REVIEW: ‘Grand Alliance’ Is A Refreshingly Nuanced Mobile RPG (iOS)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Grand Alliance is an anime-style mobile RPG from Crunchyroll Games in partnership with Gaudium and Viz. While mobile RPGs have come under increased scrutiny recently for being pay-to-win games fraught with microtransactions, players can rest assured knowing Grand Alliance is not one of those games. 

Crunchyroll Games has been busy this year, with its releases of Mass for the Dead and Mob Psycho 100: Psychic Battle. Each of those two previous titles was very successful in its own right. However, Grand Alliance feels like the team at Crunchyroll Games hit on a perfect combination of a nostalgic anime RPG story and an easy to pick up, difficult to master battle system.

Grand Alliance is the story of Princess Amelia Ravensburg’s journey to reclaim the kingdom of Alcyon. and unite her nation after the assassination of the royal family. While the Ravensburg household has controlled the Alcyon Empire for centuries, five Noble Houses control territories within them. These noble factions: Kazimovan Grand Duchy, House Beaufort, Ryujin Clan, House Courcillon, and the Akhan Dominion seek to assume power following the death of the Ravensburg family. Through this conflict for power, many of the knights, sorcerers, and soldiers are caught in the conflict.

Along the way, players will have the opportunity to recruit and deploy new characters in teams of three to defeat monsters and enemies threatening the destruction and upheaval of what was once the Alcyon Empire. While the motivations of the two main protagonists, Princess Amelia and Leon, are clear, each subsequent hero recruited to the player’s team has different reasons for fighting. Where Grand Alliance truly shines compared to other mobile RPGs is in its world-building, writing, and narrative design.

Grand Alliance represents Crunchyroll Games’ first foray into games based upon an original IP. While that may cause some fans pause, the team of Crunchyroll Games, Gaudium and Viz did a great job of creating a world in which longtime anime fans can feel completely immersed. Grand Alliance as a standalone story has the gravitas and depth to work as a successful series in Crunchyroll’s regular anime programming.

Grand Alliance

Grand Alliance has three major game modes once the player passes the tutorial levels: Campaign, Expeditions, and Grand Arena.

As the name suggests, Campaign is where players go to focus on the story. The story is broken up into Chapters. Each Chapter has a certain number of battles the player must complete to move on to the next portion of the story. Battles deplete the party’s Stamina, so speeding through the game without taking the time to explore other game modes is not possible. Players can spend money to replenish Stamina, but Grand Alliance does not make that a necessity.

Expeditions are side missions that players can take to win gold, drop items, or simply train the party. Gold is used on party items and cosmetics for the party. Drop items can range from cosmetics, weapons, and even new characters. There are also Specialization missions, where the team can acquire emblems to power up a specific battle type (Gunner, Skirmisher, Mage, or Warrior). Expedition missions will also deplete Stamina, and at a faster rate than Campaign missions will.

The Grand Arena is the “gathering of Alcyon’s mightiest fighters in a tournament that never really ends!” This is where Grand Alliance gives players the opportunity to compete in a PvP format. Each battle gives the player an opportunity to earn Victory Coins, which can then be used for items such as elemental skills (attacks that bolster a character’s damage depending on their elemental affinity). The battles are set up in a ranked format, so the more you win, the better opportunities you have for rare items. The ranking system and battle-matching algorithms are successful most of the time. However, there were a few matches in which the only options were to battle players with teams far superior to my own.

While Victory Coins can be hard to come by, as the PvP system can match players with difficult matchups and challenges, there are plenty of benefits to participating in the fun. The first is the chance of high-quality item drops. Grand Arena matches raise your rank, win or lose. The higher the rank, the higher quality of items players can receive. The other major benefit that comes to mind is the opportunity to one’s skills and strategy to do better in Expedition and Campaign missions.

The battle mechanics of Grand Alliance fit the mold of most mobile RPGs. But the importance of timing and understanding where items are such as potions and ability boosters brought an element of strategy I was not used to seeing within mobile games. The mechanics are similar to what PC or console players would find in MMOs, as bringing your character and party to the enemy will automatically engage in combat. There are also hotkey-style spells and abilities which allow the player to increase damage output and use elemental advantages. The spells and abilities are rich in attractive animation, including the characters’ Overdrive abilities. Overdrives are special attacks, akin to most specials seen in RPGs.

Overall, the battle mechanics of Grand Alliance borrow some of the best qualities of JRPGs and MMOs (beautiful animation and element-based strategies). The downside to Grand Alliance battle system is the simplicity. Unless players are in Grand Arena mode, the AI can be easy to solve and battles can border on mundane if playing for extended periods of time. However, Grand Arena matches allow seasoned players to work out new character combinations and timing-based strategies to overcome their foes and take combat to a new level.

Grand Alliance restored my faith in mobile RPGs in a way I never thought possible. With a rich lore, fun characters, and challenging PvP gameplay, this is a game that can appeal to fans of JRPGs, anime, mobile games, and more. The urge to spend money to win is virtually nonexistent, as the battle systems are fun enough to encourage level grinding naturally. Most importantly, Grand Alliance looks and feels like a world built from a Crunchyroll exclusive. Any fans of the genre, or Crunchyroll/Viz, should check out this game and join the battle to reclaim Alcyon.

Grand Alliance is out now for iOS and Android.

Grand Alliance
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Grand Alliance restored my faith in mobile RPGs in a way I never thought possible. With a rich lore, fun characters, and challenging gameplay, this is a game that can appeal to fans of JRPGs, anime, mobile games, and more. The urge to spend money to win is virtually nonexistent, as the battle systems are fun enough to encourage level grinding naturally. Most importantly, Grand Alliance looks and feels like a world built from a Crunchyroll exclusive. Any fans of the genre, or Crunchyroll/Viz, should check out this game and join the battle to reclaim Alcyon.