All too often in the world of role-playing games, a title’s story is heavily rigged towards the high stakes. Players are told within minutes that the end of the world is at hand, and that only they – and sometimes their hardy group of allies – will be able to save it. It’s fair to say that being the Chosen One has become more than a little tiresome for plenty of gamers
Thankfully, Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs eschews this with a much more low-key narrative. In this tactical RPG from developer Pixelated Milk, the protagonist may fit the archetype of the reluctant hero, but the initial story arc is much less daunting. Although the themes of the game do revolve around rebuilding a fallen kingdom, the player’s first involvement in the plot is instead focused on self-reward.
The hero of Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs has discovered that he is the long-forgotten heir to the throne of a kingdom. The game begins with the hero setting off to this land, only to find that the kingdom itself is in something of a state of disrepair. With the debt of the previous rulers thrust onto the player, they are forced to fulfill two objectives: make enough money to pay off the debt and return the kingdom to its former glory.
This may sound familiar to fans of the RPG genre, as reinvigorating an area or a castle has formed a subplot in plenty of games, like the critically-acclaimed Pillars of Eternity. However, Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs‘ pure focus on this as a selfish goal does make it feel unique, or at the very least a crack in the door of the crypt that is fantasy role-playing storytelling.
It’s certainly helped by the title’s humorous nature, which is closer in tone to the Fable series than some of its RPG peers, and Regalia is more than willing to take a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of RPGs in general. Whether it be comedic loading screen messages or send-ups of the noble hero of other fantasy stories, with one such example being the overly formal straight man Griffith, Regalia manages to get its tone spot on most of the time. Given how hit-and-miss humor can be in video games, this definitely falls in the game’s favor.
In general, Regalia works very well from a narrative standpoint. The game is a funny, light-hearted fantasy romp, complete with all the trimmings that gamers would expect from an RPG of this nature, while the main cast of characters has enough warmth to keep players occupied and attached to favorite party members. Even the voice acting comes across well, albeit a little on the cheesy side, meaning that even the most relaxed of conversations between two characters is enough to set a scene well for the player.
Unfortunately, the gameplay itself does not have as deft of a touch, and it’s fair to say that Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs feels much more formulaic in this regard. Those who have played a turn-based, tactical RPG before will know exactly how the game’s combat works, from the grid-based maps through to the different combat types of the various characters and enemies. Fans of the Fire Emblem series or Final Fantasy Tactics, for instance, would definitely be able to pick up and play Regalia without going through the game’s somewhat lengthy tutorial.
It’s worth noting that the tactical combat that makes up the game’s quests does not offer up much of a challenge for those familiar with tactical RPGs either. Those looking for something similar in difficulty to the XCOM games, for example, will find the title favors a more casual crowd. However, Regalia would work very well as a beginner’s guide to tactical RPGs, and given it’s lovingly-crafted parodies of other fantasy tropes it would serve a purpose for those familiar with RPGs in general looking to get into this subgenre.
That said, a little more ingenuity in combat would have been appreciated, along with more flexibility in where and when the game can be saved. Regalia relies on specific locations where players can save the game, which does not gel particularly well with the overall tone and can be a little frustrating at times.
Where Regalia‘s gameplay succeed is where it keeps things simple. Rather than long, drawn-out battles and dungeons, the title keeps a very steady pace. Each of the game’s areas consists of a few combat maps, along with text-based adventure-esque moments where players can avoid a fight by choosing the right options in a difficult scenario. It feels almost like The Banner Saga in these moments, albeit in a much more piecemeal manner. But this breakup of missions works quite well, making Regalia a relaxing title to sit down and play.
Indeed, Regalia is at its best jumping between these different play modes, never allowing the player to focus for too long on combat, plot, or basebuilding and instead offering up a buffet of different gameplay styles. In doing so, the title becomes quite addictive to play, where resource gathering through fun dungeon adventures can build up to developing more of the city of Ascalia.
Also helping to push Regalia along are the Kingdom Quests. Separate from the main quest lines, players are given a specific number of smaller missions to complete, be it clearing out areas of the kingdom or building either new places or stronger relationships with characters. With a time limit to complete these quests, it feels vaguely similar to the timed missions from the original Fallout, albeit with much less pressure.
As matters progress the stakes do get a little higher, with the player taking a greater role in the overall politics of the land, but in general the title works best when allowing players to go at their own pace without delving too deep too readily. After all, between the cartoonish characters and the vibrant art style, it’s at small-scale comedy and light gameplay where Regalia really excels.
All in all, Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs stands well on its own two feet. From a technical standpoint, the tactical combat sections could do with a little more originality, and perhaps a better balance between gameplay modes. Overall, though, the game succeeds at what it aims to achieve, and gamers after a chilled-out tactical RPG with bags of character are bound to enjoy it.
Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is out now for PC. Game Rant was provided with a PC code for the purposes of this review.