Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is Polish studio Pixelated Milk’s homage to classic Japanese RPGs. Judging by its massive success on Kickstarter, there’s definitely a demand for that. But will Regalia have anything to offer to players outside their target audience? Judging by the beta, the answer is a resounding yes.
The game makes no attempt at hiding its influences. The most obvious: Final Fantasy Tactics. Combat in Regalia is strategic, turn-based and comparatively slow. Taking place on a grid, fights require careful consideration of enemy location and natural features. Because each character in the player’s party has different special abilities and attacks, positioning is extra important, whether that be moving in a melee combatant to attack a group of enemies or picking off foes one by one.
Additionally, line-of-sight rules apply; if a character’s view is blocked by a rock, a bale of hay or even a fellow party member, they won’t be able to cast spells or use ranged weapons. This is especially crucial with magician characters, who are best utilized from a distance. Regalia does offer a few twists on tried-and-true combat formulas. The main example is the separation of hit points into two categories: Health and Shields. Health is obvious; run out of that, and your character is down for the count. The tricky bit here is that it can’t be recovered during a fight, whereas Shields can.
Once I got a handle on that concept – which essentially meant using the game’s main character to generate additional Shield points for the rest instead of making his own attacks – fights quickly went from frustrating to fun. Apart from the Final Fantasy Tactics approach to fighting, Regalia introduces a number of other elements from JRPGs both classic and contemporary. Most obviously, there’s a social system inspired by the Persona series. As the game introduces new characters, spending time with them builds social connections, leading to new ability unlocks and other potential bonuses.
The home village offers similar unlocks and bonuses. Adding new buildings – using resources found in combat and dungeon exploration – or upgrading existing ones provides new skills and in some cases is necessary to increase social links with other characters. Other features include crafting and diplomacy systems. And if that weren’t enough, there’s also a fishing mini-game, though it doesn’t really amount to much beyond rapid-fire mouse-clicking. Regalia aptly pays tribute to a number of mechanics – both combat-focused and otherwise – from JRPG favorites, but it’s the feel of the game that makes it such an engaging experience.
Apart from the polished anime-inspired graphics and an excellent soundtrack from Game Audio Factory (best known for their work on Endless Legend and Endless Space), Regalia manages that rare feat of being a comedic fantasy that’s actually funny. I don’t typically enjoy fantasy comedy, but the humor here comes from characters rather than throwaway gags. While the characters themselves are fairly stereotypical – the reluctant young king, the perky younger sister, the snobby older sister, etc. – the dialogue and voice acting elevates them from tired tropes to legitimately empathetic individuals.
Even the more over-the-top moments, like Monty Python references or a blacksmith character with a tiny tutu-wearing dog, hold back just enough to keep things charming rather than exhausting. It also helps that the storyline is comparatively prosaic: instead of the usual “chosen one destined to save the world,” Regalia focuses on a young royal family attempting to rebuild their decaying kingdom and pay back their family debts. Regalia is in beta, and the developers are still working diligently to fix a few final bugs, but based on what they’ve accomplished so far, this could be one of the best indie RPGs of the year.