"With amusing characters, a relatable story, solid combat, fantastic music and voice acting, and meaningful choices, [Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs] is definitely worth checking out."
Back in July 2015, Pixelated Milk more than doubled their Kickstarter goal for Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs (R:oMM), hitting $90,245 and all their stretch goals. Not bad for an unknown company creating a video game for the first time. Though beta backers got their first taste of the game in 2016, R:oMM is finally available to all on Steam. As a strategy RPG fan myself, I was excited to see what the hype was about.
At the beginning, you meet Kay of House Loren, his two sisters (Elaine and Gwendolyn) and his loyal servant (Griffith). Based on Kay's father's dying words, the four of them have arrived at Ascalia to claim his father's long deserted estate but find only neglected grounds and a debt collector keen on acquiring the rest of his dues. Saddled with the debts of his unknown ancestors, Kay reluctantly sets out to rebuild the estate and House Loren's' jurisdiction of the Rashytil Expanse. While Elaine and Gwendolyn busy themselves with re-establishing connections and digging into family history, Kay and Griffith work on acquiring new subjects to lord over and allies to fight alongside.
Unlike most RPGs, which tend to build up a force of evil and a final boss to end all bosses, R:oMM focuses on the day-to-day life of gathering and rebuilding. The main campaign occurs within two years of game time and your progress is measured every three months in order to proceed. Fortunately, the game has multiple avenues for completing quests, such as clearing dungeons, building relationships, crafting, and more. Up to eight characters can be recruited to join Kay in battle and up to seven characters can be recruited to improve the town's stores and amenities. Though the characters are quite the ragtag bunch of misfits, they each have a unique story and benefit to offer Kay. When exploring dungeons, you may only take four characters in addition to Kay, but since they all level equally even if you didn't take them with you, it's easy to play around to find the team that best fits your playstyle and the dungeons.
In town, you can upgrade and/or construct buildings, buy items, fish, or interact with characters. Time runs on a seven-day week, and each day certain characters are available at certain locations to build their relationship with Kay. The game has a built-in calendar that tells you each character's schedule so that you can plan their interactions. When you interact with characters, your dialog options determine how much your relationship points increase. There are five levels of relationships Kay can have with each character and as they level up, you gain a deeper understanding of their background and desires and can unlock higher level items for purchase or crafting. Dungeons also have many non-combat interactions that, depending on your choices, can increase or decrease your relationship with some characters.
In battle, each character has four main abilities and an ultimate ability. All abilities have a cooldown timer but are not driven by a separate resource, such as mana. Each round, the team acquires an Action Point, which can be used to activate a second ability during a character's turn or saved up to activate an ultimate ability. Since combat is turn based, players can anticipate what they will need and even allow the next friendly or unfriendly unit to act before a character of their choice. Not only can you choose to move before or after using an ability, you can also use consumables, which can be found, crafted, or bought. Line of sight plays a big deal in all combat and most battlefields come with obstacles that block it, thus requiring some fine positioning and finessing. On top of combat, players need to keep in mind the challenges for the battle; there is always one main objective that determines what ends the fight, and two minor challenges that provide additional items and bonuses when met. Major objectives run the gamut from total enemy annihilation to surviving for a fixed amount of turns, while some of the minor challenges are thought-provoking and prohibitive, such as "Win without moving at all" and "Win with a single deployed character." Although I wish I would've known sooner that I could hit F3 or F4 to speed up the battles—a fact which came up in a random screen loading tooltip late in my play through—I had a lot of fun with the combat and some of the final dungeons definitely required some careful planning and execution.
When equipping characters, you can give them one weapon and up to two trinkets, which isn't much. However, whenever a character levels up, they also receive customization points that can be put towards improving their abilities and/or gaining additional stats, such as extra shield points or increased damage. Altogether, this doesn't amount to a lot of customization as I gave my characters more or less the same additional stats, and considering the amount of available characters, it's easier to just pick a team that works. Another downside to dungeoneering is that you must always take Kay with you instead of a better character, and by mid game I had stopped using him in most situations. I also thought that the diplomacy aspect was tacked on—aside from being able to recruit two of four characters based on your affiliation, I did not find it impactful. On the flip side, at one point in the game is a mandatory negotiation quest that can be resolved four different ways, and it's a shame that this mechanic wasn't revisited at a later point—it was definitely one of the highlights of the game for me.
Graphically, the game looks pleasant with the hand-drawn two-dimensional backgrounds and three-dimensional models. The characters are clearly anime-inspired without being gaudy and I like how the different locations in town morph as you upgrade buildings. The changing battlefields are aesthetically pleasing and clearly reflect the area of the Rashytil Expanse the team is exploring. One of Pixelated Milk's stretch goals was to get enough to orchestrate the entire music score, and it has really paid off. Composed by Game Audio Factory of Endless fame, the melodies are charming and catchy—I even caught myself humming one while attending to real life. As an indie game, the music in R:oMM caught me off guard with its quality. Another successful stretch goal was for voice acting and it does not disappoint. Though I thought the voice acting was a little cringey at the beginning, as the game and characters grew on me, I really enjoyed listening to the actors flesh out the various personalities.
While there is much to like about R:oMM, I also encountered some minor grievances that hindered my experience. For one, loading time between scenes always took a while and it was necessary for literally any scene change, which meant that if I was in the estate and wanted to go to the inn, I had to sit through a loading screen from the estate to the overall map and another loading screen from the overall map to the inn. A handful of typos are littered throughout the game, though considering the amount of text that occurs, it's almost forgivable. Due to the myriad of available actions, I found the user interface and menus quite confusing and unintuitive. The beginning of the game is quite an information dump and not all actions are cleanly documented somewhere for reference, so I ended up having to look up how to do certain things in the game as time went by. Lastly, I had issues with the save files in the game. Perhaps I may have saved more fastidiously than most and ran out of supposedly unlimited save slots, but at some point, my new save files would not save unless I went back and deleted some prior ones. As a result, I ended up having to replay a significant amount of the game when my saves didn't stick. Controls are also a little sluggish, particularly when navigating around town and talking to people—sometimes it takes Kay way too long to walk across a map from his spawn point to talk to someone. Even talking to someone can be a little arduous as the click detection isn't great when Kay is already standing next to them. During battles, however, the controls are solid. Overall, none of these deterred me from completing the game and enjoying myself while doing it, but the experience could have still been better.
I had a blast playing Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs despite some of its shortcomings. With amusing characters, a relatable story, solid combat, fantastic music and voice acting, and meaningful choices, it's definitely worth checking out. I look forward to seeing Pixelated Milk's next project!
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.