Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs – Royal Edition (Switch eShop) Review
The first thing you’ll see when you start Regalia is a loading screen. It lasts anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute. You’ll want to get used to it. Beyond that, you’ll find an excellent game filled with depth and interesting stories to tell, held back by occasional, minor technical issues and long loading screens. Lots and lots of long loading screens.
Regalia tells the story of Kay of House Loren, the leader of a kingdom that has fallen into a state of disrepute and ruin. Kay is the hero of this story, but he’s anything but a hero. Young, brash, and far from regal, Kay is thrown into the role of a monarch, charged with ruling over a broken kingdom he never intended to rule. If that weren’t bad enough, there’s also a hundred odd years of taxes that need to be paid, and the tax collector is not a nice guy.
It’s a simple story, but it’s compelling in its execution. It’s easy to sympathise with Kay; suddenly being thrown into a tonne of responsibilities with no training and no motivation is every millennial’s nightmare. He’s an excellent player character from that standpoint, because it gives him room to grow into the leader he’s destined to become. Supporting characters — such as Kay’s two sisters, a faithful (if sometimes overzealous) bodyguard, a wild forest girl from a tribe of natives, and a giant suit of armour possessed by the ghost of a soldier from a neighbouring kingdom — help flesh out the cast to an enjoyable ensemble of ragtag misfits that genuinely feel like real characters.
A lot of that comes down to the excellent voice talent on show in Regalia, with each voice actor expertly breathing life into the characters they portray, but it’s also incredibly well-written. There are some minor negatives, mainly that some characters with vocal effects (such as ghosts) can be a little bit jarring and annoying after time, but as most voice lines can be skipped, it’s only a matter of pressing (or sometimes mashing) A to make that problem go away.
The story’s progression ties in remarkably well with gameplay elements, as well. In each chapter, you’re given a certain amount of in-game days in which to complete a specific set of requirements. Fulfilling these requirements usually means completing any number of tasks, with each task taking up a certain amount of days. For example, you might choose to explore a dungeon, which could take 6 or 7 days, with a day of travel time each way, or you might choose to spend time with a person, which only takes up a day, but might not always result in leveling up your relationship with that person enough to complete a task.
The freeform nature of this progression is a huge plus, and planning out your time is one of the more satisfying parts of the game. Because of the way this system works, you can focus on playing the game in exactly the way you want to; if fishing is your thing, you can complete tasks solely about fishing. If you’d rather spend your time getting to know the people in your kingdom, that’s a valid way to progress through the game too. There’s no right or wrong way to progress, and the wide range of activities that contribute to completing tasks means that, as long as you’re managing your time wisely, you’re free to tailor the gameplay to your tastes. There are a few story quests in each chapter that are required on top of the other tasks, but for the most part, the Kingdom is your playground.
On the topic of exploring dungeons, one of the things you won’t be able to avoid so much is combat. Thankfully, combat in Regalia is quite good, though there are a few things that could definitely be improved. Combat takes the form of a turn-based strategy game played on a grid — think Final Fantasy: Tactics Advance, Fire Emblem or, well, chess. You start each battle by placing up to four members of your party on the field, though there is an option for the game to automatically place the best characters in the best position. You’ll unlock a wide range of characters throughout the game, each with their own unique skill sets and drawbacks. Some characters, like the previously mentioned haunted suit of armour, take up four spaces on the grid, which can make getting around on the battlefield a little cumbersome, but deciding which characters are going to be useful for each battle is par for the course in strategy games like this.
Once you’ve placed your characters, combat starts, and it’s here that the game simultaneously shines, and shows its weaknesses. On each turn, you’ll have the opportunity to generally do two things: move, or use an attack or ability. It doesn’t matter in which order you do these, and sometimes you’re better off only moving or only attacking. Unfortunately, the controls for this are a little bit clumsy, requiring awkward analogue stick movement on an isometric field for moving, and an even more awkward combination of holding buttons and moving the analogue sticks to select abilities. While the menus for this look relatively slick, a more traditional menu would have gone a long way to making Regalia more playable in the long run. Touch screen support would have helped in handheld mode too, but sadly it’s not present here.
I also found that, on the default settings, most enemies tend to soak up damage like a sponge, which can lead to some incredibly long and drawn-out battles. That said, you are given a few tools to combat this. The first is an option to speed up battles, though this sometimes leads to intermittent freezes upon performing abilities. The second is an interesting set of sliders in the settings menu, which give you the option to tweak how much damage you deal and are dealt. This is a fairly decent system for managing difficulty, on top of the already-present difficulty options you’re given when you start a new game. If you chose to play on easy mode, you also have the option to instantly win any battle you enter, which is a fantastic choice for those who’d rather focus on other elements in the game or are just sick of battles taking forever.
In terms of performance, Regalia does alright in both docked and handheld. Despite the long and frequent loading screens, the hand-drawn art style looks gorgeous no matter how you play, and there’s little to complain about outside of a few short freezes in combat. Prior to the launch of the game, I did also experience devastating crash as I was saving the game, which had the unfortunate side effect of wiping out my save files and forcing me to replay over 9 hours of gameplay. That said, there have been multiple patches to the game since then, and there are reportedly more on the way, which have helped with both stability and loading times. It’s a much better game today than it was at launch, at the very least.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Regalia is a great game. It has everything you could ask for from a strategy RPG and then some. Unfortunately, it has a few technical and design issues that really hold it back from being as good as it could be, but it’s still hard not to recommend it.
+ Excellent progression system
+ Solid voice acting
+ Interesting story
- Combat controls are finicky
- Lots of long loading times
- A few technical issues