Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is a tactical RPG from Polish developer Pixelated Milk with a strong focus on humour. After releasing successfully for PC, Mac, and Linux last year and receiving a generally strong reception, the game is about to hit PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch with another Polish studio, Crunching Koalas, creating this console version, dubbed the Royal Edition. The conversion to consoles has some issues, particularly with respect to the control scheme and UI, but there is lots of enjoyment to be attained.
Regalia s very quick at making it clear that humour is the main hook for this experience. The game sees players taking on the role of Kay of House Loren, who travels to the ruined capital city of a former empire, which he has learned is his birthright. Once he arrives, with his two sisters and bodyguard in tow, he also discovers that his inheritance is accompanied by an incredibly large debt, and Kay is left with no choice other than to try and restore the fallen kingdom. Fortunately(?), while rummaging through the ruins Kay decides to drink some rather ashy tea, resulting in the ghostly appearance of his ancestor. The spirit Loren decides to assist the siblings in restoring the realm, and more importantly paying off the inherited debt. During Kay's endeavours, which involve adventuring in the various areas surrounding the capital, using the funds attained to add and upgrade new buildings, he picks up various new allies and slowly works towards building a profitable — or at least non-defaulting — kingdom.
The actual overarching story isn't deep, but Regalia looks to make up for this with some excellent character interactions. There is a nicely varied cast from the outset and its personalities are given ample opportunities to shine in the game, and though it is a bit reference-heavy at time, the comedy works very well. Things are helped massively by some top-notch voice acting that really helps sell the humour and characters. Not all of dialogue is voice acted, but it's there for all the scenes of medium-and-above importance and they certainly wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable without it. The only complaint about the voice acting is that, due to the encounter design that often features just a couple of different enemy types, enemy battle cries will be repeated incessantly during combat.
Each chapter sees Kay need to accomplish a certain goal within two in-game months, though the first few chapters at least are fairly easy and straightforward, with the primary task being completing five Kingdom Quests such as upgrading buildings, completing dungeons, or raising relationship levels. Days are used up in many different ways: spending time with a character (in order to upgrade their relationship and gain the bonuses that follow), adventuring in dungeons and other areas (travelling a space to said dungeon and every event or battle will each use up a day), adding or upgrading a building (thus adding more crafting or buying options), and of course fishing (which can reward players with useful items). Adventuring is where the meat of the gameplay is, with each dungeon is divided into a series of encounters that may consist of combat, an event, or a rest area.
As mentioned above, Regalia offers some kingdom building aspects, though these are basic and simply a matter of collecting enough loot from enemies to afford to build and upgrade buildings, with a few diplomatic missives thrown in that really just provide some different passive bonuses rather than seeming to have any meaningful impact on the kingdom. Instead, the most interesting areas of choice come in the choose your own adventure style events that take place on the world map and in dungeons. These events are not only often well and entertainly written, but provide some good variation in routes and their conclusions, which can lead to loot or other bonuses, relationship changes, combat, or indeed nothing at all — the last one generally the result of the player deciding to run away from whatever suspicious well or other other scene they come across. Certain events will form part of longer quest lines. The adventure sections are arguably the most interesting parts of the game, particularly when they are woven into interactions with other characters.
Combat is turn-based using a standard tactical grid. Elevation and direction of attack are not involved, but there are still plenty of tactical considerations to be made. Health cannot be restored in battle — health restores fully for surviving members, while those that fall can be revived post-battle a single time (for the whole party) each dungeon — but there is a separate restorable shield total, so players will be wise to spend time building up character's shields before they get into too much trouble. Turn-order is determined by individual initiative ratings across all combatants. Characters can move a certain distance, and can do so before or after attacking, or even both. So, for example, a character with a movement range of five, could move three space, attack, and then move spaces more after the attack. Players also receive a command point every turn that be used to give a character an extra action or stored up for special attacks.
Some may find the standard balance and pace a bit plodding, which is a trait shared by almost every tactical RPG, but the game thankfully allows those playing on the standard difficulty to hugely alter the balance — such as multipliers for how much damage allies or enemies do, or turning off the possibility of player attacks missing or being dodged — to their will, while those just playing for the story actually have the option to skip any battles they want. Coupled with a good variety of abilities between characters, and options for applying bonuses through passive skills and accessories, the result is a system that appears straightforward and can be utilised as such, but has plenty of depth lying under the surface for those who want to fully dive in.
The biggest problem with the combat system is how the UI, and particularly the font size, translates poorly to many console setups. It's clearly been designed for those using a monitor first and foremost, and sitting too far away makes it almost impossible to see attack results and HP totals, as well as various descriptions. This issue crops up in various other places as well, but the combat is where it is most pronounced. The translation from keyboard-and-mouse controls to a gamepad also creates a bit of frustration. Selecting attacks and skills through a combination of the right trigger and left analog is often awkward, while other controls make it very easy to accidentally select an option that was unintended. The most egregious control issue at the time of writing, however, comes in the save function; in the load/save menu on PS4 the X button is always load and bizarrely does not involve a confirmation prompt, making it far too easy to accidentally load an old save when players are intending on overwriting it. Another source of obfuscation comes with the line of sight. Most attacks need to have line of sight, but sometimes the line of sight rules on diagonals do not appear to be consistent.
On the whole the visuals are strong, though certain maps will feature environments that can get in the way of the camera, which can only pan and does not rotate, and there isn't as much variation in enemies as some may like. The model animations and character portraits are great, while the colourful palette does a great job adding lots of character to the world. The music is also a strong point, with upbeat high-quality themes matching nicely with the bright visuals.
Regalia certainly has its issues, but has so far proven that the rest of the game is strong enough to overcome them. It has been steadily growing on me as the game gets into its stride and the unusual controls have started to become embedded in my mind, aided by consistently strong writing. It's certainly one that many RPGamers will find worth checking out. If the developers are able to mitigate some of the issues post-launch, and Regalia keeps up its great character interactions and writing, then a strong final recommendation isn't far off.