So I am one of those jaded anime fans who went through their phase of loving hyperactive, cutesy stuff and came out the other side bitter and cynical, at least as far as anime is concerned. Probably in other ways too, but the point is that when I started up Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs, I was immediately turned off. Everything felt so bright and optimistic, utterly cheerful, and ultimately toothless; luckily, all of that turns out to be façade fairly quickly.
Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs tries to be a lot of things, but, at its core, it is a strategic role playing game that emphasizes its somewhat archetypical characters in its storytelling. Essentially, the main character and his two sisters are the last scions of some great and noble family. The ancestral lands have fallen into disrepair, and the siblings, with a suitably honour-obsessed knight in tow, revisit the crumbling castle that was once their home, only to find it slightly haunted and besieged by a particularly pushy debt collector.
The actual game play takes its cues from more tactically minded RPGs. The characters all have their own sets of abilities, most of which do not seem particularly useful, but which end up having some interesting effects on the battles. It is important to note, however, that the happy anime graphics and the silly humor hide a game that can get extremely difficult without much warning. Fights are certainly not impossible, but the numerous status effects are poorly explained and some outside the box thinking can go a long way. Going for the bonus objectives will lead to several restarts and a few fistfuls of hair.
When not forcing players to strategically fight for their lives, Regalia sets them to the task of rebuilding their neglected kingdom to, hopefully, attract new subjects and maybe revitalize the long defunct economy, anything to pay off those debt collectors. This boils down to both building new structures and improving your relationships with the people in your kingdom. All of your actions can have ramifications for both your kingdom as a whole and for the foreign nations you deal with and take in-game time, which is typically pretty limited. See, your loan shark’s coming to get his due, and, if you haven’t completed enough tasks by the time they get there, you’re in for a bad time. Pay your bills.
The characters here are all on the shallow side. They exist as fairly blatant archetypes that don’t go through much in the way of character development. The dialogue tries very hard to come off as comical and Regalia wears its influence from the Disgaea series on its sleeve. From the difficult tactical combat to the simultaneously silly and dark themes present throughout, Regalia aims to fulfil a very specific niche, which will turn off a lot of gamers. To be fair, it comes off as genuinely amusing every so often, but that’s going to be very hit or miss for most players.
The sound design in Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is nothing to write home about. The music is largely forgettable, and the voice acting is well performed, but often obnoxious. Don’t let that statement mislead you into thinking that the developers didn’t care about it – they clearly did and it shows: the voice acting is quality, but the actual content can get very unappealing very quickly.
Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs’ approach to dungeons is pretty interesting. Rather than combing through cavern depths or dense jungles yourself, the player is presented with a simplified map with several different events, which can be battles, character interactions, choose your own adventure style passages, or one-time save points. It is important to note that Regalia does not shower the player with autosaves, as is the custom with many modern games. Saving is a deliberate act, perpetrated at your home base and at campfires on a dungeon map. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, just something to be aware of after you’ve been retrying that one battle over and over again for the better part of an hour and quit out of frustration. Don’t be like me, dear reader, don’t lose significant progress and time you’ll never get back because you forgot to save before you went out questing.
So, look, Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs is a solid game. It’s got a vibrant anime art style and a great deal of interesting systems at play. The story will turn off some players pretty quickly, and it’s certainly not for casual gaming sessions, despite how friendly it looks. The real draw is the gameplay, which will be extremely rewarding if you take the time to understand all its ins and outs.