Paradox InteractiveDeveloped By:
T (Teen)Release Date:
September 15, 2009Screenshots: LinkAmazon: Buy Now!Written By:
2000's Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, developed by Cyberlore Studios and published by MicroProse, was a unique entry in the RTS genre. While the game achieved a small cult-hit status, its sequel was only briefly in development before getting canceled. I guess publisher Paradox Interactive and developer 1C:Ino-Co were fans, because they picked up the dead franchise to deliver the long-awaited sequel. While Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim continues to run with the original's concept, it's marred by some debilitating AI issues and a downright unfair difficulty curve.
In Majesty 2, you take on the role of the newest king of Ardania. Once plagued by monsters, evil and rival kingdoms, your ancestors worked tirelessly vanquish their foes and transform Ardania into a land of peace and prosperity. However, thanks to their success, the previous king, Leonard, found himself bored. Seeking to prove his right to be king, he summoned up a terrible demon, who quickly proceeded to kill Leonard, take over the castle, and bring all the monsters and bad guys back to Ardania. As the last remaining member of the royal bloodline, it falls to you to restore Ardania to peace.
There are no vast armies at your disposal to accomplish this task. Instead, you'll need to rely on brave heroes who volunteer their services for their own fame and fortune. Heroes are hired from their respective guilds. There is a guild for warriors, one for rogues, one for mages, etc. – all of your basic fantasy standbys make an appearance.
What sets Majesty 2 apart from most real-time strategy games is the fact that, as king, you don't have direct control over these heroes. They aren't your soldiers; technically, they're more like independent contractors offering their services for a modest fee. Instead of commanding them, you guide your heroes to accomplish tasks by offering incentive. This can include placing bounties for them to collect, offering new items for them to purchase, and basically driving a cyclical mercenary economy.
Money is your only resource in Majesty 2. Tax collectors, trading posts and shops bring in money, you use this money to reward your heroes, and then they bring in money by buying more stuff for themselves and protecting your kingdom as it expands and brings in more taxes. Money is used to upgrade items and buildings, recruits heroes, research new skills for heroes, and resurrect your heroes.
For those who played the first Majesty, it's that last point that should stick with you the most. Unlike in the original Majesty, heroes can now be resurrected for a steep fee. In fact, it's probably what you will find yourself spending most of your money on.
Heroes will die. A lot. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes heroes legitimately lost a fight with a tough monster, or were caught off-guard alone in the wilderness. More often than not, however, your heroes will die due to their shoddy AI and a severely unbalanced difficulty curve.
Heroes can be more motivated by the game's bounty flags. As the king, you can place bounties to attack or defend certain characters or objects in the game world, explore certain areas, or avoid certain areas. The higher the bounty offered, the more motivated your heroes will be to go after. However, this motivation, even for small bounties, becomes far too effective. Seeing an underdeveloped, lone hero go rushing off after a bounty flag that was way out of their league was an all too frequent occurrence. The hero would die almost instantly, I would resurrect him/her at the graveyard, and then they would go right after that same bounty again. This was especially true of rogues, who are more motivated than most by bounty flags. It's an interesting idea to have different types of heroes have different types of personalities and motivations, but the result of this mechanic was that I would simply avoid building rogues because they weren't worth the trouble. A game's feature shouldn't make you want to completely avoid it.
Another issue with the AI is its lack of cooperation. The player can manually form a party of heroes, which is a process that involves clicking a button at a tavern and then waiting while your heroes drop whatever their doing and walk all the way to that spot to gather. Unless you're willing to deal with this slow process, heroes almost never seem to work together. Even if they're all physically together and performing the same task, they rarely actually help each other.
The AI issues are a nuisance but the game's biggest shortfall is its difficulty. It's simply unbalanced and too punishing. The majority of the game felt like trial and error. You can never recruit all hero types at once, as some guilds refuse to work with others, or you simply don't have the money. However, certain heroes are far too vital for certain missions, yet you have no way of knowing that until you get slaughtered by something. For example, well into a mission I found myself suddenly being assaulted by elementals, who were slaughtering my lower level heroes. Oops. I guess I should have recruited the dwarves instead of the elves, since dwarves are resistant to the elementals' attacks and the elves' arrows are almost useless against the elementals. Time to restart the mission and do it the “right” way.
The trail and error nature of the game is by far its most glaring and obnoxious issue. Add to that the problems with the AI and the frequent crashes I experienced with the review copy of the game, and I simply can't bring myself to love Majesty 2 like I loved the first one. My flashback goggles may be slightly rose-tinted, I admit, but that doesn't change the fact that Majesty 2's best moments are constantly at odds with its worst.
The concept remains interesting and unique, and the game provides some challenges you aren't used to from other games of the genre, but ultimately I just found its issues too distressing. Fans of the original will probably still find a lot to like – I did – but there was only so much I could tolerate before it just didn't feel worth it trudge through the bad parts to experience the good ones.6.5/
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