It is always nice to see crowd-funded project see the light of day. Many Kickstarter video games are stuck in “Beta” limbo, or perhaps never even got official releases despite getting the funding the developers needed. It’s a tricky business, and those who decide to finance these games always need to be careful and ask themselves: is it worth it? Well those who funded Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs should be patting themselves on the back, because it is exactly the game the devs set out to make, and has now made its console debut.
In Regalia, the story is fairly simple. You aren’t saving the world from some evil wizard, or even rescuing Princesses from towers. The unlikely hero you control is Kay of House Loren, and his goal is to restore his desolate kingdom to glory. See, his ancestors made some poor financial decisions, and Kay has unfortunately inherited a tremendous debt upon returning to his kingdom of Ascalia. It’s a refreshing, low key tale in the midst of a genre that is anything but. The bad guys are literally debt collectors, albeit evil-looking ones, and Kay is just a dude thrust into a world he really wanted nothing of.
While the plot itself is simple, it is largely driven by its many colourful characters. You start with just Kay, his two sisters, and his glorified bodyguard, only to slowly but surely meet more and more denizens of the world as you go along. The cast is where Regalia’s charm lies; each character is voice acted to perfection, and for the most part are just plain hilarious. The game’s comedic angle to a kingdom in peril works and stays light-hearted throughout. I found myself laughing out loud during one of the game’s many cut scenes, and starting to really enjoy some of the characters even from just one encounter.
The gameplay owes a lot to JRPGs of old and recent memory, the recent being Persona 5. Each chapter is set up with a time limit within which you are to complete certain tasks, if you don’t, then its game over. For the most part, these tasks are just completing a certain amount of “Kingdom Quests,” which are just various things you can accomplish around Ascalia, from bonding which characters, fishing for items, to completing dungeons with your party. It plays a lot like the Persona series, where you are kept to a time limit to complete similar tasks, and when preparing for fights you delegate each day to what you’d like to do, who you’d like to spend it with, etc.
Kingdom-building is Regalia at its best. The writing of the characters is nothing short of amazing, and I was excited to meet each new denizen of Ascalia as the game progressed. It is certainly goofy humour, one cut scene is even a loose parody of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but it is all done tastefully, and the jokes almost always land instead of coming off as corny. Bonding with the different characters between dungeon crawling was enlightening to not only learn about the characters but the lore of the world as well. Every little tidbit of info you learn from dialogue is added to a lore codex which only fleshes the world out more. The one issue I have with the bonding in the game is that there are no romance options. It feels like a missed opportunity, especially if you had the choice to choose a queen to help you build your kingdom.
As strong as the kingdom-building elements of Regalia are, it stumbles a bit in the combat section. Combat is tactical RPG style, think Final Fantasy Tactics. It is done well enough but has a huge learning curve, where the game almost assumes that you have played a tactical RPG before. I found myself losing squad members as early as the tutorial, but once I got the hang of how combat worked it got a little easier. It also starts out fairly simple but grows and you gain more and more party members.
However, it isn’t as customizable as some tactical RPGs are; party members can only use one type of weapon, the same skills they start with, and they are all able to choose the same perks as everybody else. How much you want them to evolve all depends on your bond with them outside of combat, but even then just unlocks perks to make some abilities more viable. I found myself never using some characters as I had already found a solid squad with those who had been with me for a while, and with each battle increasingly difficult it became hard to warrant using characters I wasn’t familiar with. There is a sort of practice mode that you can obtain around halfway through the game called “Grimoire” that is essentially just endless combat scenarios, but you can only gain materials to change your characters costumes, which don’t add anything to combat whatsoever.
While combat is sometimes mind-numbing, the dungeons themselves are great fun. They are set up as nodes that each hold a different event, and thankfully not every node is a combat scenario. The real fun comes from the nodes that play as old-school text RPGs, where you read a situation and choose from options on how to approach. Each of these events is unique and is told through the game’s comedic lens, and some lead to some truly fun side-quests that give you trinkets and funds to help you in your quest. If it wasn’t for these nodes, the dungeons would be a total chore to get through, especially because they are so necessary to complete your Kingdom Quests for that chapter.
All in all, Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is a solid entry into the indie RPG scene. For $25 the amount of content is more than worth it, especially if you’re in the mood for something more light-hearted than usual. At its best it feels reminiscent of some of the fun, carefree adventures of jRPGs of old; at its worst, it is bogged down by difficult combat. For the most part, the good outweighs the bad. The writing is fantastic, the characters draw you in, and the world is more fleshed out than some AAA games. It is an adventure worth taking; I mean the first cutscene involves Kay drinking his grandfather’s ashes, and what other RPG is going to give you a party member with the class “Dark Hairdresser”? Regalia is just plain fun, and worth the try even if you’re just a little bit interested.