Updated: Dec 31, 2019
She protec, She attac, she a snac
Games usually don't have a resurgence like GrandChase. Released in 2003 just four months after "MapleStory", GrandChase was a more anime centric version of MapleStory that blended modern 2D & 3D graphics while MapleStory was 2D pixel graphics. While MapleStory ended up going onto renowned success, GrandChase shuttered it's doors in 2015 with no indication of a possible return. Then, in February of 2016 a mobile game was announced by KOG with initial talk of it being free to play. After a test launch, GrandChase for mobile was finally release in January of 2018 in Japan.
"There are 11 modes that'll keep you busy, most of which are staples in the 'free to play' mobile model."
The story of GrandChase centers around Arme, a mage who runs afoul of the fire demon Belile. During their initial battle Arme is mysteriously transported to another dimension right before she is defeated. In this dimension she is found by a group of young adventurers, Kyle, the self-proclaimed "Sword Saint", & Cindy, an apprentice magician. After fighting through several slime monsters they take the unconscious Arme to their master, the androgynous, "Grandiel" (whom I thought was a woman until halfway through the story they referred to them as "He.") From there the adventure begins as through a near death experience our heroes are chased by demons while simultaneously fighting to stop the demons from executing a plan that will allow them to take over the world. The adventure spans several dimensions, each dimension ending in a "Raid" level that is harder and consists of several challenges within the levels. Completing the challenges allows you to progress to the next mini-stage or makes the level easier entirely (such as removing a boss's buffs.)
As far as the game itself though, it consists of the typical "pay to win" mechanics found in mobile games. Upon login you're bombarded with a splash page about the different packs/events going on. You're essentially able to dump money into the game to get all the best heroes & level them quickly. As usual everything centers around the "RNG God," every summon having about a 1-2% chance to acquire the best heroes in the game. The heroes themselves are vast & consist of many different types. For example you have Zero (a defensive tank that buffs his HP), Jin (an offensive tank whose special does major damage) and Asin (a buff/debuff tank that applies shields as well as attack buffs to allies while lowering enemy attack.) There's easily over 40 characters of all shapes & sizes to choose from with plans to add more. There are also pets which attack during combat & buff your heroes' stats. You can also craft equipment for your heroes as well as upgrade/evolve them to make them much stronger.
"PVP, especially guild wars are filled with whales which is the unfortunate side effect of a pay to win game."
There are 11 modes that'll keep you busy, most of which are staples in the "free to play" mobile model. You have your story missions, trial tower, PVP, Daily Defense, dimensional boss, hero's tower, wizard's labyrinth, world boss, dimensional chasm, dual raid, & claire bible. Some modes are your standard tower stages with just different rewards. Combat is fairly complex as your goal is to assemble a team of heroes that compliment one another in-order to achieve the best results. The game has a player rating system to make this easier as you can simply look at the list and reviews so you don't pick the worst heroes early on. One important aspect of the game is programming the auto skill usage. With this function you can manually set which skills are used and how often. This is crucial as with default settings the AI will constantly use healing skills which waste your skill points during combat. With so much complexity you'll see plenty of party makeups throughout the game which will have you switching your play-style often.
PVP, especially guild wars are filled with whales which is the unfortunate side effect of a pay to win game. You'll have entire guilds filled with level 100 SR Grade "Royal" heroes (the highest grade and best heroes in the game.) This leads to an unsatisfying experience as you're forced to "fight for scraps" of the weaker players and guilds. Matchmaking is also terrible. 70% of the time you'll be matched with someone at least 2-3 times your combat power & of course lose if you even attempt to fight them. It doesn't help that the attacker is limited to only 4 heroes while the defense has a total of 6 heroes that have to be eliminated. The developers seem to have realized this & made it so that you don't have to win the match by eliminating all enemies. You get a star for every two heroes you eliminate which leads to a rather hollow "victory" if you kill two enemy heroes then get completely wiped out. The developers also try to remedy this by offering numerous chances to earn SR rank heroes just by playing through the game. At this time I have 5 SR rank heroes after less than two weeks (3 heroes of which I was hoping to get since they are the best heroes in the game.) When it comes to leveling though, this is where money definitely comes into play as those with money are able to max out heroes exponentially faster.
Graphically the game is well drawn & animated. The levels are very basic & you can tell they copy/pasted the same designs in parts of each level. The developers have had 16 years to perfect the design of these characters & you can tell as none are uninspired. Although, some characters clearly are either "inspired by" a.k.a legally copied or eerily resemble from popular anime characters such as Kirito from Sword Art Online & Ippo from The Fighting Spirit of Ippo.
Overall, GrandChase is a solid game, but falls short due to pay to win mechanics. It's hard to recommend a game that you'll never win at unless you invest a ton of money. The combat is complex & refreshing for a mobile game while the many modes, items, etc. will keep you plenty busy. There is much to offer here, but again that's all brought down by the free to play model. If you stick around for holiday events the developers are really generous & give you numerous chances to somewhat even that playing field against the whales by giving away leveling materials, SR Heroes, etc. In the end, GrandChase is ambitious and perhaps one of the best strategy games on the android market.
4* out of 5 stars
(Asterisk for P2W games)
A character guide created by top players can be found at the link below for those players that don't want to make any errors in their progression:
Tips for newcomers:
1. Save your materials and coins for your first SR rank hero then max that character out (in PVP a level 80-100, 6 star SR hero with max gear can easily wipe out an entire party of lvl 20, 6 star SR heroes with decent gear.) Lower tier heroes upgraded to SR are nowhere near as strong as natural SR rank heroes & they don't get a "breakthrough" (an upgraded skill once a certain star rating is obtained.)
2. Pick and choose your PVP battles as you don't need to fight everyone. Matchmaking sucking at the moment? Go play an adventure then comeback & try matchmaking again to hopefully get a less powerful opponent
3. The current top heroes in the meta of the game are Ley (Damage), Elesis (Damage/Tank), Amy (Healer), Jin (Tank/Damage), Lass (Damage), Zero (Tank.) Just having one of these heroes significantly increases your odds in every activity... having two or three makes the game almost a cakewalk (aside from PVP/world boss/guild boss)
4. While players are free to do what they want, having a party consisting of the "holy trinity" (Tank, Damage Dealer, Healer) is great for survival & almost guarantees you a win in story mode. Other successful parties include 3 maxed out damage dealers & a healer such as (Lass, Elesis, Ley & Amy.)
5. Save your treasure chests & summons until you get 10 for better rewards