The Dark Ages were a time where -- even with the lack of arts and people's limbs falling off unexpectedly -- the story of a hero rising above the muck of the world lifted the heads of many. A noble knight saving the fair maiden, the pauper gaining control of a kingdom, and evil rulers being slain by do-gooders were what made men and women everywhere desire a life of chivalry and nobility. Those who lived during those times should be glad then that they hadn't dealt with a tale of a rundown country and the reluctant ruler, as that would've killed off whatever sense of spirit they'd have left. Fortunately with Pixelated Milk's Regala: Of Men and Monarchs, that sort of story is at least very funny.
Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs places the player in control of Kay of House Loren, whose father reveals on his deathbed that he will be given control of an entire kingdom. Once he arrives with his comrades, he finds said kingdom Ascalia completely in ruins and possibly carrying a bad lingering smell. After accidentally making tea with his grandfather's ashes and awakening his ghost, Kay discovers that his entire family is in debt, one that must be paid off or face some dire consequences. With the aid of his friends, family, and not-so-noble warriors, the quest for gold and a thriving kingdom is taken on with low sense of moral and high levels of reluctancy.
In order to bring gold and seek out aid, Kay and his team must conduct quests to earn fortune, supplies, and weaponry that'll help them along the way. With these such items you'll be given the ability to build and fix buildings throughout the kingdom. As such, these elements will assist with not only making the village look great, but also build up relationships with your team and residents. As this is all taking place, Kay's sisters attempt to find ways to seek the origin of the debt and find those in their surrounding kingdoms to give them a push in the right direction.
Gameplay-wise the turn-based battle systems are very similar to that of Final Fantasy Tactics. You choose your warriors, place them on the board, and proceed to march into battle towards an enemy. Once you get close enough you initiate the attack and attempt to kill them where they stand. However because of their level of power, some attacks can only be pulled off once every few turns, resulting in players needing to strategize when, where, and who they'll unleash their biggest furies upon.
In some cases Regalia takes its adventure down a more text-based route, in a style similar to that of Steve Jackson's classic Sorcery! series. Here you can take alternate routes and -- in some cases -- avoid interfering altogether in order to move on. These parts can reward you with gold and the like if pulled off right, as well as help with your relationship with your team for better or worse. It's a surprisingly well-done nod to classic book-based choose-your-own-adventure tales that played a good part of my childhood.
What makes Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs quite the enjoyable romp is its sharp wit and humor. The story and its characters are much akin to such British classics as Monty Python & the Holy Grail and BlackAdder, as well as anime comedies like KonoSuba: God's Blessing on this Wonderful World!! and Magical Circle Guru-Guru. Kay is in "good" company with the likes of Edmund Blackadder and Kazuma, lacking any sort of can-do attitude that only rises when he's reluctantly pushed against the wall by things that aren't quite his fault. Even its dialogue had me laughing my ass off in places, especially when the dead grandfather took center stage in a scene.
Its anime-like appearance also pays homage to The Slayers, with character models having big hair and expressive eyes. Very often their reactions to all things good and flat-out terrible help add even a much bigger punch to the joke on hand. Even though the game is played from the top-down it's not hard to appreciate the detail of these worlds that Kay & company are placed in. The soundtrack, composed by H-Pi and performed by the Sinfonia Pop Orchestra, not only captures the roars of battle, but also the comedic timings of the game's more laughable moments.
However despite its fun elements, Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs isn't without its faults. For starters its battle system's hit ratio is...unfair, to be completely honest. More times than not I found my characters attacking, with the enemy dodging even some of my more powerful maneuvers. Because of this the battles could drag on for far longer than they should, resulting in the gameplay becoming a bit watered down. (Thankfully, those who play in Story Mode can just skip the battles and grab all the rewards.)
These longer battles are more irksome when Regalia's biggest problem peers its sinister head: game crashes. Many times a game crashed on me, causing hours of progress to be wiped away. It's a hair-pulling situation that currently doesn't have a solution to protect your progress, as you can only save the game during camping sequences and when you're back in the main kingdom. Needless to say, I've screamed more at my MacBook at this certain situation than any other game I've played on there in the past.
- Hilarious story, dialogue
- A great selection of quests/side-quests
- Tactical gameplay fun...
- ...but chances of hits are faulty
- Minor game crashes
If you can get past the game crashes and the stretched-out battles, you will find quite a good chunk to love with Pixelated Milk's snicker-inducing RPG. With tons of quests, a plethora of areas to traverse, and a great script that easily ransacks your funny bone. Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs may not go down as the most memorable adventure of the Dark Ages, but it'll certainly be remembered as one of the silliest.
Promotional consideration provided by Agnieszka Szóstak and Tatiana Kowalczyk of PR Outreach
Background Noise: England Keep My Bones by Frank Turner - A great kingdom needs a proper troubadour, and no one fits that bill quite like the "Wessex Boy" himself. His 2011 album is a wonderful romp where all of our troubles can be fixed with rock & roll ("I Still Believe") and a fool can be straightened out with an unexpected dip into a nearby channel ("If I Ever Stray"). I'm also pretty certain that Kay can relate to the troubles of King William in the melody "English Curse"...