It has been almost a year since Strategy Informer last had a glimpse at Majesty 2, and my, how its grown! Showing a commendable preview build ahead of its release in a couple of week’s time, Paradox once again pulled no punches at this year’s GamesCom.
As you’ll no doubt remember, Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim is the official sequel to Cyberlore’s original game that was around back at the turn of the millennium. Whilst a sequel was planned by the original developers, it was eventually canned, and nothing more was done to the series. Ten years later and the long lost sequel has finally been realised, thanks to new developer’s 1C and their distributer, Paradox. Like when any publisher acquires an IP that started life elsewhere, Paradox have tried to make a game that stays true to the old-school Majesty spirit, whilst also possessing a bit of Paradox flavour.
Playing up a very python-esque theme, Majesty 2 is a twist on the conventional fantasy RTS genre. In terms of looks, it could easily be passed off as a relative of Warcraft III or other similar titles, but in gameplay, things are very different. You play as ‘The Sovereign’, the traditional ruler of a traditional fantasy kingdom struggling for survival. Unlike the norm however, where you simply go through the motions, defeat the bad guys, and clap yourself on the back for a job well done, Majesty 2 turns things on their head by limiting you to more realistic powers.
Whilst you can build and develop your towns, and have limited powers to train normal troops to defend them, most of the action revolves around the heroes. In this, Majesty 2 strays into the realms of RPG by having several classes of heroes available, each with their own powers, abilities, even personalities and gender (for example, rogues are always sassy women). Heroes even help drive the economy by spending their gold in the towns, and can carry items, level up, even upgrade to a more advanced class of heroes. They can also be formed into groups or 'raids' which adds another interesting dynamic as they have to interact and work with each other. If done well, this could be one of the highlights of the game as it would place you right in the middle of your own fantasy sitcom.
There’s also a catch however: you can’t tell your mighty heroes what to do, at least not directly. Majesty 2 employs an indirect method of command which is both unique and refreshing. Using a combination of themed flags (Attack, Defend, Explore etc...) and enticement (the more gold you offer, the more likely it is the heroes will carry out the action) a player must gently nudge their heroes towards certain courses of actions. Any gold you do spend on them is quickly reinvested back into your economy, as Heroes can visit specialised buildings within your town and spend money there.
In theory, this should give the game an added level of challenge as there’s no guarantee these erstwhile adventurers will listen to you. This in turn gives things a more ‘life or death’ feel, because from the looks of things an average map can be very mob heavy, and if there’s no one fighting them then your kingdom could be reduced to rubble very quickly. Provided Paradox gets the balance right, then this could be a very interesting game indeed.
That’s not to say as the ‘sovereign’ you are completely helpless. As you progress further into the game, you gain access to special abilities that you can use in order to help swing things in your favour. These can range from powerful avatars to massive area of effect damage spells, and should be considered as a sort of last resort, or to turn the tide in pitched battle against larger enemies. These spells cost money however, and naturally have a recharge limit.
Majesty 2 also comes equipped with a fully integrated multiplayer system. Players will play in death match-style scenarios and pit their kingdoms against each other. Monsters and other ‘neutral’ mobs will be removed from multiplayer matches, so it’s entirely down to who can best motivate their heroes to lead them to triumph. In a time where the most prevalent strategy in games like these is to see who can rush the enemy first, it will be interesting to see how hardcore players deal with not having total control over their forces.
Those who enjoyed the original game will surely fall in love with the sequel. A shift from 2D to 3D brings the world of Ardania to life in a glorious display of colour and depth. Much of what made the original game what it was has been kept and improved on, with only a few core changes being made.
One of the great things about Majesty in general is that it is probably going to be the only game around that has coded in an ‘ego’ for its units. Not only do you have to provide the right incentives for your ‘heroes’, but you also have to take into account things like type and level of target, the class of the heroes, etc... You want your band of merry men and women to go take out the fabled dark troll of Gorbesh? No problem. You want them to go quell a local rat infestation however... well that's a little beneath them isn't it? This kind of thinking has been coded into the game, and with any luck should generate some pretty interesting outcomes.
Over all, the game is shaping up very nicely indeed. The graphics are looking slick, the voice acting is top notch, and Paradox really seem to have kept the essence of the original game, whilst still expanding and improving to make the franchise its own. Majesty 2 has also come at a good time: with the Strategy genre going through some severe growing pains, it’s good to have something like this that knows how to laugh at itself, and the genre as a whole. Definitely one to watch, and I personally am looking forward to the final release.
Majesty 2 is due out on the PC September 18th, with an Xbox 360 release also in the works.