MMORTS, Anime, Isekai, and Mechas | Full Review - Grand Cross: Age of Titans

Grand Cross: Age of Titans is a newly released video game that blends elements of anime-style aesthetics, storytelling, city-building strategy, and intense troop battles. It was globally released for iOS, Android, and PC last August 1. Developed by Netmarble, the same studio behind the renowned RPG game Seven Deadly Sins: Grand Cross, even though they both Grand Cross in their names, the games are not connected storywise
🟩Pros +Interesting story and unique meta-commentary of the self-aware main character +Refreshing blend of anime and city-building +Detailed presentation +Simple and easy to understand gameplay and mechanics +Supports multi-languages 🟥Cons -There might be too much dialogue, cutscenes, and tutorial -Requires a lot of real-world waiting -Heavy pay to win mechanics
Set in the fantastical world of Skyna, Grand Cross: Age of Titans centers around the characters Mio and Eugene. Mio is an idol on the cusp of her debut, and Eugene is a video game genius who realizes the game's virtual nature immediately after being summoned. The duo is unexpectedly sent to Skyna, a kingdom under threat from invading forces of Chaos. With Princess Destina by their side, Mio and Eugene become unlikely saviors, leading various types of troops in their quest to retake territories lost to the forces of Chaos.
The game boasts an anime art style that is pleasing to the eyes and vibrantly designed. The anime artstyle contributes to a captivating atmosphere that draws players into the game's interesting narrative.  The story is quite engaging, the presentation features well thought out still-panel cutscenes and dialogues.
Notably, these dialogues are fully voiced in three languages: English, Japanese, and Korean. However, the cutscenes and dialogues might be too much for people who just want to play the game, and the main character is even self-aware of this element. Fortunately they are mostly skippable, with even a slight summary of what is to be skipped.
Grand Cross: Age of Titans introduces an intriguing twist to the Isekai formula by blending it with city-building MMORTS gameplay. The game starts off feeling like a RPG gacha game, with all the isekai, anime, and waifu elements you’d normally see in a RPG game, but in actuality it is a city-builder strategy game extremely similar to Rise of Kingdoms, with the option to venture out in the MMORTS-esque overworld map, explore, mine resources, attack monsters, and team-up or clash against other cities.
The main hero is self-aware that he is in a video game, and explains the mechanics himself to the player, this contrasts with the supporting character who, in turn, remains clueless about the in-game world and mirrors the player’s cluelessness, creating a refreshing departure from the conventional approach and providing some unique meta-commentary aspects. The tutorial takes a lot of time explaining all the mechanics, it can take around 30 minutes for the basic explanation, and more hours to explain the deeper mechanics, especially when the wait for upgrade becomes longer.
The city-building aspect of Grand Cross: Age of Titans is the main component of the gameplay. Buildings must be constructed and upgraded, and the waiting is in real-time. This waiting period which will take from mere seconds during early game to even hours and days in late game, can be expedited using boosts, particularly through in-app purchases. Structures will feature branching prerequisites with one another, ultimately leading to the Main Castle level which serves as the central component of the city-building mechanics. 
The potential impact of wait times on players who choose different paths—free-to-play versus boosting through in-game mechanisms—is worth considering, although in my experience in the early parts of the game, players are given plenty of boosts to jumpstart and skip many waiting times of upgrades, the issue arises when the game is played competitively, as to which the glaring issues about the pay to win aspect will be evident against players who opted to spend lots of money.
In addition to the single player story chapters, territory expansion, and open-world exploration, Grand Cross: Age of Titans also offers multiplayer modes. Modes such as Castle War, Server vs. Server War, and Territory Expansion allows guild-esque alliances and intense, large-scale battles across the open-world map.
Titans, massive battle units resembling mechas, introduces a strategic dynamic that can turn the tide of battles. These Titans possess the ability to navigate any terrain and unleash devastating damage, making them pivotal assets in conflicts.
The streamlined mechanics and simplified resource management contribute to accessibility without sacrificing strategic depth. Players manage three resources — of which you are given an abundant amount in the early game and via tasks like missions — plus a single premium currency, making it easier for newcomers to grasp the economy. The transition between battles, world exploration, and city building is seamless and enriches the overall experience, even offering players the ability to turn down the visuals for the overworld, if things get too crowded and resource intensive.
However, the game is still in dire need of more quality of life features. For example, every single building upgrade or troop recruit that you do aren’t automatically completed, you still need to click to confirm for each and every one of them, making the process a bit tedious when you’re trying to do multiple tasks consecutively and simultaneously.
And of course, there is an inclusion of gacha mechanics, in the form of acquiring hero characters capable of leading armies. Heroes can undergo upgrades by enhancing their level, star level, talents, and skills. Levels serve as the foundational statistic for upgrades. Moreover, the star level can be upgraded as the hero's level reaches a specific threshold. With this rating increase, heroes unlock new skills and gain the ability to select additional talents from the talent tree. The armies these heroes can lead encompass an array of troop types, encompassing infantry, archers, cavalry, and siege weapons, and can be recruited through various buildings in the players’ city.
Grand Cross: Age of Titans presents an engaging blend of anime-inspired artistry, strategic city-building, Titan units, and MMORTS aspects. Its self-aware narrative, brought to life through comic book-style cutscenes and dialogues, offers a fresh take on the isekai genre. While its streamlined mechanics and accessible resource management cater to a broader audience, it's not without flaws, as the storytelling might be slightly overdone for those focused solely on gameplay, and the P2W aspects heavily affects the balancing of the game against F2P players. Ultimately, its success lies in captivating both anime enthusiasts and strategy gamers, crafting an experience that strikes a balance between a refreshing anime-inspired narrative and traditional MMORTS gameplay, as long as you don’t mind its pay to win aspects.
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