When the original Majesty was released at the turn of the century I spent months of my life trying to complete some of the more difficult missions. It was fiendishly addictive yet also surprisingly difficult. Developer 1C Company have released the follow up entitled ‘Majesty 2’ which is set to update some of the gameplay elements as well as introduce a flashy new 3D graphics engine.
Majesty 2 is set in Ardania and tells the tale of the heritage of kings who united the land and destroyed all known evil to free its people. The last of the kings, Leonard was such a noble leader that he wiped out all the evil forces and had nothing left to defeat! In a rather bizarre series of events, Leonard and his court wizards decided to summon the Demonlord from hell, so they could defeat it publicly and win all the acclaim for doing so. Unfortunately the demon they summoned was more powerful than they imagined and it killed Leonard and the mages, then went on a rampage throughout the land destroying every noble lord. Additionally, the pissed off Demonlord summoned monsters and other demons from hell to cause chaos within the lands of Ardania. The moral of the story we can take from this scenario is not to summon a Demonlord the next time you are out to impress your friends or a nice woman because you may end up getting your ass handed to you.
It is up to you as sole descendant of the royal bloodline to try and rescue the lands from the clutches of this evil overlord and his hordes of minions, restoring peace and happiness to the lands of Ardania. Woo Hoo for the good guys!
There are a total of sixteen single player missions and it is up to your heroes to handle your duties because you are much too important to enter the battle directly. Heroes are recruited from guilds which relate to their specific skill set, such as Rangers Guilds or Rogue’s Dens. By enhancing the guilds your heroes expand their personal abilities making them more deadly in combat. Also you acquire magic that lets you directly interact with the environment, such as repairing buildings or healing your followers – as long as you have the funds required to do so. Currency is the key to everything in Majesty 2 because without it, you are powerless to create or enhance buildings or your followers. Unlike the first Majesty you can now resurrect your followers from a graveyard – but this also costs money (graveyard tax possibly, who knows?) – this can be an expensive process, so if one of your highest ranked heroes falls in battle, expect to pay many thousands of gold pieces to get him or her back. I like the idea however, because there is nothing worse to see a level 15 character gone forever if battle quickly turns against you.
To create a little bit of racial tension the developers have decided to offer the services of elves and dwarves, although they hate each other so you need to watch what you build – if you create a dwarfen stronghold you will not be able to acquire the services of the elves in that particular mission. If you successfully complete the mission at hand then you can promote the best heroes into Lords for use in future battles. This is extremely important because starting some of the harder missions without several high ranking heroes is much more difficult.
The way in which heroes operate is what sets Majesty 2 apart from the masses of strategy games on the market because they work within their own AI system. Rogues will look for treasure and rewards, Rangers will be favourable to exploring the lands and warriors will love the option for glorious combat. In Majesty 2 they have added the ability to group characters into a party system for more firepower and when this is combined with the flag system for tagging enemy creatures or structures they will happily do as you ask. It is a shame you have to tempt your heroes with monetary bonuses for destroying the buildings or creatures you have tagged with specific flags, but I guess like real life this would be an added incentive – it appears in the land of Ardania that good health care isn’t cheap.
If you leave the heroes alone then they will act on their own but will not often head exactly in the direction you will want, you can guide them on their way by laying down an explore flag which will tempt the rangers to explore where you are asking. There are four flags in total, for attacking an enemy structure or unit, for exploring a location, for defending a unit or building and for warning characters away from a specific area (so low level characters don’t stupidly keep walking into a dangerous hot zone).
After placing one of these flags you then have the option of adding a ‘bonus’ gold reward system to ensure that your heroes will leap to the chance of earning some bonus loot. You can’t however sneakily create a flag, offer a reward and then take it away at the last moment to retract the reward, because once done the system has the common sense to realise that you would soon be under the risk of desertion by your troops for such unethical tactics.
While this sounds like an expensive system, your heroes will loot the area you are attacking and then spend the money in one of your many economy based buildings, such as the Inns (for gambling) the marketplace (for new potions and bonuses) or the blacksmith (for new weapons and armor). As the monarch you can also tax whoever you want to earn additional revenue – even the rogues have to hand over a certain amount of their stolen spoils.
This bonus system is also related to a distance algorithm. The further away the more you will need to pay your heroes to handle your requests. Lower level heroes are less likely to risk their lives attacking a powerful creature and instead will be more responsive to less risky demands, whereas high level warriors will be much more receptive to attacking an enemy stronghold for instance. This is why when a high level hero dies it is very important to resurrect him from the graveyard, even if it costs a fortune.
Therefore the core mechanic to success is by balancing your income and exploration while building new structures and enhancing your heroes as quickly as possible in the right direction. Some levels will require powerful wizards with formidable magic and others may require warriors with high level weaponry to complete specific tasks. If you build too quickly in too many areas you risk paralyzing your economy – effectively stopping you from building defensive structures or creating new heroes. While this isn’t an overly complex strategy game when it comes to the economy side it does take a little getting used to, especially when a few of the later levels are so damned difficult.
On an artificial intelligence level the game is a general success however there are a few issues which can be annoying at times. Sometimes when targeting a hostile building (such as a spiders den) the heroes will attack the structure but fail to defend themselves against the enemy emerging from it. I found a way around this was to not target multiple structures at the one time sending many of your heroes in different directions, but to focus on one or two at the same time with a high cash reward to ensure many heroes would undergo the mission. Some of the heroes will break away from attacking the structure to defend the other heroes and therefore this issue will be mostly offset. The other debatable issue is the reward system – do we really need to pay all our heroes a lot of money to handle even basic tasks? Setting up a warning (fear) sign for instance still needs cash applied to it to stop the units from wandering near it, which seems rather daft – after all surely a monarch based warning would be obeyed without a cash incentive? There is nothing in the manual about all our heroes being depressed and suicidal by nature. That said, I never use this flag anyway as it seems mostly pointless – most heroes won’t wander too far from the main base without instruction – even the rangers are generally slightly cautious.
In regards to the enemy AI, it isn’t particularly sophisticated but it is decent enough to cause you issues on the later levels. There are various buildings, such as undead crypts and portals and they respawn on a regular basis – these can all be destroyed reducing their numbers dramatically however the developers decided to add several indestructible spawn points, such as sewers (which are always near your home base) which spawn rats and other miscellaneous creatures to cause you problems. It is an unusual decision to keep this indestructible style building within Majesty 2 because I never understood the reason behind it.
Surely it would be better to give high level wizards the opportunity to ‘seal’ them permanently so you have something else to aim for later in the mission campaign. These internal base style spawn points never unleash anything ultimately deadly into your home terrain, but they can often weaken your defensive buildings just as a major external attack is imminent. Quite annoying really in the scheme of things. Building an upgraded defense tower near these points is often the best way to keep damage to a minimum but this sometimes means you have to place it in a less than ideal position for other protection.
Every defense tower you build, costs more than the last one too which means having 4 or 5 defense towers can cost you a huge portion of your income. Magical defense towers are formidable units and do not require the services of a peasant to build as they are formed magically however you need to keep ‘recharging’ them to allow for strong attacks. Dwarfen towers are the most powerful, but they cost an absolute fortune which means you don’t often have the reserves to build more than one.
The biggest issue many people will have with Majesty 2 is the fact that novice missions will immediately progress to advanced and then expert. There is no ‘intermediate’ option which is once again an unusual decision. I can’t say I found the difficulty curve extremely hard to adapt to, but I am a Majesty Veteran and many of the tactics used in the previous game still apply to the followup. There are some, such as the Dragon mission for instance which proves to be extremely difficult due to the fast and very specific demands on building. It is not impossible, but it is rather difficult and many strategy players used to games like Command and Conquer for instance may find the learning curve too steep.
Once you complete (or get tired) of the single player campaign you can head online and play against other people in multiplayer. Up to four players can battle across eight maps and in general it worked reasonably well for me. I experienced a few disconnection errors which was rather unusual as the game is powered by Gamespy, but I am positive a quick update would resolve this.
Graphically I found Majesty 2 exceptionally pleasing, as a Majesty veteran it was always a weak point of the original game however the gameplay was so addictive it didn’t really matter. The updates are very impressive as the game is now a 3D angled ‘top down’ experience and the animations are very smooth, especially some of the flying monsters which almost look as though they could leap from the screen. The building models are also exceptionally impressive especially when they take damage as individual sections will crumble and bounce to the ground.
Equally so I enjoyed the soundtrack as it fitted the game genre perfectly – little epic orchestral pieces with a Lord Of The Rings feel about them. Excellent.
Majesty 2 is a great game which I had a lot of fun with over the last few weeks. I review a plethora of games for Gamingheaven every month and this is one of the few I will return to on a regular basis to see if I can manage to complete one of the difficult expert level missions. This strength is also its greatest weakness in that the game may just be too demanding for casual RTS’ers who find games like Command and Conquer challenging.
If you are a fantasy fan and love strategy games however then this really is something you need to check out. There is a free demo available for download at Majesty2.com which will give you a nice overview of how the game works. I can put my personal stamp of recommendation on this however because if you put in the time required it is a very fun strategy title from a very creative company.