Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release Date: 9/18/2009
The original Majesty came out nine years ago with its unique take on the whole “overlord” genre. Instead of being an evil overlord such as in Dungeon Keeper, you are a king of the fantasy Kingdom of Ardania and it is your job to issue quests to noble heroes for slaying monster, destroying lairs or defending caravans from all sorts of nasty ghouls, Skeletons, Zombies and an assortment of other generic fantasy enemies.
Over time it managed to build up a loyal cult following but after both the developers and publishers folded it seemed that Majesty would never be seen again.
However, Paradox and Russian developer 1C have teamed up to bring Majesty back from the dead, they gave us a very early version game to preview a few months back and the game seemed very promising back then. Have Paradox managed to make a fun game from that early build?
500 years have passed since your exploits in the original Majesty . Several celebrated rulers have ruled over Ardania and all the dragons have been slain, all the demons vanquished and all the rebels have been suppressed. Ardania is now at peace.
Of course, for the newly crowned King Leonard, this is a catastrophe! How can he make his name as a celebrated ruler if nothing is going on? So he calls in the court mages and tells them to use arcane magics and summon the Great Demon so that he may vanquish it.
He loses miserably and the Demon usurps the throne and throws all Ardania into chaos. Many princes and dukes try to defeat the Demon and all have failed.
It is in this dark time that the “Royal Advisor” (who is never named) finds you and declares that you are the last heir to the throne and must unite the kingdom once more!
The story is very tongue in cheek and parodies the whole fantasy RPG genre pretty well, though strategy games don’t need much more story than “you’re the king, go forth and conquer” so a little extra incentive is always nice from the developers.
For modes, you have campaign (or “Story” mode), Single missions and multiplayer over LAN or Internet. They all do their job nicely and there are plenty of single missions to complete.
But…where’s an offline skirmish mode? That’s pretty normal thing to place in a strategy game right? To practice for multiplayer matches you need some offline practice against the AI! Also, there’s a lack of a map creator which is also a shame but not as huge.
Story/Modes rating: Above Average
I’ll be honest; Majesty 2 isn’t going to tax your graphics card. It’s quite a simple looking game no matter which way you slice it.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A good art design team managed to make the game look good even without high end graphics.
The colors are bright and vibrant to invoke a cartoony, non serious feel that goes well with the nonsensical goofy plot. The characters animations also fit their characters, fat tax collectors dawdle along while heroic warriors stride confidently with sword and shield always at hand.
Though the game’s maps always look small and never invoke the feeling you are ever ruling a kingdom instead of a Warcraft III base camp and a little more detail or style would have been nice to increase the immersion factor.
In the end, it falls with games like Civilization IV in the “not great but gets the job done” category.
Graphics rating: Decent
Andreas Waldetoft returns to score yet another Paradox Interactive title after doing numerous titles such as the recent Hearts of Iron III and Europa Universalis III.
It’s interesting to see how Mr.Waldetoft deals with a different genre of gameplay, as he is usually doing epic scores for Grand Strategy games with a serious tone and now has to score a fantasy game parody.
He does a good job in providing a soundtrack that blends more epic “battle” tracks with slower, slightly goofier “peace” tracks that fit in well with the lighter tone of the game. The epic tracks of the game would be a welcome addition to any high fantasy title on the market right now!
The voice-overs are also well done. The Royal Advisor looks and sounds like Sean Connery (which is awesome by the way) and is always on hand to deliver silly remarks.
Your heroes and citizens are also voiced well, Tax Collectors announce, “more gold, your Majesty!” in a nerdy accountant voice whenever they come back from their collecting rounds and Heroes seem to know that your entire kingdom’s economy revolves around killing truckloads of monsters (“Let’s keep this economy going!” Whenever he kills a monster) and there are many more examples of these chuckle-worthy sound bites.
The only bad thing is that I wish there was more of all this sound. The number of tracks isn’t as large as in Hearts of Iron III and for some reason, the most common soundbite available to heroes (the level up soudbite) has no variants at all! Killing monsters gives several different responses but level ups get only one? It gets repetitive very quick.
The Royal Advisor get’s pretty much 90% of all voice work in the game. He does a pretty good job but more characters would have been nice to add variety.
Sound Rating: Great
Even though the word “Sim” is in the subtitle of the game, there isn’t actually much of a simulation aspect to the game. It’s more of a RTS/RPG hybrid if you can wrap your head around that.
You start each map with a castle and some buildings (usually only peasant’s houses) and you have the option to build several guilds which you can recruit heroes from. After that, you can build several economic buildings such as markets, blacksmiths and trading posts to generate more income and provide a place for your heroes to buy stuff and fork over the cash that you just gave them for completing quests. Fun!
Quests come in four flavors: Attack, Defend, Explore and Fear. You issue these by placing a “flag” on a certain location (ie place an attack flag on a vampire to issue a bounty to kill him) and then set the amount of gold the quest is worth, the higher the reward, the higher level heroes will be enticed to go after it. The “Fear” flag works in reverse, you place it somewhere to prevent your heroes accidently wandering into a werewolf’s lair. The more gold you place on a fear flag, the more heroes will fear that place.
Carefully balancing your heroes is an entertaining aspect in the game as they all have different personalities. Warriors absolutely love a fight and will eagerly respond to attack and defense flags. Rangers love to explore and will respond to exploration quests and rogues are so greedy they’ll respond to anything that makes them money (and cowardly enough to be the first to flee when things go pear shaped).
Being freed from directly controlling your minions is liberating to say the least and almost completely eliminates the need for micromanagement (you still sometimes try to give experience to lower level heroes) and actually forces you to use “strategy” and not who can click faster.
While the game does a lot of things right, from the humorous setting to the addicting gameplay, but there are flaws that keep the game from being perfect.
First, is the hero AI. During my preview of the game, heroes were pretty much Kamikaze warriors with no regard for their own personal safety until it was too late. In this full version of the game, heroes are a little saner, they know better than to fight 3 Level 10 Minotaurs while they are still level 3. However, if they have health potions or, god forbid, a cleric in their party. They think they are invicible and won’t retreat until they run out of health potions or they die because the cleric couldn’t heal them fast enough from being gang raped by 3 vampires and a werewolf.
Second, you’re almost always being over-run by monsters. I don’t mind monsters raiding your town but once your little village gets above a certain size a “sewer” building will spawn right next to your town that can’t be destroyed but continually spawns rats that nibble away at your buildings. It’s a nuisance and you rarely ever notice the little buggers until a building is on fire because they’ve been nibbling on it for half an hour of gametime. And the bigger your town gets, the more sewers show up! ARGHH!
Next you have a bigger nuisance, the graveyard. When one of your heroes dies, a graveyard immediately spawns near your castle (sometimes right next to your castle) and you can pay money to resurrect a hero there. That sounds good right? Well, the graveyard also spawns skeletons and zombies that are much tougher than rats and can overwhelm lower level heroes. Add these rats and undead to the regular raids my monsters and your town is in a nearly constant state of being over-run and your heroes are too busy buying amulets of regeneration to bother with defending their own damn guilds.
But if you put aside the poor friendly AI and these poor enemy spawn locations, sending out your heroes to slay monsters by the dozen is great fun and does require a thinking cap if you want to make it past the final levels.
Control/Gameplay rating: Incredible
You have 16 story missions to play through in the campaign and 6 additional stand alone missions that extend the game. You also have a multiplayer mode through LAN or Gamespy.
The number of single player missions seems small but they’ll take a bit of time to go through as the game’s final missions (and some of the standalone missions) are very difficult and will take a few attempts to go through them. Multiplayer mode is also a fun post-game experience.
That being said…no sandbox mode? No free missions? No map editor?
These things should be standard in all strategy games for years now so why are they absent here? Poor show Paradox (or 1C, whatever).
Replayability: Below Average
Though each of the separate hero classes has completely different skills, stats and even AI each and every one of them is useful in their own way. Warriors are your main brute force attackers, Clerics are healers and Dwarves can knock down buildings like no one else. Even the seemingly useless Rogues can (when fully upgraded) wreak havoc on high level enemies with deadly status effects making them great support characters. Even the top level promotions for the classes fill a certain niche and without utilizing a mixed team of different heroes, you’ll never beat the game as some enemies have huge defense to certain attacks (Flame Elementals are strong against Magic and arrows but weak against melee attacks for example).
Guard towers also increase in cost each time you build one. This is to encourage you to spend money on your heroes rather than let guard towers kill everything.
The problem is that peasants build their houses far from the town and your guard towers and almost immediately get destroyed by a roving monster.
Also, the rate at which sewers spawn around your city is crazy and makes guard towers a necessity. At the very least let us destroy the sewers rather than placing a guard tower with the sole purpose of killing rats!
Balance rating: Good
When Dungeon Keeper first came out in 1997, it was a revelation. A completely new take on the RTS genre that flipped the traditional storyline on its head and had you play the evil overlord instead of the hero.
But after Dungeon Keeper 2, this sort of genre (I don’t even know what it’s called) seemed to evaporate instead of becoming more popular. I can count the number of games similar to Majesty 2 on one hand:
Dungeon Keeper 2
It’s a damn shame because these games are some of my most favorite ones but it seems with the rise of the FPS in the late 90s, Early 2000s PC developers just didn’t care for anything else and let several genres just die (R.I.P Point n’ Click Adventure games)
Originality rating: Great
Pokémon is one of the most addicting games ever made. The series is pretty much virtual crack and sells by the truckload to pokejunkies who drive each game’s sales into the millions.
Why am I mentioning Pokémon? Because nurturing your level 1 n00b Warrior to a Level 15 Veteran Warrior and teaching him skills and providing him with equipment feels awfully similar to evolving your level 1 Vulpix into a Level 80 Ninetales.
And don’t get me started on party composition, choosing a strategic team of 5 always provides plenty of choice. Should I add 2 Clerics as healers or drop one and add a Ranger to deal with any enemies too armored for my warriors? Selecting the leader of the party is crucial too since his or her preferences will decide which missions the entire party goes on.
The only bad point I can think of is that sometimes the shitty AI of your heroes can cause you to quit the game in frustration.
Addictiveness rating: Great
9. Appeal Factor
Both Paradox and 1C are small potatoes compared to large publisher like Electronic Arts or Ubisoft and as far as I know, the game isn’t getting a retail release in America. Instead it can be bought from online retailers such as Gamersgate.com and Valve’s Steam service and downloaded from there.
A small title from a small developer isn’t going to revive the Dungeon Keeper genre but Paradox have a dedicated fan following and should manage to carve its own niche.
1C on the other hand, is quite a big company in Russia (even if it’s not as well known worldwide) so Majesty 2 should get a good amount of marketing and sales from that country.
Appeal Factor rating: Decent
DRM these days has reached absurd levels of paranoia with virtually every game on the market installing a rootkit on your computer and requiring online activation and if you install the game 5 times, you now have coaster that cost you 60$ to purchase.
Thankfully, Paradox have decided to go with Stardock’s (of GalCiv fame) Impulse-GOO DRM system which is one of the mildest DRMs out there and one of the few that doesn’t treat you like a criminal for buying the damn game.
Miscellaneous rating: Great
Story/modes: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Incredible
Replayability: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
FINAL SCORE: Good Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
If you long for the days when Dungeon Keeper played havoc with your free time, then Majesty 2 should be right up your alley. It’s both fun and has that parody humor so often seen in this genre such as in Evil Genius. Its flaws prevent it from being as good as those classic games but it’s still the best this genre is going to offer you for the very near future and is worthy addition to your strategy collection.