Indiewatch – Yes, Your Grace is a kingdom sim with a plot
Kingdom simulators are nothing new. From grand strategy games like Europa Universalis to tiny mobile titles like Reigns, players have been managing the economics and politics of medieval kingdoms for quite some time. However, there’s one thing these games tend to lack, and that’s a story. This is exactly what the newest kingdom sim from Brave At Night, Yes, Your Grace tries to fix.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s no narrative in other kingdom sims. It’s just that they are the basic player driven narrative. The player makes their own story, as France decides to invade Spain for some reason, or as your noble makes and breaks alliances. However, in the end this is all really just a math problem. You’ll pick whatever option makes your numbers go up, and the story sort of evolves around those actions.
Yes, Your Grace evolves in the opposite direction. You aren’t just a nameless king, you are a person, ruling the kingdom of Davern with few resources and only daughters to your name. Without an heir in sight, a crumbling castle, and an army bearing down on your borders, you are going to have to find some way to pull everything together and survive.
On the surface you will be juggling stats like most other kingdom sims. You have money, supplies, military strength, and morale to look after. On the surface, the general idea is that if you let any of these get too low, you lose.
Everything you do in Yes, Your Grace is a tug of war between these numbers. Want an army? Better have the gold to outfit them. Want to make your people happy? Well you can throw a feast but it will severely cut into the food stores for the winter.
And if Yes, Your Grace stopped here, we would have a carbon copy of pretty much every other kingdom sim on the market.
Where Yes, Your Grace excels, is in its plot, and it does so in an interesting way.
The math of Yes, Your Grace is set up to balance on the head of a needle. There is rarely a “correct” choice to make. Everything you do helps someone and harms someone else. You can’t just choose the option that makes the most numbers go up.
So if there isn’t a perfect mathematical answer to the quandaries presented to you, then what are you to do? Follow your morals!
You can promise your daughters’ hand in marriage to foreign dignitaries in order to forge alliances, but will that make them happy? Will it even help out your kingdom in the long run?
You can send out your agents to fight fairy tale creatures that are ravaging the countryside, but are these true beasts or just the ravings of a madman?
You can accept deals from moneylenders and traveling salesmen, but will they actually help you, or are they looking to pull a fast one and take advantage of you in your time of need?
You might think that the obvious option here is to never take any deal from anyone, just to play it safe, but that’s not really an option either. The task set before you, the task of readying yourself for war, is enormous. There is, quite literally, no way that you can amass enough troops and supplies through your actions alone. You HAVE to depend on others for your kingdom to survive. It’s who you depend on that fleshes out your story as king.
The biggest flaw about Yes, Your Grace is that it sometimes relies too much on its plot. This is something I’ll both praise and criticize Brave At Night for. There are LOTS of scripted events that don’t really change as you play through the game multiple times. In fact, you can tell that many events are pre-scripted on your first playthrough, and that kind of undercuts the general feeling of Yes, Your Grace as a game about tough choices.
While you can alter minor details about the plot by the decisions you make as king, the major story beats tend to play out in a predictable manner, and if you can predict what is going to happen, then the goal of ruling a kingdom according to your morals starts to fade into the background, in lieu of a greater mathematical puzzle. The thing is, Yes, Your Grace’s mathematical puzzle isn’t as compelling as the mathematical puzzle of other kingdom sims, so when it gets reduced to just that, the novelty wears off quickly. Heck, you even eventually figure out that there’s really not a whole lot of danger of failing for most of the game, which removes a lot of the plot’s teeth.
That being said, Yes, Your Grace did have me hooked for my first playthrough because I cared about the characters that it put in front of me. I cared about the king’s daughters. I cared about the peasants that were asking me for help, I cared about following each and every plotline through to the end, even if they do get side-tracked for the greater war plot as the game goes on.
Yes, Your Grace will take you about seven hours to beat, and honestly that’s good enough for me. It’s a budget title at $20 and while seven hours might not be enough for some of you, it’s certainly an interesting title for people who like a decent amount of genre twisting in their games. Frankly, I’d like to see more simulator games fool around with this idea of a more RPG style narrative, rather than hinging their entire narrative on emergent gameplay. Perhaps some developer will follow Brave At Night’s example here and give us the open ended story driven sim we are all looking for.