This week’s Spotlight focuses on a little studio out of Warsaw, Pixelated Milk, and their attempt to bring a different perspective on a favorite genre of mine, the JRPG.
The JRPG (Japanese Roleplaying Game) is a genre unto itself and, for near all my life, captivated me in ways that nary another genre can (except maybe fighting games). The hours spent toiling away, dungeon crawling and saving various worlds from the brink of destruction seem innumerable at this point. What can I say? I’m a sucker for them. It is with that fervent love of the form that I stumbled across a Kickstarter campaign for Regalia – Of Men and Monarchs. It got my Disgaea senses tingling to see grids, conal attacks and worrying about character movement but then “social links” are mentioned. Oh dear. A Western take on the JRPG with Disgaea and Persona elements in the mix?
So, what makes a bunch of young bucks from Warsaw, Poland think they can walk amongst through the hallowed halls where legends have tread? The Kickstarter video, as it were, is the usual mix of bubbly optimism, going against the norms and is sprinkled with gameplay footage here and there. Well, to be fair, the JRPG hasn’t exactly aged well. We’ve had some quality releases in the last few years, no doubt, but it has felt for a long time that the best years were behind us. The Golden Age, as it were, of these games I adore had passed me by as the Japanese giants are fading, mobile gaming mentality taking hold of an entire industry and the big boys getting lazy. Isn’t it time for a new perspective? That is the beauty of Kickstarter. We’re in an age in which the core audience that grew up loving, admittedly in a vacuum almost due to the niche nature of the product, these very games are now getting the chance to make them. Pixelated Milk is such a studio, and I’ll be damned if I’m not impressed with what I see thus far.
So You Wanna Be An Anime Wizard Huh?
Take that refrain however you wish but let’s face facts. If you love the genre like I do? You probably being an anime wizard/warrior thoroughly. I know I do! I was immediately on board once I saw character designs. The game’s main website (which is mostly a Devblog at the moment) showcases the evolution of the design of a few characters. One of those is Signy. She is the team’s take on the classic lady barbarian archetype. The evolution of her design changed along with the very game itself — moving from a much dark dungeon crawl to a lighter tactical RPG — and the product still echoes the original sentiment. There are some serious Ayla vibes off of her which, of course, this writer digs to no end.
The art team, lead by Runshin, definitely wears the influence of George Kamitani (of VanillaWare fame) on its sleeve. Character designs, overall, seems to be quite vibrant with lots of color and personality. You’ve got your archetypes covered in spades yet when it comes to the sorts of adventurers and people encountered in the game there are a few twists on the classic races/personalities that one will encounter.
Dwarves, Elves and Humans (even Gnomes) are all present and accounted for. The human kingdoms are comprised of the more adventurous Duchy of Armelisse, the Exarchs of Shedu and the capital city of Lordemar. Dwarves, however, belong to the Empire of Hundred Banners. They are a very insular group that –You know what? Here’s the short it. Dwarven samurais! Now I can honestly say I can’t remember seeing that before. Elves, on the other hand, being more in touch with Nature, as per usual, appear to be more feral in nature.
They are a loose grouping of Elven variations that prefer to pillage and raid more than anything else. Gnomes are, of course, considerably more light-hearted and goofy. They are strange and wealthy overlords who control vast turtle landships. The civilized world depends on the lands of Minwe for most everything. Best not to upset the short ones its seems.
The overall aesthetic is definitely in line with the anime sensibilities of the JRPGS that came before it though tempered with certain Western touches that make everything I’ve seen thus far so very palatable. All characters are rendered in 3D while all environments are hand-drawn in 2D. They’re going with a more InXile or how Shadowrun Returns approach to individuals within the world while painstakingly drawing and coloring in the world around them. It makes for a compelling visual that, despite being in the early stages, looks great.
Not the Usual Story
One of the major points of emphasis via the Campaign page is that Regalia‘s story is not the run of the mill “save the world with a slightly androgynous protagonist” thing we’ve all come to know. This is a more intimate story of a fellow named Kay who is thrust into the role of ruler. He returns to his domain to find it is in ruins; debt has piled up, and little to no subjects await to acknowledge his claim to the throne. It is a slice-of-life that presents the world where all the epic battles have already happened. The God Kings and Demon Lords are all slain and peace is upon the land. It is now the job of our hero to determine just what the heck happened to his kingdom? That change in breadth and focus is, to say the least, refreshing. There are good maybe even great stories to be told within the confines of such a narrative framework. There is a deeper dive available via the Updates section as well if one were so inclined to read it.
The Clash of Steel
Storytelling is critical to the success of an RPG, of course, but even the most elaborate of worlds can be hampered by mechanics that just don’t work. The classic isometric grid of yore is present here full of diamond, rectangle and diagonal (for example) movement pathing for characters. Resources consist of HP (Health Points) and AP (Action Points). There are no healing spells nor restorative items such as potions. An SP bar is also present for all characters. SP, or Shield Points, can be thought of as second Health bar. An enemy would need to whittle down a hero’s SP bar before taking any health off. This means that, ultimately, positioning and tactical play are necessary to make it through encounters.
Characters controlled by the player don’t have a laundry list of abilities to choose from via menus either. “When it comes to skills, we are focusing on quality over quantity, and, therefore, every character and/or enemy feels different; every skill is unique to its owner, without boring duplicates.” Keeping with the theme of in-depth updates to their campaign a deeper look at the game’s battle system can be found here.
The other major components of the game? Social Links and 4X elements. Players will be able to not only actively build their own domain, upgrading it and the like, but also practice diplomacy with rival nations and groups. The twenty or so characters planned for the final version also have relationships to cultivate. This is a very SMT/Persona sort of touch that, personally, I can’t wait to dive into. One of my personal favorite parts of the entire Persona series were the character building moments and the branching quests that came from working to build friendships and romance options with fellow heroes, etc. Establishing these links and putting them in also translate into tangible benefits on the battlefield, in-town and so forth. Also, who wouldn’t want to be this guy’s friend?
The team is asking for $40,000 as a main goal with further Stretch Goals including better animation via purchased software/equipment, animated character portraits, extra story components and some secret ones as of yet for those closer to $100,000. They’re currently sitting at $37,000 or so as of publishing so they’re nearly there but, frankly, hammering out those stretch goals would add a lot to what already feels like a really special project. Anticipated platforms are just PC (most likely Mac as well) for now but the team does aspire to bring Regalia to consoles as well. Feel like tossing a buck or two their way? Hit up the Regalia – Of Men and Monarchs Kickstarter campaign page.
Know of a game that should be featured on the Spotlight? Let us know in the comments below or via Twitter (@APGNation).
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