Showered In Gold
Ruling a kingdom is an inherently complex business that’s made even more taxing when you throw rampaging dragons, bands of undead creatures, unruly demons, and giant ogres into the fray. Expanding your borders under such dangerous circumstances requires a well-oiled regime. But imagine the struggle you’d likely endure in facing deadly adversaries if you couldn’t exert your kingly influence over your citizens and armies directly. How could you possibly motivate your forces to obey your command? Well, you could always try flinging gobs of money around.
Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim initially looks like just about any other average fantasy real-time strategy game out there. You’ll find there are many familiar activities to engage in, like erecting important buildings, hiring units, upgrading abilities, expanding your kingdom, exploring foggy maps, and defeating swarms of foes. However, there’s a catch: you can’t directly control any of your units. This was a unique and challenging concept the original game received high marks for almost a decade ago. With a facelift and a few new features, the formula still feels new and exciting in this long-awaited sequel.
The good land of Ardania has been graced with a long line of heroic kings who’ve carved out their lot in the annals of history through brave campaigns filled with monster slaying and glorious conquest. Unfortunately for King Leonard, who also yearns to be revered by the peasants long after he passes, his rule comes at a particularly boring and uneventful time in the realm. Seeking to whip up some trouble worth conquering, Leonard and his wizardly advisors summon the most reviled demon from hell for him to slay. This moronic move leads to his untimely demise and sends the land into a tailspin. With the demonic lord now in rule and legions of evil creatures now roaming about, it’s time for you to step up to the plate and show him who’s boss.
A subtle-yet-sharp sense of humor starts Majesty 2 off on the right track. The unusual scenarios that preface each map in the campaign are delivered by an advisor who sounds like Sean Connery, and there’s a lot of tongue-in-cheekiness spooned in here and there. In most missions, you’ll start out on the map with just a palace and gradually work to balance your expanding kingdom by constructing income-generating buildings and guild houses to train an assortment of warriors for your army. Quests will require you to send forces outward into the realm to explore and conquer, and local evil creatures will take it upon themselves to be a thorn in your side early on. In motion, this all might look and feel very mundane, if it weren’t for the fact this RTS/simulation hybrid throws you for a loop. Not being able to directly control your warriors completely changes up the gameplay and requires a different set of strategizing skills.
The citizens of your kingdom will roam around and go about their business. Tax collectors will visit homes to pick up the rent, royal guards will march around on patrol with their large pikes, trade caravans driven by donkeys will plod along their routes, and swordsmen will stop on by the nearby tavern for a brew if they feel so inclined. You won’t have to pay much attention to the commoners who mostly keep to themselves and attempt to repair damaged buildings as needed. On the other hand, the ever-important combat-capable units must be lured into their duties with promises of financial gain. This less-than-altruistic approach to unit management is as funny as it is fun to play around with.
You can place four different kinds of bounty flags around the kingdom to make members of your army attack, defend, explore, and fear different objects, locations, and creatures on the map. Once you place a flag, you can drop gold into it in increments of 100 or 500 to sweeten the pot and get the attention of enough nearby warriors to get the job done successfully. The more gold you place on the flag, the greater the likelihood your soldiers will do what you want them to do and in larger numbers. This system can be a bit tough when you need a specific task urgently tackled and don’t have the funds available to motivate your forces, yet it offers an enjoyable shift in pace from more traditional RTS fare.
Depending on the types of guilds you have access to constructing in each mission, you’ll be able to populate your entourage with warriors, clerics, thieves, rangers, wizards, dwarves, and elves. Temples built later in the game let you upgrade these units to more powerful variations, and spending money to research special abilities and spells also gives you an advantage of being able to heal or harm with added gusto. Units that survive continue to gain experience, and at the end of each level can select a lord from amongst your warriors. These stronger units can be hired in later levels and continue to grow in power and ability. Majesty 2 also lets you form parties of warriors, which is extremely useful in exerting a slightly greater degree of control over your armies.
The 16 different maps in the main campaign range from moderately easy to gruelingly punishing. They get substantially tougher as you progress. In one, you’ll have to explore and uncover a way to slay a red dragon, while contending with the beast’s regular fire-spewing raids that can destroy buildings and small groups of warriors within seconds. Others task you with stopping a marauding ogre from pillaging your village, delivering punishment to upstart barons, staking vampire lords, and tackling other challenges. If you tire of those exploits, there’s always the new multiplayer component that’s worth delving into.
Majesty 2 brings some fresh updates and spruces up the overall gameplay to make up for almost an entire decade of technological advances in between the games. It isn’t cutting edge by any means, but the modern touch will no doubt bring many new players into the fold. They won’t be disappointed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
A solid graphical update but nothing particularly outstanding. 4.0 Control
A lack of control is actually pretty fun. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s some good voice work and general silliness to be found here. 4.3 Play Value
There’s a lot of fun to be found here, though the difficulty later on can be a bit frustrating. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.