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Yes, Your Grace Review

Yes, Your Grace (YYG) opens onto the rainy scene of a large castle on the backdrop of a beautiful, melancholy song. Already, it’s off to a running start. Pixel art is definitely overused these days, but in its opening scenes YYG effectively uses it to evoke a little King’s Quest nostalgia while adding character and story through details in the environment. The atmosphere is tense and dark as the king and protagonist Eryk climbs the ramparts and prepares his men for a grand battle with a grim speech. The archers prepare to fire, and the title appears. From the intro sequence alone, you can tell that Yes, Your Grace is no normal kingdom simulator.

In fact, it’s more of a novel than a simulator.

YYG has some moments of truly moving dialogue, and the story is carefully crafted. King Eryk is just trying to do his best as a king to his people, a husband, and a father to three girls. If you have a heart, you will laugh at the family’s tender moments and cry at their tragedies.

And there are plenty of tragedies. See, YYG is actually pretty grim – too grim, in my opinion, but we’ll get to that later. For now, suffice it to say Eryk’s kingdom isn’t all that profitable or powerful. That means he’s constantly trying to figure out how to make ends meet while mustering enough soldiers and allies to protect everyone around him. On top of that, his family members are all women, and YYG doesn’t hold back when it comes to the harsh realities facing women in the middle ages.

On one hand, this goes in some very interesting directions, since the game is set up with all the superstitions of an actual medieval society like monsters, witches, and demons. It leaves you unsure if magic really exists in this world or not (I’m still not sure), and that question in turn influences a great deal of your decisions. One of the agents at your disposal is a witch, after all.

On the other hand, it can all get a bit preachy. I appreciate that there are difficult decisions to make regarding your female family members, but the epilogue of the game especially rubs your face in it. “Why did you do that thing in Act 3?” the story asks you, offended that you would make such choices when it knows very well the game pressured you into it. It would have been fine if the game had let the choices speak for themselves (because I can make myself feel guilty, thank you very much), but that isn’t the only reason. The wider feeling of the game has to do with the problem of choice.

You never feel like you have a choice.

The reason this feels more like a novel (not necessarily a bad thing) than a kingdom sim is because you never really feel in control. Your kingdom is chronically low on resources, and that has everything to do with the tension and pacing of the plot and its main conflict. But the choice to go this direction means I have no desire to go back and play it again, because I don’t feel like my choices would make all that much difference.

Sure, I can guess at the possible outcomes from the epilogue, and choices definitely do exist in the game, but the endings feel cosmetic rather than a result of the player pursuing goals. No matter what, your kingdom will be poor and defenseless. For the first part of the game, this is effective at building imminent dread as time runs out, but once that becomes the norm, it actually makes the stakes feel meaningless. You begin to realize your actions will have little effect because you’ll always make it through by the skin of your teeth and everything will be depressing. Because that’s what the plot demands. In other words, YYG doesn’t handle failure very well because you’re always about to fail yet you rarely actually do (it stops the flow of the game, so it’s kept to a minimum by design).

And when it comes down to it, your choices all seem binary – you can either do a good thing at a cost, or you can do a bad thing. Some choices come back into play later, but most storylines kind of fizzle out after a single choice. Then, you just feel like you’re gaming not to lose what little resources you have rather than exploring story arcs. But even that is a little unsatisfying because, as I said before, you can’t really do that much to increase your gold and supplies.

Still, this game boasts beautiful aesthetics.

YYG has weaker mechanics and plot, but the writing, music, artwork, and voice acting are enthralling. While the overall structure of the game didn’t really pay off for me in the end, I couldn’t put this game down. The characters are all so well defined and interact with each other so naturally that you can fully immerse yourself into their lives. The royal family has amazing chemistry together, and they’re all adorable – how could you not just want the best for them?

And here’s a sentence I thought I’d never say: This visual novel has amazing voice acting – even though the actors never speak a word. Instead, they all use gibberish sounds to add tone and emotion to the lines of text, and it’s brilliantly effective. At times, Eryk’s nonsense grunts are hilarious, other times tender, and yet other times inspiring.

The play time is about right too, allowing me to binge this touching-yet-grim story in a reasonable two sittings. Any more than that, and it would have grown tedious.

So overall, Yes, Your Grace is approachable and charming if a little depressing. It’s a solid game and an even more solid story experience that reaches the heights of what an indie game should be. But there’s also a bit of wasted potential here.


The Verdict: Great

Yes, Your Grace is an enchanting story about a struggling King and his beloved family, backed by solid artwork, music, and voice acting. The relationships especially grab the player with their bare sincerity and touching moments. Unfortunately, it works better as a story experience than a game, weighted down by mechanics that are chained to a grim plot with unconvincing stakes.

See About Us to learn how we score

Nicholas Barkdull
Written by
Wednesday, 18 March 2020 03:00
Published in Strategy



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Nic is a writer and narrative designer with a PhD in Social Research and Cultural Studies. He thinks real time strategy games are still a valid form of e-sport, that true RPGs should be turn-based (with huge casts of characters), and that AAA games have a long way to go before they earn back our trust. He is the Lead Writer for Pathea Games's My Time at Sandrock, and his work can be seen in Playboy, South China Morning Post, The Daily Beast, and many other places.

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