Who said you can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it? Whoever it was obviously hadn’t played Majesty 2
What if Majesty 2 was an 80’s television show? That’s the question we were left with after having caught up with this latest title from Paradox at this year’s GamesCom. Developer 1C’s revival of the Fantasy strategy sim with a twist was promised to be something new, interesting and amusing, and as we cast a critical eye over the review code sent to us recently, it can be said that they weren’t far wrong.
As was expected, little seems to have changed since our Cologne preview barely a month ago. However, since that demonstration didn’t include any hands on time, it was hard to get a true feel for the game. Even then though, it was clear to see that much has changed since the original game that was first released ten years ago. The original Majesty was released in a time where the old school classics reigned: Age of Empires II, Shogun: Total War, even Warcraft and Starcraft. At that time however, Majesty was still only an alternative to the going formula. Today, after a string of clones in a genre that really needs some innovation, Majesty 2 comes as a breath of fresh air. Whilst 1C and Paradox have tried to stay true to the ‘essence’ of Majesty, at the same time they’ve taken it to a whole new level.
Heroes can find chests on their wonderings, although they only ever seem to have money in them.
Towers need to be strategically placed to help get through those opening minutes.
The concept of Majesty 2 is simple: You as the player control the kingdom. You can build buildings, develop your infrastructure and economy, and even maintain a basic standing army to patrol the town perimeter(in the form of guards), but when it comes to the real action, exploring, taking on bosses etc... Then that’s where things get a little different. All meaningful gameplay elements are done by ‘heroes’. Heroes are recruited from guilds that you build in your town, and there are a limited number of heroes you can recruit in any one match. The catch, however, is that you can’t physically direct their actions. Let me tell you, knowing that something needs doing urgently, but being unable to coax your heroes into doing it is probably one of the most frustrating yet challenging experiences one can have in a game... And yet it is quite honestly unlike anything you will have encountered before.
It may take some getting used to at first, especially since maps are always crawling with generic mobs that can attack you at will. Some even spawn right in the middle of your town, from open sewer drains that can’t be destroyed. The trick however is to stay calm, and try and place guard towers in key locations. These towers can bolster your defence, and add generic troops to your arsenal. However, in order to stop you simply spamming towers all over the place, the cost of each additional tower increases. Strategic placement becomes all the more important. The heroes are controlled by placing various flags on the map, and attributing a cash reward to those flags. Along with standard Attack, Defence and Explore flags (self-explanatory), there is also a ‘fear’ flag which allows you to ward off heroes from a certain area. This particular function is rather redundant though, and a waste of resources.
Speaking of resources... the only resource in the game is money, so there is no laying waste to the environment to fuel your economy. Money, quite simply, is earned through taxes. You get a basic amount from the villagers that inhabit your town, and as it grows, there are more villagers to tax. You can augment this buy building economic buildings such as shops and blacksmiths, where heroes can spend their hard earned gold. Not only does this fuel money back into your reserves to pay for more missions, but it ensures your heroes are equipped with the latest weaponry and gear. An intriguing system, although the return values can be a bit suspect at times.
The game comes with standard modes such as campaign & multiplayer, but it also comes with a 'single mission' mode that allows you to play out a number of random scenarios seperate to the main plot. The campaign follows the story of you, the last surviving member of a royal lineage that collapsed when the last king tried summoning a demon just so he could kill it and be named a hero (you see, the previous kings had been too good at their jobs, and had left nothing for poor Leonard to slay). This is by far one of the more original plots to crop up recently and one that has plenty of humour about it, and really sets the tone for the coming missions. Like most campaigns of this nature, you start off with only some of the available technology, and work your way up until you can do everything and anything. This allows you to be slowly introduced to various gameplay elements, including the new additions such as relics.
Graveyards appear when your heroes die. They also spawn mobs. Helpful.
Things can get a bit stale when your town reaches a certain size and everything has been built/researched.
Along with the various spells you can research to more directly intervene in events (these can range from healing spells to magical attacks, and always cost money), relics grant special abilities that the player can use when their power bar is charged. The skirmish mode is also self-explanatory.
But it isn't until you get to Multiplayer that all these different and quacky gameplay elements are really brought out in their fullest. Generic mobs are removed, and since there's no big boss to fight it’s just you and your opponent. Two sides duking it out for supremacy is nothing new. Two sides trying to earn enough money so that they can persuade their heroes to maybe duke it out for supremacy however, is another matter entirely. The First person who actually manages to 'rush' in a game with no direct control gets a drink on us. Multiplayer supports up to four people across eight maps, however there are some connection issues with the servers at present, and at the moment there are few people online. But with a little patching and some patience, that should clear up pretty soon.
Unfortunately, as fun as Majesty is, some might find it to be repetitive at times. The basic formula of a level is usually the same: You start off small, and spend the opening minutes fighting for survival and trying to build yourself up, until you reach a point where you have so much money and heroes, that you can basically steamroller through the remaining quests. Even with differing bosses and sidequests, the basic formula can be seen through each of the game’s campaign levels, and the only thing that really changes is the difficulty. However, this increasing difficulty also goes some way to counter the repetitiveness, as the concepts that make this game fun also make you vulnerable at the beginning. As you progress further through the campaign, the struggle for survival in those early stages gets harder and harder and sometimes it can be so insanely hard that you may be put off playing all together. You know it can happen.
The environments are varied, although slightly clichéd. We suspect this may have been on purpose.
Luckily, your heroes will rush to the defence of the town without the need of incentive. Sometimes.
Also, 1C and Paradox put a lot of attention on the heroes themselves, and they supposedly react to each other. On a basic level, each hero’s class has various likes and dislikes, which affects what mission they’re more likely to do. On another level however, there’s supposed to be a pseudo-dynamic interaction between each class, giving off a ‘sit-com’ like appeal. This element may not be as strong as they’d like it to be, and even the ‘raid’ function, where you can gather heroes into groups, seems a bit weak and ever so slightly pointless. Even the fact that you can enlist the aid of elves and dwarves, who historically never like each other, doesn’t really add anything, as you can only choose one or the other.
MAJESTY 2 - THE FANTASY KINGDOM SIM VERDICT
For those of you looking for something different, Majesty 2 is definitely one to try out. The humour is light, if sometimes cheesy, and the gameplay is certainly intriguing. Whilst it’s not without its flaws (but then what game isn’t?), this is still a highly accessible title. If Majesty 2 was an 80’s TV show, I’d certainly watch it.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Actually surviving the first five minutes of the higher levels is an achievement in and of itself.