Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs - Royal Edition is a strategy role-playing game that wears its inspirations on its sleeve. Borrowing from the likes of Persona and Disgaea, as well as your typical BioWare title, it's a release made up of many parts, but it all comes together quite nicely. There's a heart to Regalia that makes it hard to put down, and the game's buoyed by a good sense of humour.
Comedy isn't an easy thing to pull off, especially in a video game, but Regalia is consistently charming with its lighthearted takes on the usual aspects of an RPG. Its characters are always quick to point out how ridiculous something is or crack a joke at the expense of the genre's traditions, and it makes for a refreshing experience. Granted, there are some gags that fall a bit flat here and there, but thanks to some great voice acting, the odd clanger doesn't take too much away. Regalia's something of a spoof, but it stops just short of being overindulgent.
The fact that the game successfully maintains this tone for its 30-40 hour duration is impressive. Even more impressive is that despite having a huge cast of characters, the title manages to keep all of them reasonably interesting. A few perhaps rely too heavily on tired tropes, but you could argue that's part of the fun, and seeing these wacky personalities bounce off one another is a large part of the game's appeal.
You get to know these characters from the perspective of Kay, the title's rather unfortunate protagonist. Kay inherits his family's abandoned castle and surrounding lands only to find that his predecessors were saddled with substantial debt, and the only way to keep the collectors off his back is to restore the kingdom to its former glory. You do this by venturing out beyond the castle walls, completing quests, acquiring resources, and using those resources to rebuild your birthright.
It's an addictive gameplay loop, and one that runs on a very Persona-esque calendar system. At set points during the game, you're given an objective to fulfil within a certain amount of days. Usually, you're tasked with simply completing a number of milestones, but how you reach these milestones is entirely up to you. You could focus on adventuring and clear a handful of dungeons, or you could take the time to visit your allies and grow closer to them. Progression in Regalia unfolds in a satisfyingly organic way, and it won't be long before you've got Kay's kingdom up and running again.
It's those aforementioned adventures that form the meat of the experience, however. On these escapades, Kay and his party must navigate their way through maps made up of 'nodes', with each node offering something different. One might have you engage a group of enemies in a standard battle, and the next may introduce you to a whole new scenario in text form. During these text-based events, you make choices that branch the story, and there are some well written, entertaining little tales here. Complete all of the nodes, and you can consider that dungeon cleared.
Of course, this is also where the turn based, strategic combat comes into play. Taking place on a grid, you're free to move Kay and the gang one by one before unleashing their attacks and skills on the enemy. Each party member has their own set of abilities which can be upgraded as you progress, and learning the ins and outs of what each character brings to the table gives the combat a lot of its depth. What's more, you can only bring a set amount of allies into battle, so team composition is also an important factor.
As far as strategy RPGs go, Regalia's system isn't anything too special, but it's competent and does make you feel like something of a tactical mastermind when it's at its best. Our only real gripe with combat is that some enemies have a lot of health, and since battles tend to move at quite a slow pace to begin with, these juggernauts can definitely drag things out for way too long.
Fortunately, Regalia's a very customisable experience to the point where we wish these options were available in other games of its kind. Alongside three base difficulty settings -- one of which drastically reduces the challenge for those who just want to get stuck into the story -- the game also features a set of sliders that specifically alter the difficulty of combat. At any time, you can tweak enemy damage and party damage to suit your needs, and although some may liken this to cheating, it's really a clever way of making sure that players don't hit a brick wall or become bored.
When you're not smacking monsters and imperial dwarves around, you'll probably be socialising with Kay's ever-expanding group of allies. Taking time out of your busy schedule to hang with your pals allows you to steadily forge relationships, which in turn opens up personal quests and other extras, like enhanced combat skills. Again, it's all about managing your time, but much like Persona, getting to know the surrounding cast is what makes you feel involved with the game's world.
Regalia's pretty solid across the board, then, but there is one area that lets it down: menus. Although the game's been reworked for its console release, it's still abundantly clear that the user interface originated on PC -- flicking through some of these menus with just the directional pad can feel like a chore at times, especially since it can be hard to tell where your cursor actually is. And it's a shame that the overlay doesn't hold up, because there's a bright and attractive art style on display when it comes to the delightfully drawn character illustrations and in-game models.
If you've been itching for a good strategy RPG, it's hard to go wrong with Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs on PS4. While it's a little rough around the edges, there's a clear passion behind the game that's endearing, and this shines through thanks to the title's colourful cast of characters and dedication to lighthearted humour. Regalia doesn't reinvent the wheel and it probably won't come close to blowing you away, but it's a pleasantly entertaining RPG that just about anyone can enjoy.