Grand Chase was a classic side-scrolling action MMORPG for PC that paved the way for several other games, but ultimately ran its course and shut down in 2015. South Korean developer KOG wasn’t going to let such a beloved IP to be cast into oblivion and returned this year with a sequel for mobile devices.
If you are expecting another round of 2D brawling goodness, then you’re in for quite a surprise.
Cutting straight to the chase (pun not intended), the new Grand Chase isn’t a multiplayer brawler; instead, it is unmistakably a hero collector game like dozens of others that you can find on mobile. I’ll be completely honest here – my first glimpses of this game made me hope for a simple yet fun isometric MMORPG. I guess it was just wishful thinking.
Sure, Keep Dreaming
With a freshly realigned mindset and ready to embrace Grand Chase Mobile for what it is, I dived into it without second thoughts. I ended up having a bit of fun and was pleased with the colorful characters and tactical options on for. Fans of the original game will like it even more as they will find the connections that other players won’t – as soon as KurtzPel releases, another brawler from KOG Studio, you will get an even richer world to explore. Come to think of it, KOG seems to be pushing for its games to exist within a multiverse of sorts. Not a bad idea at all.
Grand Chase Mobile utterly ditches the all-out action of the original PC game and opts instead for the tried and tested template set by several other mobile games, as it seems to generate the best results revenue-wise. You begin the adventure mode with almost stripped-down heroes and will go on to recruit other fellow adventurers as you complete mission after mission. Grand Chase Mobile’s greatest claim to fame is its interesting hero roster and a combat system that allows for some tactical resourcefulness, but ultimately it is overshadowed by that pitfall that is called Battle Power.
Yes, Battle Power, one of the discoveries that have contributed to the bad reputation that most mobile games currently enjoy. Along with the energy system, this is one of the fundamentals that instantly tell you a lot about what kind of game you are getting into. Your team must be close to a certain level to make sure that it is able to tackle a specific mission. Every piece of equipment that you can get your fingers on counts – every upgrade, evolution, prestige, fusion, awakening, skill research… you name it, there are layers and layers of possibilities just waiting for your input.
There are so many notifications popping up here and there that sometimes you will be spending several minutes just collecting rewards, using them to upgrade your heroes, going over to collect the respective achievements, and end up doing it all over again for a while. This works as a clever way to give players a sense of immediate gratification and accomplishment, a rewarding feeling that keeps them coming for more.
In all honesty, Grand Chase Mobile is one of the most generous games in the hero collector genre. There are no energy bars or stamina limitations whatsoever (although there are several timed actions such as research or expeditions), so you’re free to venture into the Adventure mode or the Battle modes that you have unlocked. There is always something to do, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel stuck in any situation.
A Wild Chaser Appears
In Grand Chase Mobile, your team of four heroes must go through several missions in a top-down isometric perspective. You can control them by tapping wherever you want to go, or you can tap and drag to select location and direction. You can manually activate your team’s skills if you have skill points, with each hero having a couple of skills. You can use one of the crucial party skills after you have used normal skills six times, including a very useful one that resurrects fallen party members.
There are over 70 heroes to choose from and you can either recruit these through completing the adventure missions or by summoning their cards – you get one free Gacha summon per day, otherwise, you must use one of the tons of currencies that Grand Chase has at your disposal. You’ll have a hard time keeping track of all these currencies, but this is also one of the reasons why you feel like there is always somewhere to check and something to do.
Heroes come in the traditional roles: tank, mage, assault, ranged and support. A balanced team is vital to progress, so make sure that you always keep a healer around. A judicious use of the skills and a significant knowledge of the character’s roles will make all the difference between victory and defeat…
… Or at least it should. A few minutes into your adventure the auto-move and auto-skills options are unlocked and every bit of tactical relevance that Grand Chase may hold goes down the drain. Without much effort, you can complete the initial round of the Adventure mode on auto-pilot, only dealing with whatever happens outside of the battlefield – upgrading and evolving your heroes and their equipment (which also needs upgrading, once again through a Gacha system), collecting rewards left and right and selling unnecessary heroes and monster cards without thinking twice. This will get you Prana (you guessed it, another currency) to purchase Evostones and Hero Summon Tickets from the Prana shop.
The general proceedings to level up a hero consist of upgrading him or her using monster cards. When he is fully upgraded, you can evolve him by using Evostones of the specific class. After that, it’s time to work on his Prestige rating, which in turn will open up access to hero traits such as critical hit, cooldown time and more. Just as it happens with Party Skills, you must research these before they become available. Later, you will be able to awaken and promote your hero, but these are awfully complex and time-consuming tasks, as you need several identical heroes of high rankings. Either you’re prepared to spend months in the game or to leave a wad of cash in the in-game store, so make your choice.
Did I mention that there are a couple of Gacha magic summoning boards for you to spend a couple more currencies on? This will get you several rewards including experience points, cash, and other items.
So Much to Do, So Little Time
The story-based mode will be over in a whim, and fans of the original PC game will surely enjoy its comic-style cutscenes more than the others. After this, you’ll be tempted to give it another go in the remaining difficulty levels (Chaos, Hatred, and Destruction), but also to explore the Battle Mode and its several options.
PvP is one of the mandatory paths if you are in this for the long haul. You can control your team, but it is advised to let the auto-battle do most of the heavy lifting, as you do your best to micromanage skills and the vital party skill.
You can also purchase dimensional boss summon cards and enter colossal battles with some increasingly interesting rewards. Trial Tower is your traditional floor after floor battle that will require a truly impressive team to conquer, while Daily Defense places you in a standoff where you must stop the enemy hordes from interrupting Mari’s magic device. There is also the Wizard’s Labyrinth, a stage-based succession of battles. There isn’t much variety at display here, but it’s nice to have several roads to choose from.
You can send your heroes in automated expeditions where they will bring back a few rewards. This will take a few hours, but it’s a great way to grind whenever you are away from the game.
Grand Chase doesn’t stray far from the other auto-battle, Gacha-based hero collector games. While there is a competent combat system in the background, it becomes almost irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The initial joy of moving your heroes around and handpicking skills and targets quickly fades into obscurity as you realize that the game wants you to speed through it. One day should be enough to complete the story campaign (although you can continue on a higher difficulty level), and then it’s a matter of racing to the top.
If you’re the competitive type and want to test your Battle Power in the PvP arena, then Grand Chase has a lot to entertain you. It’s compelling, rewarding and fairly generous, but at times almost feels more like a management sim than an RPG.
It’s impossible to look at Grand Chase and call it “innovative” or “original” without bursting into hysterical laughter. If you have played one hero collector game recently, then you know exactly what to expect, minus the odd change to the combat system – which will surely include the words “auto” and “battle” as well. Don’t go into Grand Chase looking for something new, that is clearly not what KOG was aiming for.
Learning Curve: 8/10
There are so many systems at play in Grand Chase that it’s far from easy to enumerate them all. However, the game slowly introduces one after the other, easing the player into its intricate net. In a matter of minutes, you will be tapping away from one menu to the other without second thoughts. The UI is cleverly designed, although I wish that there was a way to go straight to your party menu from everywhere else.
Graphics / Sound: 8/10
Grand Chase looks suitably cute, in tune with the original PC game. This is anime alright, with cute characters featuring big, bold eyes and lavish hairstyles. The artwork is top notch and the character design during the battles is extra charming. The backgrounds are diverse but there is one thing that I must pinpoint, as I’m feeling picky: the characters don’t blend perfectly with the scenario, as the overlap is way too perceptible. The contrast is overly apparent between the colorful characters and the blurry, less vibrant backgrounds and the overall effect is somewhat strange. As I said, I’m being picky, but I think that something could be done to improve on this.
The soundtrack is extremely catchy and will probably take you through all the meaningful stages: from bobbing your head to heading over to the sound settings and turning the music all the way down. The main music goes from pleasant to grating in a matter of days, but there’s no denying that there are some nice tracks going on in Grand Chase. Expect a lot of “whoosh” and “pow” during combat, along with the occasional one-liner from a party member.
Value for Money: 8/10
If you want a mobile game that doesn’t push you straight into the cash shop, then you won’t do too badly with Grand Chase. You can play for days making good progress and without having to reach out to your wallet.
For all its undisputable addictiveness, Grand Chase ultimately falters due to its auto-battle temptation – this feels like a wasted opportunity as the simple yet effective combat system would suffice to turn it into an “actual game”. By surrendering to the general tendencies and trying to please an undemanding mass, Grand Chase fails to stand apart from the crowd.
As a hero collector game, it has everything and more that fans of the genre may be searching for. It’s a generous and quite frankly addictive game that at times feels a lot like busywork. However, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, anything that hasn’t been seen before in dozens of other games such as Phantomgate or Phantom Chaser. Diehard fans of the PC Grand Chase feel free to add an extra point to the overall score, for nostalgia sake; other players will eventually like it as well, but it won’t break any new ground.
• Fans of the original will like the story and characters
• Cute hero artwork
• Heaps of things to do
• No energy or stamina to hinder your progress
• A competent yet simple combat system…
• … But it’s almost irrelevant to your progress
• It’s a traditional hero collector game
• Gacha. Gacha everywhere