Kickstarter campaigns are often a mixed bag of good and bad. Some games reach the pinnacle of success (like Pillars of Eternity) while others fizzle out before they have even been made, or they fail to deliver on what they promised and fall into gaming infamy. Regalia: of Men and Monarchs is one of the more successful games on Kickstarter, having raised over two times its original $40,000 budget, with a whopping $90,245 and surpassing all of the stretch goals they had set to create.
Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is a Tactical Strategy RPG inspired by Disgaea and the Persona series of RPG’s. You take on the role of Kay, whose father passes away which leaves the kingdom in his hands. This seems like a pretty great deal until he discovers that his father’s kingdom is vastly in debt and its subjects are suffering the consequences. It is up to Kay and his siblings (as well as a motley crew of people you meet on your adventure) to restore the kingdom to its former glory. The developers of Regalia, Pixelated Milk have stated many times that they created Regalia from the ground up in order to create a Tactical RPG that they would want to play.
They obviously drew inspiration from some of the best in the industry, and it shows with the attention to detail, humor and polished mechanics both in and out of battle. From the very beginning of the game, Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs looks at first glance like your average RPG tale. A Son urged by his father to reclaim his birthright upon his father’s deathbed. However you quickly begin to realize that Kay is very much a reluctant protagonist, and this is no average RPG adventure.
The developers at Pixelated Milk have ensured that every character is unique and memorable. Kay is an idiot protagonist who is thrust into his duties that he entirely despises, Griffith is his loyal knight who tends to get Kay in further trouble by speaking out of turn. His sisters Gwendolyn and Elaine each have their own personalities as well, from Snobby (on Gwendolyn’s part) to bookish and intelligent (on Elaine’s part.) Other NPC’s also have distinctive personality traits like Mr. Crucey who represents the villainous debt collectors that wish to seize all of your assets.
There are multiple aspects to Regalia: Of Men and Monarch’s gameplay. Free roaming sections allow you to explore Ascalia and its castle, talking with your allies and citizens in order to engage them and figure out how to proceed. The Free Roaming sections are also how you utilize the “Personal Bond” Mechanic which is inspired by the Social Link system popularized by the Persona series. By spending time with characters, you can raise your personal bond with them. Once you reach a personal bond threshold you can see extra story scenes and gain unique benefits for that character (such as stat increases.)
Combat takes place on a grid, like in Disgaea or Fire Emblem. Each character has their own health which cannot be replenished; however, characters can generate shields which protect your health and will keep you from taking too much damage. Each character can move, and utilize unique skills for support, damage, and other utilities. Characters can also use items to provide a variety of effects on allies or enemies. Line-of-Sight effects (like in X-Com) make an appearance as do status effects such as slowed and sundered (common to most RPG’s.)
Regalia is heavy on the strategy element, as combat isn’t something you can merely do without paying attention. My first battle was an utter disaster because I went into it like I would a Disgaea game, not really taking into account line of sight or the strategy elements of Regalia: Of Men and Monarch’s combat system. The combat itself isn’t super difficult, but it does take focus and a bit of a learning curve. The difficulty mostly comes from the fact that friendly fire is a constant concern. Like the Disgaea series, if you are not paying attention to the range of your party’s skills, you may find your allies at the wrong end of an attack.
Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs treats progression differently than most strategy RPGs. Instead of each character leveling individually, the party levels together and unlocks perk slots for each character. Perks are how you customize your characters. With each level, certain stats will increase but if you truly want to survive you’ll have to utilize perks properly, equipping them to the characters that need them so you can have a well-balanced party.
Weapons and Trinkets can also be equipped to each character, and they further determine customization and stats for each character. Weapons usually have modifiers on them that can enhance the character’s stats, so keeping those in mind will help you figure out whether or not you need to switch to a newly acquired weapon.
Outside of combat and free-roaming elements, there are city building elements like in games such as Civilization and Age of Empires, where you will need to build your kingdom and town. After all, a kingdom without citizens is hardly a kingdom at all. Building up your town requires resources such as gemstones, components, gold (or Dilac as it is referred in-game,) and Glimmer. These can be acquired over the course of your journey, requiring you to venture forth on your adventure in order to restore your kingdom properly.
When adventuring, there are battles, camp zones, and choose-your-own-adventure style nodes in a dungeon that allow you to choose how Kay and his allies approach a variety of situations. Different characters may gain relationship points for certain choices, thus being mindful of who you have with you is very important. Camp Zones are the only areas outside of Ascalia that allow you to save your game, so be mindful of that as you progress.
Something else you need to be cautious of is that traveling takes a certain amount of time. Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs, runs on a deadline system that players of Gust’s Atelier series will be familiar with. You have a scheduled deadline to fulfill your objectives (usually in two-month intervals) and if you do not complete said objectives in that time, you fail. If you do not complete kingdom quests by the time the debt collector returns to Ascalia, you receive a game over. However, if you have not fulfilled required Story Quests in that same time period, you will receive a game over. This means that you need to be mindful of both kingdom and story quests so that you are growing your kingdom at a steady pace.
Diplomacy is also a concern in Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs. Through receiving diplomatic missives you will be able to take sides in diplomatic relations between two pairs of countries. Each pair is at odds, and depending on how you choose to interact with them will determine what boons you gain from said countries.
There is a lot to love in Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs, from the humorous dialogue to the quirky characters and engaging combat. However, it isn’t without its faults. Personally I prefer playing games like this with a controller, but currently, gamepad support isn’t available. Since Regalia: of Men and Monarchs is likely to release on consoles, maybe gamepad support will come later on. Another distinct issue is a lack of camera rotation, which makes certain sections difficult to navigate. This is mainly an issue with the combat, requiring you to be careful how you place units so you can make sure you are able to see what is going on.
Despite that, and friendly fire being annoying. Regalia: of Men and Monarchs is an addictively fun gaming experience that will have you laughing out loud and losing hours of time to kingdom management and adventuring. Many people are skeptical of Kickstarter releases and in some cases that skeptical nature is justified. Regalia of Men and Monarchs is undeniably a Kickstarter success story made by people who love the genre, and I am proud to have backed it.