I love JRPGs. You’ll always find me playing through at least one across my various gaming devices and platforms, sometimes for the second time. But they’re always so heavy, you know? So melodramatic. That’s part of their appeal, I suppose, and yet there are times when I’m in the mood for something a bit more upbeat. Something like Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs.
This Kickstarter-funded game takes its gameplay cues and design from the myriad games before it, but without the familiar sense of dread and sacrifice. The main character’s troubles don’t involve saving the world or leading those he loves to his doom, they’re more…financial in nature.
Kay has inherited a kingdom in disrepair, you see, and all of the legal problems that come with that. Ascalia is in debt, the castle in shambles, and it’s up to him, his family, and the friends he’ll meet on his way to restore glory to the House of Loren. Of course, there are those who would oppose him. Quite honestly, it felt like the adventure I wish I’d faced when I was stuck trying to pay two mortgages back during the housing crisis.
There’s an added wrinkle to all of this. Not only do you have to pay the debt, you have to do it in a timely manner. Your quests take time, and if you don’t raise enough money before your debts are due, the game ends. This adds an extra level of urgency that can prove stressful, but it also keeps you focused on the task at hand.
Regalia initially drives you down a set path with just a few characters, but soon opens into a larger world that provides the burden of freedom in your decisions.
It can be a bit overwhelming considering the imposed time-cruch, but I didn’t find it too hard to meet the game’s objectives. These are reached by rebuilding the kingdom, establishing various relationships, and exploring the world around you.
Exploration is what provides the main gameplay elements, which are broken down into combat, text adventuring and “camping.” The latter is where you build relationships and level up your characters, while the other two combine to give Regalia its unique charm.
The turn-based combat takes place on an isometric grid through which you’ll position your characters for attacks, defense, healing and buffs. You’ll learn how to best use the characters as you level them, and it won’t be long before you have your favorites. Oddly, a few characters come in highly overpowered on some levels, so if you’re having trouble on a particular level it’s usually just a matter of swapping in someone else for combat.
As an added challenge, each combat level provides some bonus objectives beyond simply winning the battle. Beat them, and you’ll earn greater rewards.
The text adventuring portion will give you a quick scenario and a few choices on how to handle it. I’m not sure how much impact your decision has on the overall outcome, though; these sections seemed more about just providing a few clever jokes and some exposition.
As I mentioned earlier, the overall presentation of Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is colorful and upbeat. However, it’s also somewhat disconnected. Although the voice acting is pretty good, I never got the feeling the characters were talking to each other so much as just reading lines in a sound room. It was the same visually; the characters don’t look like they’re in a battlefield so much as dropped on top of it. This doesn’t hurt the gameplay, of course, but it does create an odd experience throughout.
So Here It Is
If you’re a fan of turn-based JRPGs, Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is a fun diversion from their usual dark tone. You can select a difficulty that allows you breeze through the story mode or take a more tactically challenging route, but you should have a fun time either way. The humor provided by the colorful characters may wear thin after a while, but the overall story and the diversity of gameplay elements places this high on the list of games you should check out this summer.
Genre: Isometric JRPG
Minimum Requirements: OS X v10.8.5, 2.66 GHz Dual Core processor, 4 GB RAM, 256 MB VRAM, 5 GB available disk space
Availability: Now on Steam and GOG.com