Contemporary media tends to romanticize the medieval era. Perhaps it’s the relationship with a fantasy setting, but don’t let the quests for glory, kegs of mead or reasonably priced brothels fool you into thinking that the Middle Ages wasn’t a dreadful time. Unless born into royalty, people lived an impoverished life of sickness, starvation and the constant threat of invasion. While Yes, Your Grace casts you as the privileged King Eryck of Grevno, it’s also a kingdom management simulator with grit - replacing sex, bloodshed, and dragons with politics, fatherhood, and annoying peasants asking for favors.
Yes, Your Grace begins on the brink of war. Grevnonian Archers line the castle walls, arrows knocked, ready to take aim. I do my best to rally the troops, Braveheart style. “Brothers! Today we fight for our Kingdom!” What follows is a rather frail attempt at a battle cry. The camera pans upward to show the vast opposing army, before fading to black. I’m sent back exactly one year and have 52 weeks to find out why Grevno is at war and how I’m supposed to come out of it victorious.
A resourceful king
Building an army is the primary goal of Yes, Your Grace. King Eryck’s army is small, so it’s a good idea to invite neighboring lords to your castle, form an allegiance and combine military forces. There’s little time to focus on such pressing matters, however. As king, your day is spent listening to everyone’s problems - from royal subjects to lowly peasants. They do not seek your advice or verbal support; these problems can only be solved through gold, food, or the help of your aides. You must help your subjects (no matter how frivolous their problems) to maintain the contentment of your people.
It quickly becomes clear that King Eryck’s pockets are not deep. Grevno’s subjects are polite enough to form orderly queues, but this makes prioritizing who to help difficult. You have no idea whether the peasant at the back of the line is in more trouble than the one at the front. While it’s possible to talk to your subjects in any order, your resources will rarely stretch to help all of them. You must learn to spot liars and swindlers, and hope that there are enough resources to give to those that really need it.
Yes, Your Grace teaches you to share 99% of your wealth, saving the 1% simply to avoid bankruptcy. Ignore your people’s problems and they turn against you and refuse to pay taxes, leaving you with no income. I found Yes, Your Grace’s lesson to be the most important: you cannot help everyone. Sacrifices must be made, whether it’s money, food, or relationships. Where Yes, Your Grace really tests you is the latter.
There are equal moving parts to Eryck’s personal life. He must keep his three daughters in check while trying to conceive a male heir to the throne. He must explain to his eldest daughter, Lorsulia, why she’s marrying Prince Irvo of Atana, a boy she’s never met. He must convince himself it's to save her from a worse fate and not because Atana’s King promises an army of 1000 men if the marriage goes ahead.
90% of Yes, Your Grace is a resource-based balancing act. Yet it’s in the moments spent with your family, away from the politics, where the game’s writing is at its strongest. It’s here where your duties as a father conflict with your duties as a king and you must choose which is more important.
The crown only grows heavier in the weeks after the royal wedding. A bigger army means more mouths to feed. The castle walls need renovating and you should store food away for the inevitable war. All the while, the line of peasants lengthens. It becomes harder to salvage enough resources to help them. Truth be told, it becomes harder to care. When the third peasant of the day tells me her chickens have been eaten by a fox, all I really want to do is comfort my wife as she grieves over Lorsulia’s departure to Atana.
Don't envy the king
The first half of Yes, Your Grace rests an appropriate amount of weight on Eryck’s kingly shoulders - his subject’s problems narrowly outweigh his kingdom’s resources. As the game wears on, a vicious cycle develops. My inability to help people causes contentment to drop and I receive less income from taxes. With money and resources depleted, I must stop feeding my army and its numbers dwindle. I can barely keep the kingdom afloat financially, let alone prepare for battle.
I must also pay my three aides - a General, a Witch, and a Hunter - but they at least offer the best solution to my subject’s problems. Their time is precious, helping fight bandits, cure strange illnesses or slay monsters. The same issue arises throughout each day, however, as often two or more peasants request the help of the same aide. I can offer gold or supplies instead, but that was rarely an option. In the final weeks, I couldn’t help anyone; a miserable king sat on the throne of a resentful kingdom.
It doesn’t help that Grevno’s peasants are extremely fickle. The insignificance of their problems doesn’t stop them from tarnishing my reputation if I refuse to help. These peasants will spread word of your selfishness even when they’re in the wrong: one beggar asked me for gold to help him organize a search party to look for his lost son. A suspicious request, I questioned him further and found he was secretly trying to find lost treasure in the woods. Naturally, I refused to help, but my reputation still suffered.
For the most part, Yes, Your Grace effectively treads the line between unforgiving and impossible. However, I felt it overstepped the mark a couple of times near the game’s end. Perhaps that is the point - a means to emphasize these desperate times - but there’s very little to ease that sense of helplessness. The bank lends you money and food providing you pay it back (with interest) but the option to recruit additional aides seemed like an obvious solution. So I’m not sure why you’re limited to just one of each throughout the game.
The king is dad, long live the king
There were several times I questioned whether I could go on like this - a king without enough food for his people, that must ask peasants to join his army. Yet the fact that I scraped through the final battle with a mere handful of soldiers left standing felt like the proper outcome. Yes, Your Grace is not a kingdom management simulator where you horde money and supplies, turning your kingdom into an empire. It’s a game where you make the most of what’s available and, at times, simply hope for the best.
After completing my first playthrough, I was sure that another crack at the whip could create a better Grevno. There’s also replayability to Yes, Your Grace from its branching narrative, the end credits highlighting the impact of your choices. At the end of my second playthrough, however, not much had changed - my finances barely improved and I still pissed off around half of my subjects. The treasury took out several loans and people fled the kingdom due to a lack of wartime supplies. None of that mattered, though, because I was better able to tackle the trials of fatherhood and keep my family safe.
Yes, Your Grace emphasizes the mundane aspects of ruling a kingdom with excellent wit. If I was a peasant (a distinction I’m far closer to than being of royalty) I’d probably hate King Eryck, too. But I don’t, because Yes, Your Grace stuffs plenty of warm and human moments in its story to remind you that kings are just people, like you and me. And when I become king, I’ll take a loving family over mountains of gold, every time.
TechRaptor reviewed Yes, Your Grace on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Strong Writing Creates Distinct Characters
- Swathes of Peasant Problems Give Your Decisions Weight
- Varied Choices Encourage Multiple Playthroughs
- Losing Your Reputation is Much Easier than Gaining it
- No Option to Recruit Additional Royal Aides