Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs Review
Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is a curious beast. Kickstarted and developed by Polish studio Pixelated Milk, their website makes no attempt to hide that this turn-based tactical RPG is heavily inspired by the likes of popular Japanese RPGs such as the Persona and Disgaea series.
In some part, this works in favor of the game, allowing for players to engage in dialogue-heavy interactions with companions or participate in some truly exciting battles. However, it feels as though Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs hasn’t quite figured out what made these games enjoyable, or even staples to their respective genres, in the first place.
The game opens up with Kay as the heir to the kingdom of Ascalia, a city long since abandoned due to a war that had previously swept over the continent. Alongside your sisters and a loyal retainer, you strive to re-establish this city to its former glory. However, much to Kay and his companion’s surprise, a tax collector demands that he meet certain prerequisites every given number of days. If these conditions aren’t met, Kay’s story as the accidental and inexperienced ruler of Ascalia is over, and the player is met with a game over.
The plot and characters are rife with quintessential JRPG tropes, and the game at times tries to make light of this with meta-breaking dialogue. Unfortunately, this works against the characters and the narrative to some degree. What could be perceived as fun and trope-y dialogue feels overwritten. It is very clear that Regalia doesn’t aim to take itself seriously and walks the path of a lighthearted narrative with humor, and references to other popular franchises, at every turn.
This wore on me about twenty hours in, as characters felt underdeveloped at the expense of following some of these ‘key’ JRPG tropes at every given turn. I would have liked to see Regalia’s narrative flesh itself out in other ways, allowing for more character growth and more meaningful interaction between Kay and his companions outside of everyone filling a set role.
Speaking of companions several allies are met along this journey, filling out the roster of playable characters to twelve. Each individual has their own branching path in which you can opt to spend time with them, unlocking special abilities the more your friendship grows with these colorfully illustrated characters. This in itself is incredibly Persona-esque, as a stronger bond results in a stronger character. A calendar system is included with this feature, certain characters having specific days off in which you can talk to them.
This does not limit itself to your party but also the NPCs that run the numerous businesses and locals of your kingdom. Talking to the Haksun the merchant, for example, will widen his inventory as your friendship with him grows. Interactions like this are not necessarily vital for progression on Regalia’s normal difficulty, but will make things much easier as more items will become available for you to use and potentially turn the tide of battle or upgrade areas within your kingdom.
Upgrading buildings are required in order to progress friendships with NPC characters, so I spent a lot of time grinding materials through combat in order to upgrade my town and all of the buildings within to make the most of these character bonds.
As far as Regalia’s kingdom building components go, it’s not incredibly in-depth by any means. Through Castle Loren, which serves as your player hub, you can construct or upgrade buildings within Ascalia. This becomes available once you finish a lengthy tutorial that introduces you to combat and a few key components of the story.
Upon selecting the Town Construction option you’ll be brought back to the town map where you can select which buildings you want to upgrade or build. Those are really the only two options and limit any customization of where buildings go or how you would want them to look. In itself, the feature is pretty barren and just serves as a way to house more NPCs that will eventually move to and help re-populate Ascalia with their presence. I was fairly disappointed in this since it was my major draw to Regalia, but it serves its purpose well enough.
Outside of reconstructing and upgrading Ascalia players can also venture to the lands beyond. This makes use of the calendar and combat aspects of the game. Upon selecting an area to venture forth to a displayed number of days will pass and players will have a limited amount of time to explore whatever dungeon they’ve selected on the vibrant map that displays the lands just outside of your kingdom.
Once inside the dungeon, the paths are fairly linear with a few deviations here and there. You will always be given a central starting point, either a combat tile or an event tile. Event tiles allow for players to go through a text-heavy description of a scenario in which they can pick what they feel are the best answers to proceed. These were fun enough, but after hours upon hours of dungeon grinding the minuscule stories or events just felt like a way to stretch my play time without teaching me anything about the world.
Combat tiles throw you into battle, and here is where Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs draws inspiration from the Disgaea series. Combat is essentially very much the same to most tactical JRPGs. The arena is tiled off into squares where characters can be moved around the battlefield like on a chessboard. Attacks and other special abilities are selected by holding down a button and moving to them on a radial menu.
At any time players can undo movement, but not actions, on the arena. Battlefields are beautifully illustrated and the renders on the field are animated and colored exceptionally well. However, while the combat is generally very engrossing and very fun, the controls are frustrating. Selecting attacks on the radial menu are finicky at best and sometimes I found myself re-selecting attacks or restorative abilities five or six times before they stuck. This made me loathe going into combat, if only because I knew I would need to repeat this process again and again until the battle was over or a prerequisite to ending the fight was met.
Another unfortunate drawback to Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is the incredibly obtrusive user interface. Players are met with walls of text whenever a new mechanic is introduced and the game itself even jokes that it keeps throwing wall after wall at you. While this might be funny to some players, I was incredibly aggravated by this. Tutorials weren’t broken down into easy to read, digestible pieces of information but were instead cluttered on the screen with their text size shrunk down to fit whatever speech bubble they needed to.
This also follows a similar route with character dialogue. When interacting with some of my party members paragraphs of text were shrunk to fit a single text box instead of opting for the player to press any button to proceed with another window. It’s small things like this that build up into numerous problems with Regalia, impending what could otherwise be a really great game and homage to titles like Disgaea and the Persona series.
Outside of this, my only gripe was the sound mixing with some character dialogue. At times it felt like the voice actors were speaking a little too close to the mic and their voices were muffled. After the tutorial, I went into the audio menu and fiddled around to suit my preference. Their performances, however, were enjoyable and they added a unique color and flavor to each unique personality in Ascalia.
I found my time with Regalia to be mostly enjoyable, despite some glaring issues that presented themselves to me in what felt like an oversight on the developer’s part. However, knowing this game was kickstarted, it’s an impressive title that gave me hours of enjoyment and things to do. If you’re looking for a game that rings similar to the titles Regalia has drawn inspiration from, or are looking for a hammy homage to the JRPG Regalia might just be for you.