yes your grace

Yes, Your Grace Review

Bears, peasants, and what on earth is that smell

My youngest daughter Cedani has brought a bear into the throne room. It’s a small bear, admittedly. But it’s still, you know, a bear.

After my eldest daughter married the prince of a neighbouring land, taking the family cat with her, Cedani has been bringing various pets – or ‘agents’, as she calls them – back into the castle. I let her keep the snail. And the hedgehog. And the fox.

This is a bear, though, and it’s up to me whether she can keep it. 

Time waits for no king

Whatever I end up deciding, I’ll need to do it quick. The invading army is set to be here in seven weeks, and I still need to reinforce my castle gate. Oh, and convince the peasants from the surrounding villagers to come fight for me. Except the villagers need supplies to combat the recent drought. Supplies I need to feed my army. I’m in debt with a Florentine banker. I’m trying to gather Basilisk eggs to lift an ancient curse. I’ve sold all but one of the priceless paintings adorning my bedchamber wall. And suddenly, the bear might be the easiest choice I’m faced with.  

Yes, Your Grace is a four-hour story made up of these choices. It mixes social and economic management within a dramatic framework that reminded me as much of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Throne Room sections as it did of Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission. Two huge Bioware titles might seem like an odd comparison for a compact indie like Yes, Your Grace. But while I was expecting a compulsive sim from No More Robot’s labelmate Not Tonight – which Yes, Your Grace shares a lot of visual DNA with –  what surprised me was a dedication to telling a cohesive, deeply human story. The kingdom management backs up the narrative, here, rather than the story throwing freeform chaos at you to give you an excuse to balance grain shipments. 

Another one

I had a great time with it, although the choices do seem to play a big part here. Some of the smartest bits of design aren’t apparent until a second or third playthrough. While some story events telegraph themselves as a result of the choices you made, it can be difficult to know the first time through. My first playthrough went well enough, but after some ending slides let me know what could have happened, it’s apparent that Yes, Your Grace is going to be a tragic, and potentially unsatisfying story for some players. 

Still, even the potential for tragedy speaks to how much King Eryk’s family ended up mattering to me. Not Tonight, for all its refusal to pull punches, often fell into the trap of cynicism that unwavering dystopias so often do. Yes, Your Grace can often be harsh, but it believes too much in the power of forgiveness over conspicuous displays of authority, of love and acceptance over stifling tradition, to ever truly be called bleak. It balances dark and absurd comedy with tenderness in a way that constantly surprises and delights. Sure, it’s hard to parse exactly how much every choice, alliance, and number has on the outcome, but I can overlook my bards skimming a little off the top when they tell stories this entertaining. 

Just make sure you let Cedani keep the bear.

[Reviewed on PC]