Decisions, Decisions

HIGH Huge emotional investment. Fat-free design.

LOW My witch’s fate.

WTF Some of the ‘sidequests’ are incredibly easy to miss.

It’s been a long time since I was as emotionally involved in a game as I was with Yes, Your Grace, and first-time developers Brave At Night certainly caught me by surprise. The story of King Eryk and his ruling family seemed like it was going to be as a simple 2D economic sim balancing money, food and the happiness of the populace – and it is – but it’s also much more.

While the player is tasked with granting or denying requests as supplies allow, what struck me is what a tight, compact experience it is, and how closely narrative elements are interwoven. Yes, Your Grace is all killer/no filler with a pace that barely leaves the player time to breathe, but in the best possible way.

Each week in Eryk’s kingdom is broken up into a few different duties. Primary is listening to requests from petitioners and deciding how to spend resources. If they’re available, emissaries can also be sent to nearby villages or kingdoms to recruit aid, collect tithes or solve disputes. When the work is done, Eryk can wander the castle and grounds to seek out members of his family and discuss personal matters.

As might be expected of a king, Yes, Your Grace ensures there’s always something that needs the player’s attention, and it all feels like high-value content and tense decision-making. There’s no grinding for gold, no random battles, and nothing that feels like a waste of time. YYG offers exactly what’s needed to be involved in the story and its events, and everything else is cut away.

This formula might not work if the content wasn’t so compelling, but I applaud the campaign for offering so many interesting, difficult choices.

Do I spare a few coins for the ill father who needs medicine? What happens to his family if I can’t spare the coin? Do I give some of my dwindling food stocks to a village that’s just suffered a fire? What will the neighboring village say if I don’t give them an equal share? When a farmer’s field can’t be irrigated, do I send some troops to help? What happens if enemies pick that moment to storm the castle?

It feels like there’s never enough money or supplies to go around, and it’s rare that a day would end with me feeling as though I had done the best possible job — someone always left disappointed, and I was frequently regretful that I had dispatched an aide to one town before hearing the request of the next person in line. The fact that I cared as much as I did? Marvelous.

The family affairs are just as well-done as the kingdom management. One of Eryk’s daughters has an obsession with animals. Is it better to discourage her interest or indulge her? His wife has been unable to produce a male heir. Is life fine the way it is, or is continuing the patriarchy paramount? The writing is keen and surprisingly open-minded, if the player chooses to steer it there.

Underneath the day-to-day affairs is a layer of content that has to do with the future of the kingdom. Choices often have far, far reaching consequences that have tremendous impacts beyond what Eryk (or the player) can predict. There’s also more subtle, small-scale content including interesting bonus objectives which are easy to miss if the player isn’t paying attention – a little poking around is definitely recommended.

While Yes, Your Grace is wonderful in nearly all aspects, it could use a bit of tightening up here and there. In some instances I felt as though the choice presented to me wasn’t quite specific enough – in one late game example, I needed to “distribute supplies” during a siege. How many I had and how many I was to give away was not clear, and would have affected the choice I made.

Another issue is in relation to the other lords of the land. Eryk has many neighbors, both friendly and not, and he can reach out to them to request an alliance, query them for information, or to ask their opinions on relevant matters. It’s busy and tense in YYG’s first half, and I was desperate for more time. However, there’s not much use for the lords in the second half of the campaign — there were many weeks when I had no reason to contact them. It seemed like a missed opportunity to include a bit more content.

Those small complaints don’t dull the luster of Yes, Your Grace, though. The writing is strong, the choices all feel important, engagement in both the short and long term is strong, and the overall design is brilliant – it’s a masterclass in elegance since it does exactly what it needs to do and lasts exactly as long as it needs to last, and there isn’t an ounce of fat on its bones. I can’t wait to see what Brave At Night comes up with next.  

Rating: 9 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Brave At Night and published by No More Robots. It is currently available on PC, Switch and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game has been rated T by the ESRB for Use of Tobacco, Blood and Violence. It has written depictions of executions including burning at the stake, and being killed by monsters. Prostitution, drug use and drunkenness are all mentioned, though they happen offscreen. There are some pixel art depictions of blood and violence. Considering some of the themes I might even see it as a mild M, but there you go.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the entire game on mute and had no gameplay difficulties. All dialogue is subtitled and there are no necessary audio cues. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. The controls function in a point-and-click style. The left stick is used to select options and move Eryk on a 2D plane, and the face buttons confirm/cancel.

Brad Gallaway
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