By Josh Speer / May 2nd, 2018
|Title||Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs – Royal Edition|
|Release Date||April 12th, 2018|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, XBox One|
|Age Rating||T for Teen – Fantasy Violence, Language|
The Author backed this project on Kickstarter for $25.
As you can see, I backed Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs a few years back. I was happy to do so, since I could tell the team at Pixelated Milk was passionate about tactical RPGs. That passion showed in their regular meaty content updates even after the project was funded. Unlike many Kickstarters I’ve funded, the team never went totally radio silent and seemed to enjoy interacting with their fans. Which is all well and good, but the question when you play any game isn’t just who made it, it’s how well it was made. So when I received my Nintendo Switch copy of the game, which not only made Regalia portable but also incorporated all future DLC, I was stoked to try it out. Little did I realize how grueling of an adventure Regalia: Royal Edition would turn out to be.
Before I get ahead of myself, I should discuss what’s unique about the game. The devs set out to make a tactical RPG that eschewed the familiar tropes of the genre and tried something new. There’s no ultimate evil to defeat, no apocalyptic cataclysm to survive, nothing like that. Instead, your goal in the game is to help settle the debt accrued by Kay Loren’s ancestors and to help manage the castle and lands you inherited. In many ways, Regalia is like a slice of life RPG. What that means in execution is that this is a very playful and comedic game. It features diverse and downright strange characters, ranging from Theo, a vampire who wants to be a hair stylist, Grenn, a deadly assassin, Levant, an animated suit of armor, Signy, a wild and savage woman and many more. The only downside of this approach is the plot is somewhat flat emotionally, rarely ascending above the mildly comical. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s good to keep in mind.
The game plays out over the course of two years in game time. That debt I mentioned earlier isn’t going to clear itself out, and the dastardly banker Mr. Crucey keeps you motivated by demanding monthly tasks you must satisfy, otherwise it’s game over. But that doesn’t mean you have no say in the matter. One of the cooler approaches in the game is that you choose which tasks to complete each month from a wide variety of choices. So long as you reach the set amount finished in time, you’ll progress. Don’t like fighting? You can craft X amount of items to satisfy a task. Or perhaps you like fishing mini-games? That can satisfy another. If you’re a social butterfly, you can increase your bonds with your teammates and subjects. I especially liked how increasing your friendship unlocked Skill Morphs to switch up attacks and other passive modifiers.
Point being, there are a lot of ways to meet your monthly goals, at least in theory. This open ended structure is only hindered by having enough resources. See, many of the tasks I mentioned earlier depend on upgrading the dwellings of various citizens. This costs a resource called DLC, which I only could find in dungeons. DLC is also used for crafting items and many other necessary tasks. So while you are able to roughly steer your own fate, you’ll never be able to completely avoid combat. Which is both a blessing and a curse.
I’ve played many tactical RPGs in my time, but this is the first one I ever lost during the introductory combat tutorial. The reason for this was that the first combat tutorial doesn’t clearly tell you how to initiate an attack. Instead, I had to figure it out by watching a video online. Usually you can easily select from static menus by clicking buttons, but here you awkwardly need to hold the ZR shoulder button to bring up the attack interface, select your attack with the left Joy-Con, let go of ZR and then target the enemy in range. If you let go of ZR too soon, the menu disappears, forcing you to try again. It’s also very easy to select one attack only to have another end up occurring if your Joy-Con shifts at all. Another way the game innovates is that you can move and attack in any order, so long as you have enough movement points. I like that approach, but more often than not it benefits the enemies instead of you. I won’t lie, these quirks were frustrating to me early on, but once I figured out how the controls worked, I started to enjoy myself.
One of the most unique things about combat is that there is no healing in Regalia: Royal Edition. None whatsoever. You’re probably wondering how you keep from dying, and the simple answer is Shields. These prevent your foes from touching your HP, unless they have an attack that inflicts Pure damage, which ignores Shields entirely. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked this, since it means there’s not the usual safety net of using healing potions and revival spells. But like most things in the game, I learned to enjoy it after suffering through it for a while. I quickly learned the importance of strategy, smart placement of my characters, and not sending them into the fray un-Shielded. More surprising is that there is no individual levels for characters. Instead, your whole party shares the same experience level, and increasing it boosts your stats and unlocks more space to equip passive Perks. Another nice thing about battles are the Authority Points. You accumulate one every turn, and by spending 2, any of your characters can use their most powerful attack. These range wildly, some inflicting Pure damage that can’t be evaded, others hitting a wide area with multiple attacks, some even distributing status ailments to every foe on screen. There’s a good give and take to the battle system, and the basic structure is refreshing and fun. There’s only one thing that seriously drags it down – the Line of Sight.
In theory, Line of Sight makes sense. You can’t hit what you can’t see, right? Well, the problem is that it’s never really clear why some attacks will and won’t connect. Though you can hold down one Joy-Con to highlight items which block your Line of Sight, more than once I was blocked inexplicably by nothing in particular. Unfortunately, you can’t turn off the LoS, and it will become irritating to you on particularly crowded levels. You aren’t able to cast fireballs on foes directly in front of you if your ally is in between you, for example. I’ve also had a clear LoS blocked by one tiny boulder, which prevented me from doing a teleportation attack. Further aggravating things is the lack of balance in combat. Don’t get me wrong, some battles are perfectly fine, but there are just as many that are a complete hassle. I’ll give a couple of more relevant examples. In the Kitten Knoll stage, you have to beat all the foes on the map in 7 turns. That sounds reasonable. Except that there are several winged cat foes called Mau Nu. They can generate vipers anywhere on the map whose bite will poison and slow you. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by dozens of snake bites as the foes who fired them at you hide in the corners to run out the clock. Perhaps the worst example is the battle against the Visage of Anguish. This foe can’t be blinded, silenced or poisoned, and can hit an area with an attack called Death Knell, which makes it so that taking any damage instantly kills you. As if that wasn’t enough, the Visage also summons allies every other turn, and can kill his own allies to max out his shields at crazy levels (usually around 4000+, keeping in mind that getting over 1000+ shields is a challenge). If more of my units could deal Pure damage, this wouldn’t be as hard, but only Griffith could, and only with sufficient Authority Points, which means surviving long enough.
Aesthetically, I really enjoy Regalia: Royal Edition. The hand drawn character portraits are beautiful, and the 3D environments have a rich watercolor vibrancy to them. I’m less fond of the 3D models. They are passable, other than seemingly lacking eyeballs, which gives me a weird Uncanny Valley sensation. That said, every character looks totally unique and has their own distinct style, which I appreciate. The music in the game is also laid back and delightfully mellow. Despite not having a wide variety of tunes, what’s here works pretty well. Where the sound design shines is the voice acting. Other than the occasional mispronounced word or inexplicably unvoiced dialogue, the VA is quite good, at least for main characters. The VA for NPCs is almost purposefully terrible, like side characters out of a Monty Python sketch, but that has its own charm.
At this point, you’re probably thinking Regalia sounds pretty good, despite some frustrating quirks. And I wish I could stop the review here, since I would prefer to only laud praise on a game I helped fund. However, I make a point of being honest, even if it’s brutal. So the next part of the review will focus on the weakest point of the game – the numerous things the game got wrong, despite the developer’s best attempts.
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