by Nathan Rowland
previewed on PC
Long live the king
The burden of the crown is a subject of great interest that has inspired centuries of artistic expression. One need only look back to Shakespeare’s historical plays covering the reigns of the kings and queens of England’s middle-ages, to Netflix’s contemporary blockbuster series, The Crown, to uncover a palpable interest for institutional monarchies and their inner workings, however dramatized they may be. Yes, Your Grace, a game which seats you upon the throne of Davern, seeks to continue this trend, depicting the machinations and intrigue which accrues in the life of royalty
principally, the role and responsibilities of governance.
Day to day duties involve tending to kingdom’s petitioners, whether that includes investigating bandits attacks on local villages, funding weddings for the poor, placating the sick, or contending with the many opportunistic capitalists who wish to separate you from your coin. Yet, much like The Crown, familial issues serve to complicate the many tasks at hand. The game's narrative focuses around a crisis that occurs when the king's daughter Lorsulia begins to act awry. Through exposition, we learn that Lorsulia is upset at the prospect of being wedded off to a stranger and having to leave home now that she has come of age. This is made all the more complicated by the revelation that decades prior, the king and queen had promised a barbarian their first unborn child's hand in marriage. A cliché hook, but one which is nevertheless serviceable to get the plot rolling.
As King, players must contend with managing four essential resources in order to properly govern their state: gold, crops, armed forces and contentment. Each requires a fine balance on expenditure as the stocks of gold and crops slowly recuperated through each week’s taxation, whereas the army and satisfaction of the populace are managed through the numerous decisions the crown must adjudicate. Additionally, the king has command of special henchman to send out on expeditionary missions in lieu of such resources (though during the beta, only generals are available). Each and every decision feels weighted with implications for the entire kingdom. Yes, Your Grace is very effective in conveying that sense of responsibility in its presentation and writing. Contentment in the populace will quickly drop should you be too stingy with your resources in response to the pleas of your people. Yet, spending it frivolously on worthless endeavors or false reports can be just as dangerous.
This takes up the bulk of Yes, Your Grace’s gameplay, ruminating on the results of your choices whilst also dealing with the immediate issues that come to your court. During the course of the game, some decisions reveal themselves to be far more vexing and insidious than others. Take for example a slurred-speaking peasant, hiccuping as he asks you for some coin to buy “new boots” versus villagers who report a series of illnesses spreading within a local village that seems to have no immediate effect. The drunkard can immediately be tossed from the kingdom without a second thought, yet the outcome of denying the villagers any aid is yet to bear any repercussions. However, the looming danger of next week’s events in response to your actions is a constant source of interest.
Luckily, some faithful companions stand by your side: Audry, a royal advisor and your wife, Aurelea, who through their responses, act as both guides and moral compasses to the decisions you have to make. They provide a small comfort in the immense responsibility that rests on your shoulders, and that is the concept that this game appears to be great at conveying — power and the burdens that lie therein. One might make the comparison to Lucas Pope’s excellent Paper’s Please, deciding the fate of the common man with vast implications hid beneath their austere 8-bit style.
My kingdom for a horse!
After culminating in a wonderfully bizarre wedding, the game quite suddenly ends and thanks you for your time playing, a tantalising prelude to what might occur in Yes, Your Grace's full build. With war looming on the horizon, I yearn to see how its developers will expand the consequences of my previous actions. Will my allies feel spurned by my brusque responses in previous conversations? Will my forces be adequate to repel any gutsy invaders? Or will the walls come crumbling around me? I honestly don’t know, but I’m eager to find out when the game releases in Spring this year.