Genre: Real-Time Strategy/Simulation
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: 1C Company
Release Date: June 9, 2009
Majesty was a real-time strategy sim released nearly 10 years ago by the now-defunct developer, Cyberlore Studios. It fulfilled the curiosity of players who wanted to know what it would be like to run a kingdom from behind the scenes. Instead of zerging your foes into oblivion, would-be rulers found themselves beautifying their kingdoms with a variety of temptations to bring in gnomes, dwarves, elves and heroes to foster prosperity and feed the tax coffers. The challenge of providing enough of a bounty to direct the adventurers flocking to your flag against the terrible monsters nipping at your success gave the genre an interesting twist. Unfortunately, the developer folded before a sequel could be made, but Paradox and 1C have resurrected the game for a new generation of players with Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim.
The preview build that WorthPlaying was given was far from representing the finished product, but it dropped plenty of hints as to where the sequel is heading. Gone are the 2-D sprites, now replaced with 3-D models detailed with tiled rooftops, stained glass windows, busy peasants wandering from place to place, and tax collectors visiting everyone in your name. There was no music, but ambient sound effects were in place, including the sound of hammers banging away at new buildings and the squeaking deaths of rodents.
Having played the first Majesty, I was looking forward to seeing how different Majesty 2 would be in the hands of another developer. The preview build came with four missions that gave a good overview of what one could expect from the gameplay. You're still the unnamed sovereign of a fantasy-based kingdom in a far-off land, and you're charged with defending the region to keep it from falling to the dastardly forces of darkness that surround it.
At the start of each mission, I began with a small amount of cash, the central castle where all of my major building decisions are made, and a few peasants and guards to fulfill my wishes as I build up the area. Unlike many other RTS titles, where you can give orders to each unit, the future growth of your kingdom is driven by the decisions you make at each building, starting with the castle around which everything else is situated. One of the first orders of business was to build a few guard towers to provide additional protection, and as the settlement grew, new problems literally came crawling out from the ground.
As the peasant population grew, so did the need for hygiene and a sewer hole eventually opened up on its own. On one hand, I was proud of the advances in waste management that my kingdom had apparently pioneered. On the other, it also served as a permanent, festering sore that would spew rats. My guards were on hand for a little on-the-job training, though, which kept the rats from gnawing at the peasant homes that sprung up nearby. Once I had enough guards to keep the rodent problem under control, I was then asked to build a Ranger's Guild in order to hire real heroes to defend my kingdom. Everything costs gold, and despite being the king, my ambitions will only went as far as my coffers allowed. Fortunately, tax collectors make their rounds from house to house and guild to guild, so as my kingdom grew, more options became available.
This is extremely important because in Majesty 2, you can't order your subjects around anymore; you can only entice them to do things for you by placing bounties on enemies or providing a price to encourage them explore a specific area of the map. The more valuable the bounty, the more heroes will be tempted to go after it. Placing a large bounty on the head of a particular monster is sure to get the attention of a large number of heroes looking to skewer it for cold, hard coin. Most heroes will wander around on their own, but bounties are the surest and the only way that you can get these danger seekers to do what you want them to. Money talks in Majesty 2.
Sensing the need to squeeze even more out of my peasant population and seeking to spread a little capitalism, I built a marketplace to generate even more taxes. The marketplace also allows you to research new products to sell to heroes. Healing potions and protective amulets are only a few of the trinkets that might help your heroes live long enough to earn experience and level up. Adding a blacksmith's forge provided research options for upgraded armor and weapons, while having a tavern helps convince your subjects to part with even more of their hard-earned gold.
Clerics, warriors and wizards can also be hired, provided you've built the correct guilds, and if any of them meet an unsavory demise, a cemetery will appear nearby so that you can buy them back from the Reaper — as well as generate the occasional undead. That's pretty handy if a Level 10 warrior died, but you'll also pay a much higher price depending on how powerful the adventurer was. You could also spend your cash within each guild to develop new attack abilities for each class of hero and make them even deadlier, such as new arrow types for rangers or spells for clerics. Hopefully, you'll make them proficient enough to keep them from dying.
Aside from getting your peasants sloshed while providing plenty of luxury taxes for the kingdom, taverns can also be used to form parties, and not the kind of party filled with BBQ, wings and ale. Using the party option gathers all of the heroes in your kingdom around the tavern so you can choose who you want to form a group of adventurers. With enough highly leveled heroes banded together in groups, they'll definitely back each other up with their particular specialties.
The four missions threw in a variety of dangerous monsters ranging from the undead to giant Minotaurs, and even a colossal dragon. To make things more interesting, having legions of heroes won't be enough until certain objectives are first fulfilled. In one mission, an indestructible dragon that had swallowed an artifact would occasionally fly down and demolish guard towers, roast my peasants, and make a menace of itself until I sent adventurers to help a witch, who told me that I had to seek out an ancient ruin plagued with ghosts that needs to be wiped out. By placing generous bounties on these restless spirits, my heroes managed to bust the problem and weaken the dragon, making it vulnerable. A few clicks later, I placed an incredibly generous bounty on its head, which sent every hero in the kingdom scurrying for glory and gold.
One thing that the original Majesty had and the preview build of Majesty 2 doesn't seem to show, at least for now, were the different races that would occasionally settle within the community. Dwarven settlers provide additional options for defense, for example, while gnomes add their manpower to your workforce, as long as certain other races haven't already settled within your kingdom. These added interesting twists to the way that Majesty was played, since it forcing you to carefully consider who you wanted to live by what you had built. Although the preview build didn't have this feature, the game Web site mentions that this feature will be in the finished version.
There were also a couple of options that weren't available in the preview build, one of which was the promised multiplayer. It also looks like a campaign mode is available, and there are a few buildings and other options within the demo that aren't yet active. One of these is the ability to create Lords, or experienced heroes who you can hire later in succeeding campaigns, giving greater weight to how you take care of your subjects. Carrying a leveled hero through several missions as a Lord sounds like it could be an exciting concept.
Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim looks like it's shaping up to give would-be sovereigns plenty of puppet strings with which to guide their kingdoms. 1C Company looks to have managed to recreate the classic feel of the original game with plenty of visual polish. It's still a little rough around the edges, but there should be plenty of time to smooth them out before the estimated release in the second quarter of the year. After leading sci-fi armies to battle against the infinite soldiers of the alien Covenant in Halo Wars and Soviet superweapons in Red Alert 3, crafting a fantasy kingdom and gleefully exploiting the heroes who come calling might be just the kind of crown that would-be warlords may want to grab for themselves.
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