Yes, Your Grace

After Pathfinder, I found myself in the mood for a lighter strategy game. Something that isn’t easy to find in a genre typically valued for its complexity. A friend, noticing my plight, recommended Yes, Your Grace. Wouldn’t you know it, this was exactly what I was looking for.

The game casts you in the role of Eryk, King of Davern. It’s a quaint kingdom situated near the mountains, surrounded by friendly nations and much natural splendor. Life is prosperous and quiet, until one day an ominous letter arrives. Barbarians from across the mountains are on their way, determined to conquer Davern.

As Eryk attempts to rally allies to his cause, things go from bad to worse very quickly. Relations are soured, promises withdrawn, and Eryk is soon left begging anyone and everyone for troops to spare. Or, rather, that’s you controlling Eryk.

Most of the strategy comes from resource management. You need gold to pay for things and food to feed your army with. Much of this comes from taxation, but people will be a lot less keen to pay their taxes if they’re pissed off at you. This is where weekly counsel session comes in. Each “round” of Yes, Your Grace has you deal with a queue of people, usually peasants and the like, who come to you with all sorts of requests. You have to decide how to deal with this, which gets complicated fast.

You usually get some choices here, like sending a peasant off with some money or food to fix their problem with or having one of your agents help out. However, money might be scarce and agents can only do 1 job at a time. You literally might not be able to help people out, but don’t expect those commoners to understand. They’ll grumble about it to all their friends, contentment goes down, and tax collection becomes that little bit harder with each disappointed petitioner. You can probably see how this might spiral out of control.

On top of that you also need to invest in upgrades to prepare for the invasion and complete quests to recruit other lords to your cause. It’s a lot to manage with a very slim income. Making this even harder is that you can’t always trust people on face value. Some petitioners may be trying to scam you or lead you into a trap. Characters might backstab you unexpectedly, change their minds about helping you for purely selfish bullshit. They know that you’re desperate and are eager to exploit it.

You do have to let yourself be immersed in the story for all this to work. When you get down to it, Yes, Your Grace is just a game where you make dialogue choices for 2 minutes and then skip to the next week. There’s little active to do besides making extra conversation with your family members. Fortunately, the story is pretty dang good.

Besides being king, Eryk is also a family man. He is happily married and has 3 adorable daughters, all of whom he dotes on. All of these characters are endearing, which gives you something real to want to protect. Something to fight for.

However, being a dad is difficult, especially when there are teenagers involved. Lorsulia is starting to feel too old for her dad’s affection and Asalia has just hit on a rebellious phase. Then there is little Cedani, who is a bit too playful. It can get exasperating to have to sort out arguments or have your kids interrupt court, on top of trying to save the entire kingdom.

Your family is also what a lot of the game’s drama revolves around. Eryk and his queen are desperate for a son to inherit the kingdom, but both are beginning to get on in age. And as Davern finds itself desperate for allies, your daughters quickly become the target of princely affections. Whereas in a game like Crusader Kings such choices are easy, here it feels so much more impactful. It means breaking up your family, having to explain to your kids why their sister isn’t coming back home anymore, and watch the impact of that change ripple on for weeks after. It genuinely feels like shit, but you may not have the luxury of refusing.

I also have to praise the game’s artistic direction. Pixelart and indie games are near-synonymous, but it’s a fine look that Yes, Your Grace utilizes well. The environments are nice and atmospheric, and characters have lots of varied designs. Dialogue is spoken in comedic gibberish, which has a unique pitch for each character. I know some people can’t bear listening to that, but I thought it was really cute. Then again, I grew up with Banjo-Kazooie.

What really blew me away, however, was the game’s music. Folksy instruments mix with Polish singing, which comes together brilliantly. It captures a great medieval feel that many other fantasy games could stand to take pointers from. I was particularly fond of Cedani’s theme. She is already an adorable character, but her theme song, Koleda, is so overpowering. I cracked up whenever Cedani stormed into my court with her squeaky-sounding voice, and then Koleda started blasting at twice the volume of the normal music.

Despite all these fine qualities, Yes, Your Grace does have its shortcomings. The few battles you get to command feel too pre-scripted, without much freedom to act and obvious hints as to which action to pick next. The second half of the game also feels rushed, as you have fewer objectives to work towards and most weeks consist of rounding off busywork. The game’s UI is also not the most intuitive and some of your “choices” are pretty fake, which will be more obvious upon replaying the game.

While these may become apparent in retrospect, they didn’t bother me while playing. Yes, Your Grace does a great job at selling you on the stakes and putting you in Eryk’s mindset as you desperately try to stay out of the red. When those battles finally came, it was the culmination of weeks of preparation for me. A live-or-die battle for everything Eryk stood for. It was so intense, I didn’t even think about how it was formatted until days later.

That’s the magic of this game. It tells an amazing story with lovable characters, and its simple gameplay loop succeeds at immersing you into that story. If you haven’t played it yet, then I urge you to pick it up. To me, this is a must play indie title.

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