Grand Kingdom and Arcadia Ales IPA Variety Pack (Part 1) - Beeps and Beers

Similar to my last Beeps and Beers article, this one is going to span a few days and a variety of beers. The game? Grand Kingdom. To say that this game has sucked me in would be an understatement. As of last night when I wrote this, my playtime was nearing four days. Yikes. Well, a lot of that came last weekend when it was hot, sticky and generally uncomfortable out and I decided to settle in and play the game while sipping at a quartet of IPAs from Arcadia Ales that my wife had picked up for me in a twelve pack variety box. So what could go wrong with a game that requires lots of strategic thinking while tipping back a few beers? While I ask that question sarcastically - the actual answer might be surprising: not much can go wrong at all. I had a great weekend combining the two.

If Arcadia Ales sounds familiar to you as a reader of this site, it might be because their Shipwreck Porter was actually the beer I started the Beeps and Beers series with - while talking about the latest Uncharted. Overall I am a huge fan of the brewery and the four beers I sampled and will talk about here did not disappoint.

If you haven't had a chance to read PY's review of Grand Kingdom for the PlayStation Vita, you should absolutely do so. It will help you to understand that incredible scope of the game - but for those of you just looking for the quick version - he scored it a 9 out of 10 and loved it.

I was a bit later getting to Grand Kingdom - Vita review codes were available before PlayStation 4. Then naturally the first couple days of the release, I wound up being super busy and the game sat installed on my PlayStation 4 untouched. However, I would soon remedy that problem as it pulled me in right away and for multiple reasons.

For starters - I am a huge fan of strategy games and I go way back with the genre. If you are curious how far back my affection goes, you can read this article on Warsong - arguably the best strategy game that hardly anyone ever played. This was a Sega Genesis title, and while it was not my first tactics game ever, it was the one that cemented the genre as arguably my favorite. Grand Kingdom is a very different kind of game, with 2D visuals from the side (as opposed to most strategy games that provide more of a top-down view), operating with three lanes of depth. At first glance, it was pretty easy. There were loads of menus, modes and things to do, but the team at Spike Chunsoft did an excellent job with the introductory materials that allowed me to dive right in with just enough guidance.

So, by the time last weekend had rolled around, I was already pretty familiar with the game. I started my two and a half day binge of strategy gaming with the Arcadia IPA. Now, I had just gotten home from work, so I was mostly 'checking in' on the game at that point, while also grilling dinner for everyone (beer can chicken with a canned IPA of all things - but that's not for this article). It was really swampy feeling outside, so while this IPA was pretty standard fare, it did not stand out in any particular way either. Very drinkable and a good way to start things as I ran from the den to the grill and back again several times. The pungent, earthy hop aroma matched the copper color of the beer quite nicely and I found that this particular beer went down pretty quickly and easily.

One of the cool things about Grand Kingdom is that it blends several things into its overall package. There is a story/campaign mode, there are standalone missions, but there is also an online element where you can send your units out into battle against other players. These battles take place in a way where the computer is controlling the other units (though they are guided by some very basic preferences the player can set to them before dispatching them), but it makes for a fun, persistent world with lots of opportunity to keep playing after beating the proper storyline. Well, when I mentioned above that I was checking in, it was to do some of the daily tasks that come associated with the game. I was reigning in my dispatched units to see how they had performed, I was getting my daily log in stamp (there had been a bug preventing that from working until about a week ago - at least on the North American PS4. Vita and non-North American regions worked fine). These things don't really take much time, but they were perfect for walking into the room, doing a few button presses and then going back out to check on food and take another drink or two.

So, later that night when all of the running around for the grill had concluded, I sat down and settled on my prior beer's bigger, beefier cousin: Hopmouth Double IPA. It was starting to cool off so a slightly stronger beer made sense, and unlike the other three in the variety box, I have tried Hopmouth in the past. Taste and scent have lots of pine notes, with a complex sweet and bitterness to it that pours a dark amber shade in the glass. As with most imperial beers, there is some alcohol bite to this guy, but I generally enjoy this particular beer and was happy to have it as I settled into trying to wrap up the campaign mode that night. I figured that I had to be getting close, and it turns out that I was. Admittedly, the story itself was not too terribly difficult. It serves as a sort of training in and of itself, teaching you about different game mechanics and types of quests along the way. The final bosses ring in just under level forty - but I had already been playing so much that my characters had been classed once already and were in the mid sixties for leveling.

While the story of Grand Kingdom is pretty ordinary, the voice actors are generally likable and I enjoyed the visuals, so it was cool to see things through to the conclusion. Though after I did, I discovered that there is some additional story-based questing available. The premise to Grand Kingdom is that you are the leader of a mercenary group and you are recruited into a mercenary guild. In the story your primary function is to save everyone from the entirely unoriginal attempt of bad people trying to resurrect ancient evil to take over the everything. However, the online multiplayer component is built around your mercenary guild selling your services to one of four kingdoms every day and participating in their never-ending battles. Well, the post-campaign content is built around spending more time with the actual members of the kingdom, better understanding them. I would go so far as to say that these segments are actually more interesting then the primary story.

The difficulty is greater as well, because it picks up at level forty and continues upward. Take the warrior kingdom of Valkyr for example. You start to learn about their lust for battle, how they believe that their warriors all hope to one day enter the great halls of the afterlife while dying in battle and more. None of these campaigns is going to win any awards for their story, but I actually enjoyed them more than the original campaign.

Much like the two beers I had on this night, as I enjoyed the Hopmouth I had later in the evening more than I did the Arcadia IPA which served to slake my thirst and was a good but not great basic IPA. To that end, I would score the Hopmouth:

And the Arcadia IPA a:

And as for the rest of the variety pack? Check back next week because like my time spent with the game, this article is pretty lengthy.

Article by Nick