix Studio seems to throw a lot of the fundamental mechanics of the genre out the window in their new title, Grand Guilds. Sure, the story has the makings of a grand adventure, but ultimately falls flat within the first hour.
Grand Guilds begins by introducing a knight by the name of Eliza, who has just failed to save the one person she swore to protect. As she shamefully returns home to Ozryn to rejoin her guild, she notices that it is overrun with bandits. However, this just sets up a more substantial plot point that someone is behind these orchestrated attacks, which are taking place across the region. Hell-bent on not failing once again, she sets out with her guild to find the culprit.
The story is perhaps the only thing that will keep you invested. However, the grammar doesn’t make that easy. The game flow is extremely generic here, and it is the same throughout the entire game. The group arrives at a destination, story scene, fight, story scene, on to the next destination. Most of the time, it’s tough to connect the battles to the story, but I just went through with it because there was nothing else to do.
The battle system uses cards to unleash attacks on opponents. Cards are acquired through levels or purchased. However, the customization of the decks is incredibly basic and not at all intuitive. You are allowed five action points per turn, with cards typically exhausting more than one point to use. Cards have a pretty good range of attacks, but I always felt like my best characters sucked defensively, and they were the first to die.
Some cards can buff your party, but it never seemed to work with raised attack power. Being a deck-building RPG, I would have liked to see clearly what my modifiers are doing. Sure, I just added +3 attack power to my character, but when I attacked, it seemed like nothing was added. The game does show the defensive modifiers, though, so I found it interesting that they stopped there. One thing I didn’t like is how I wasn’t able to place my characters on the field at the beginning of a match, which makes the strategy feel just as linear as the story.
Attack animations are decent and vary depending on which attack or skill you use. Some are kind of confusing, such as attacks that have you end up behind the enemy. However, you can cause the same amount of damage by landing right next to them, so I couldn’t imagine why so many attacks ended with the character moving position. Many design choices left me confused, but ultimately, I think the card-based battle system was the worst thing this game had going for it.
I tried my hardest to use a controller, but I urge you not to even attempt this. Using the mouse can get most of the job done, but there are times when you’ll need to use the Q and E buttons to change the camera perspective because objects on the map will get in the way. The menus in the game are also a complete mess, so I stayed out of them as much as possible.
What makes the experience worse is the camera. When selecting cards with the mouse or moving a character, getting too close to the edge of the screen will have the camera fly in that direction. This becomes even more of an issue since the game makes you manually end each character’s turn. Also, if you have 0 actions left, you still have to end the turn of each individual character, which became tedious.
The battle system is also tied to your level, which is extremely unfortunate as this made me not even want to do any of the side missions. Level grinding is not encouraged, and there seemed to be no thought into how they should scale boss battles with this system. For some reason, they decided to remove all the healers from significant fights, which meant you better hope that you have the heart of the cards because you won’t be getting through the battle alive without it.
Enemies typically show up in groups. You never seem to be fighting against a variety. Fight a group of vampires, fight a group of humans, fight a group of spiders, and repeat, over and over. This makes this game feel hugely budgeted and hurt any excitement built up to go into another fight. However, I will say that I did like the maps and how they often changed themes.
What ended up keeping me playing long after I should have stopped was the music. It is just terrific. Also, I found the character illustrations and some of the character arcs to be decent as I looked past the high school linguistics. Each character played a role in the guild, and they fulfilled that role, at this point, I’ll take the bare the minimum.
There’s very little that is grand about Grand Guilds, as I think the project was just a bit too ambitious for the developer. There’s too much to not like about the deck-building systems for the combat to be fun, and there’s not enough variety in the combat to make up for the inadequate systems. The game fails to capture what it is to be a tactical RPG, and while it’s always nice to try new things, it’s essential to stay true to the fundamentals of the genre.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.