Make Ascalia Great Again
The world in which Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs tells its tale is a familiar one, packed to the brim with stereotypically unique names, knights, monsters, family legacies, and all of the other mainstays of the genre present in everything from Lord of the Rings to cheap drugstore paperbacks. Once the glorious central hub of local civilization, the kingdom of Ascalia had been largely abandoned in post-war ruin. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for him, our sometimes-heroic protagonist Kay finds out via his father’s dying words that he is the heir to the old Ascalia kingdom, and it’s up to him to return it to glory. Once arriving there with a small motley crew of family, though, Kay discovers that things are even worse off than he thought. The kingdom is largely abandoned, and the old family castle is a bit of a dump. After some prodding around and discussions with a loan shark and the comical ghost of his grandfather, the crew decides that they’re up for the task, and set out to make Ascalia great again.
I’m normally a complete sucker for hand-drawn art, but I’ve got to be honest and admit that here I found the environments to be a bit hit-and-miss. While I, without exception, loved the art direction and feel of the game, some of the visuals felt a bit too rough. I’m all for the sketchy look, but when some things are neat and polished, and others aren’t, it creates a bit of dissonance that makes both styles stick out. This is a minor complaint, though, and one surely more up to taste than anything else. What I did love were the detailed character portraits that accompany conversation and the bright color palette that floods just about every screen, fitting the simple, joyful sense of adventure the rest of the game begs you to feel. Matching this bright, large, cartoony Hearthstone-esque visual style is a UI composed of relatively large, uncluttered buttons and pages that are easy to navigate through and understand, despite there being quite a bit to manage.
Getting to Know Ascalia
Despite a plot that’s just alright, Regalia thrives due to its well-written dialogue and effective sense of humor and levity that combine to make characterization for NPCs and party members strong. Though many of the characters can be boiled down to cliché archetypes, everyone felt like a unique person, and most everyone was likeable. Due to the number of characters and amount of dialogue in them, it’s not uncommon for RPGs like Regalia to eschew voice acting, but that’s not the case here, and the voice cast plays a big role in bringing the life and pathos to the experience.
Something that I didn’t expect coming into the game, but ended up being a welcome surprise, is the amount of time that the game has you spend outside of combat. Though it’s variable, there can be fairly long stretches of time in between runs of combat filled with reading, cut scenes, planning, and more that built the world and its characters and, to be frank, I think I enjoyed more than the actual fighting. Though there’s a fair amount of worldbuilding and character information in the game proper, another of Regalia’s surprises came in the form of an extensive Codex filled with pages of information on character histories, mythological stories of the world and its people, different places, and much more. As someone who loves that stuff, I really enjoyed going through every word, but it’s all just extra information that you’ll be just fine skipping if that isn’t your type of thing.
Being that the focus of the game is rebuilding a kingdom under certain time constraints, it was a logical choice to structure the game around a progressing calendar. Travelling, missions, and dungeons all take time, and as that time moves forward you’ll miss out on other time-sensitive opportunities. I can see it rubbing some people the wrong way since it may sound frustrating to not be able to play through everything the game has to offer in one run, but it does add a sense of gravitas to deciding what to do, and made me more carefully consider which NPCs and party members I wanted to help, and which I didn’t care as much about.
Combat Hits and Misses
Well, we’ve come all this way and we haven’t even discussed the game’s real core- its combat. Operating through a “speed” stat-decided turn order, combat is grid based. As each round progresses through all friendly and enemy characters, each one has the opportunity to move up to a certain number of grid squares and perform an action that may include using items, attacking, or casting spells. It starts off simple, and the game deserves credit for the pace at which it introduces new elements. Despite having quite a bit to keep track of every confrontation, things like multiple characters, movement, lines of sight, individual attack and spell effects, passive character powers, turn order, super abilities, and extra action points, I never felt in over my head. Nothing seems like it’s there “just because,” and there’s enough complexity once you throw in the numerous characters available to make up your squad composition remain immensely satisfying.
The one larger complaint that I do have, however, is that I had to spend way too much time worrying about accuracy. It seems way too low overall, and I found myself missing far more than my statistics (starting at 85%, which I increased as I levelled) indicated I should. Like, way more. I’m not sure if I experienced an incredible string of bad luck lasting my entire playtime or if the numbers actually are off, but I was missing somewhere in the ballpark of 40% of the time at first, and it didn’t improve much from there. Having to invest in my accuracy so heavily for everyone meant I couldn’t spend points elsewhere. There are abilities and spells that mitigate accuracy, but I just don’t like that ability to hit is focused on so prominently. The game is already deep and satisfying, and it doesn’t need this frustrating additional angle. That being said, it’s certainly not game-breaking, and overall I quite enjoyed the tactical strategy of combat, especially when some of the more unique party members were introduced.
Regalia is a game of surprises, giving me much more than I expected from a small, first time publisher. There’s certainly a bit of room for improvement, but most of that melts away to a game that’s funny, challenging, and full of backstory and lore. A very diverse cast of characters and dialogue that’s delivered with the timing and heart it deserves elevate this stereotypical-on-paper experience from another dime-a-dozen indie fantasy game to something well worth exploring.
Personable characters brought to life by quality voice actors, colorful visuals, complex combat, diverse combat party members.
Some uneven visual quality, a relatively unremarkable central plot, too much focus on accuracy and misses in combat.