Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim was the long awaited follow-up to Microprose’s original 2000 release, and finally came into being at the hands of Paradox Interactive and 1C Company in late 2009. Though it’s been a while and we’ve seen a whole host of expansions for this game come out in the 18 months since its release, and the upcoming Defenders of Ardania is the latest offshoot based on the franchise, we thought where better to start reviewing this series than at the beginning?
Majesty 2 is a RTS set in the fantasy land of Ardania, where the royal line did such a fantastic job at uniting the kingdom and ridding it of evil, that King Leonard, the last king, apparently feeling quite inadequate because of the lack of enemies to vanquish, felt he needed to summon a Demonlord from the pits of hell to prove himself worthy of the crown… as you would. Of course nobody could possibly have imagined that the Demonlord might actually be stronger than the pitiful humans who hadn’t needed to fight anything for quite some considerable time, and the resulting carnage and regicide all came as a bit of a surprise. When it was done picking bits of the royal court out of its teeth, the Demonlord made way for all of the monsters that had been banished by the Kings to return to the kingdom. And it’s your job, the sole descendent of that stunningly clever royal bloodline, to ensure that safety and prosperity returns to the kingdom of Ardania. You’ll be aided in your task by a Sean Connery sound-alike in the form of your Royal Advisor. His humorous little interjections lighten the tone of the game, and as well as introducing each scenario he’ll pop up every now and then during the missions as you reach certain points.
Though Majesty 2 is an RTS, the basic premise is somewhat different to others that you might be used to. Instead of directly controlling your units, instead they do actually have minds of their own and will only go off and do your bidding if you pay them sufficiently for their time. As they gain experience and become higher level, your heroes will decide that their experience is worth more, so your bribes will also need to increase in value to get them to keep doing your bidding.
In order to set a task, you simply place a little flag (explore, attack, defend) and set a value to it. Your heroes will respond to these flags and you’ll see a message to tell you how many are interested, usually within a few seconds. Personally I thought that this makes it a little too easy to tell when you’ve set the price too low. It might have made the game more challenging if there had been more variance in the length of time taken for heroes to notice the flags, or a less immediate way of seeing how many had responded; perhaps actually watching the map to see if any were heading in that direction for example rather than a message saying “4 heroes are interested” for example.
Heroes join your cause after you build a guild of their type; warriors, rogues, clerics, mages and rangers being the basic units with more to unlock as you progress through the game. In the guilds you can recruit a few heroes of that type, usually 3, and each building can be upgraded to allow you to research additional spells and abilities – most of which are for the heroes but some you can directly cast yourself. You’ll also need to build a marketplace in order to make enough gold to fund your war effort. Here, your heroes can buy good that you have unlocked, such as health/mana potions and other assorted trinkets that will help them in a fight. Similarly, with the Blacksmith building you can research better weapons and armour for your troops.
At the end of each mission you can select a surviving hero to become a Lord who can then be recruited in a Hall of Lords in the next mission. You can have 3 Lords in play during a mission, selected from your ever increasing pool. These high level and well equipped heroes, though expensive, will cut a swathe through the initial stages of the mission while you get your infrastructure built up. And if one of your heroes dies, a graveyard will appear in your stronghold where you can choose to resurrect them. The higher the level, the more expensive it will be to resurrect. Whilst this means you’ll not be forced to attempt to kill a level 30 monster with an entirely green army, once the cash is flowing it does make it somewhat less of a priority to keep a very close eye on your guys since you can just bring them back to life anyway if something goes wrong.
The campaign consists of 16 scenarios and though they do get progressively more difficult – actually scratch that, the difficulty generally ramps up significantly, quite without warning – but all that really happens is that you need to build smarter and faster since the AI just starts swarming in more quickly than you were previously allowed to handle it. The prime example of this is a level where suddenly you’re faced with a Dragon who finds it amusing to burn down your buildings and who seems to have tons of offspring who like to snack on crispy adventurer as well. It took me ages to get past the initial stages of this map – however I found that if you manage to survive the initial stages of the map and get your Lords in play and have a few heroes up to a sufficient level, you’ll get to a sweet point where the money starts flowing in like water and you can pretty much build and research as much as you want without much waiting around. Since buildings and upgrades require nothing other than cash to build/research, at that point you’re basically guaranteed success. And it is essentially the same for all the maps in the rest of the campaign. Once I’d got my tactics down, I didn’t find there was any need to alter the way I did things at all from map to map thereafter, so the overall gameplay experience really is rather repetitive and although the gradual unlocking of new building types kept it interesting and the humour kept me chuckling, I can’t see myself playing through it again any time soon since each mission felt a bit like the last, but with different animations and monster spawn points.
We had also hoped to review the multiplayer element of Majesty 2, but unfortunately at this time the Steam and Gamer’s Gate versions of the game are incompatible with each other and since I have a Gamer’s Gate copy and Evil Tactician has a Steam copy, we weren’t able to get connected. Rather a disappointment, I must say, as I’ve had all this practice now and was looking forward to kicking his ass for once. :(
Overall though I enjoyed Majesty 2 a great deal. Despite its somewhat repetitive nature, it’s charming and fun and even after playing 25 hours or so of campaign, I’m still looking forward to starting on the expansions – which has to be a good sign!