Yes, Your Grace Review19 Mar 2020 0
Yes, Your Grace Review
Released 06 Mar 2020
I didn't like Yes, Your Grace - the indie, kingdom management game by developer Brave At Night - to begin with. But as time passed I found myself warming and then enjoying the experience as the narrative developed. This is a difficult game to review because it feels like a visual novel or ‘choose your own adventure’, masquerading as a videogame. A hodgepodge of game mechanics used to try and pad-out the game’s raison d'être, its narrative. Sure, it does have some strategy game elements within its gameplay loop, but it’s not an overtly strategic experience. So, what is it? Ultimately, Yes, Your Grace boils down to a resource management game with some minor RPG, adventure and strategy game elements tacked on. And yet, despite its seemingly incoherent mishmash of systems, there’s an enjoyable experience to be had playing through the game.
The game’s opening scene is set a few months into the future and shows your castle under attack. You start the game however, a few months prior, giving you a limited number of turns to prepare for the oncoming siege. The narrative becomes an exploration of branching events that ultimately lead to this climactic battle. Resources are scarce, there’s an impending catastrophe, hard choices to be made and limited time to prepare. It’s a set of circumstances that has been used to great effect in games such as Frostpunk and it works here too; building a sense of tension each passing turn.
The core gameplay mechanic has you sitting in your throne room, summoning (one by one), a queue of petitioners to hear their grievances. They are peasants, wandering merchants, bandits and bankers. Your response to their complaints, offers and dilemmas, impacts one of four resources (gold, supplies, soldiers or kingdom happiness). These issues are binary in nature and every choice you make has a trade-off. Do you give a peasant money to build an inn and earn some extra gold each turn? If you don’t the overall happiness of the kingdom will fall. But do you have the gold to spare with so many other issues pulling you in multiple directions?
The problem is that the issues presented by the petitioners rarely feel important. In fact, the petitioner’s problems feel down-right arbitrary. This is in stark contrast to Frostpunk which made me agonise over each decision the game threw at me. I never really cared about the choices I was making in Yes, Your Grace. It was a question of, ‘how does this affect my resource bottom line’, rather than an ethical or emotional dilemma. That’s because these events exist solely to make you lose gold, supplies, morale or the services of your general, court hunter or witch. Frankly, the medieval characters delivering the petitions, have more personality than the problems they present; with each character sporting unique pixelated sprites and voice acted lines of sim-lish.
With that said, there were a few petitions brought forward that bucked this fire-and-forget trend. Some of the choices made will impact how the game plays out, how characters respond to you and how they live their life; for example, Stefan the village drunk. Some characters return to your court, in future turns, to thank you or tell you how your indifference ruined their life. Seeing the consequences of your choices was much more evocative than a changing resource stat. Thankfully, the choices you need to make as part of the game’s main narrative are much more fleshed out, engaging and have far wider consequences to the way in which the story unfolds.
Once you have seen your petitioners, you stand up from your throne and walk to the edge of the screen. This brings up the castle map. From here, the game plays out like a ‘point and click’ adventure. You click on various locations around the castle, interacting with family members and other key characters. There are some minor items to pick up and the odd puzzle to solve. But frankly, I found this aspect of each turn tedious. It felt as though this part of the game was an attempt to connect the player with the castle by making it feel important or alive. As if you were a Stark of Winterfell managing your castle, speaking with people and overseeing its operation. However, outside of the amazing pixel art which makes up the various locations, there was little to do mechanically. I felt this was a missed opportunity.
With that said, it did help flesh out the characters that constitute the king’s family and as the storyline progressed, it made decisions involving the King’s wife and daughters more emotionally weighted. Therein lies the problem I had with Yes, Your Grace; the game is at its best when it simply sticks to telling its story. The ‘point and click’ castle mechanics and the various minigames it pulls from multiple genres are hit and miss, some work, some don’t, because they are not fleshed out.
Despite its flaws, the central gameplay loop of speaking with petitioners and the various lords, ladies, merchants and special characters in your throne room, has enough ‘meat on the bones’, to keep you playing. But you are doing so to find the next lead in an investigation, or to secure an alliance and gather more soldiers to your cause before the final siege.
There is enough here to warrant two, maybe three playthroughs to try out different story combinations, siding with different characters and seeing how the results play out. But Yes, Your Grace is not a long game. A playthrough takes around 7 to 9 hours to complete. It’s also worth mentioning that some of the major plot hooks cannot be changed, regardless of the choices you make, so there is a certain amount of railroading to the main narrative. However, there are a few different endings and outcomes for characters to keep things interesting, for a while.
Music and sound are fantastic, the game is stable and the graphics are gorgeous. Your character’s castle and its surrounding red walls give off a Kremlin vibe. Indeed, the game seems to be drawing on Eastern European/Slavic themes. The writing was good, characters are memorable, and it seems the designers are fans of A Game of Thrones (your daughters Lorsulia and Asalia have striking similarities to Sansa and Arya Stark). So, is it worth $19.99 USD?
Despite the negative aspects described, there is something genuinely fun about playing Yes, Your Grace. It’s perfect for some casual, beer and pretzels gaming. But you are playing for the narrative not the gameplay mechanics. You will get at least two playthroughs out of the game, which amounts to approximately 10 to 20 hours of gameplay (the playtime on various Steam reviews seems to confirm this). If this was in a Humble Bundle or on sale, I would think you would be happy with your purchase. At full price, I would probably feel as though I could have spent my money on something better. With that said, the game feels like a labour of love, not some lazy cash grab. Just don’t expect particularly deep gameplay.