Majesty 2 Review
Majesty 2 bills itself as a "fantasy kingdom sim", and with that oxymoronic tagline you know that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Jokes aplenty and a Monty Python-esque voiceover precede each mission, and the graphics and animations skew towards the cartoony and lighthearted end of the scale. While Majesty 2 is actually a real-time strategy game, the "sim" part of the tagline comes from the fact that you don't have direct control over your units. Instead you must set bounties to entice the various warriors, rogues, rangers, and clerics inhabiting your kingdom to do your bidding and help you carry out the business of protecting your kingdom. Need a part of the map explored? Plop down an exploration flag into the shroud and add a bounty to it. If the financial incentive is high enough a ranger or two will gladly take up the task. Minotaur rampaging through your town? Stick an attack flag to it and bribe your local warriors to slay the beast. Similarly you can bribe heroes to do things like escort a caravan or protect a structure.
You can probably guess that it takes a lot of gold to run a kingdom this way, and as such gold is the only resource in the game. You can generate gold in a number of ways, the most basic of which is handled by a tax collector who automatically makes the rounds between all of your kingdom's structures taking a piece of everyone's pie in the name of the crown. You can also build trading posts that will periodically spawn a caravan to transport loot back to your castle. And you can earn back some of the gold you spend on bribing your heroes by building taverns in which they can lighten their purses and by selling them potions in the marketplace. Things usually start out a bit tight, but as you make your way through a mission the wheels of commerce start to hum and you'll rarely find yourself wanting for lucre.
Gold is not just used to grease the palms of self-serving heroes; you'll also need it to build structures and research upgraded weapons and armor for your heroes. The game prevents you from flooding the world with heroes, though, by making each additional building of a particular type that you create progressively more expensive.
Majesty 2's approach to RTS gaming is certainly unique, and for a little bit the novelty makes the game enjoyable. However, a couple of missions into the game and its shortcomings start to become all too clear. The first problem is that you have no control over your peasants, either directly or indirectly through bribes. This means that they decide on their own which structure to build or repair next and when to do it. It's annoying to have a key guard tower in need of repair while peasants instead choose to take a long leisurely stroll to build a trading post you plopped down before your guard tower ran into trouble. Queuing multiple structures results in a lottery as to the order in which they'll be completed, so if you have a high priority project you'll need to hold off on everything else to be sure that it gets completed.
Another issue with the game is that there's no variety to it. First of all, you have a very limited number of different units available. While they do level up as they gain experience, the only difference is that you have knights or rangers that each has a different number of hit points. There's not much strategy involved in this strategy game since you're always setting attack flags no matter what's attacking you and it doesn't matter all that much which heroes answer the call. Also, there is a menagerie of monsters in the game but they are all basically the same, and so conversely it doesn't matter what's attacking you because all threats are handled in exactly the same way. And all monsters come from the same thing - a Gauntlet-style monster generator. The tile may look like a crypt, bear cave, or pyramid, but each does the same thing and is dealt with in the same way.
Missions all proceed in the same general manner. You start a base by building the same few structures, look for the local monster generators, and then eventually kill or destroy the mission's objective target. An element of frustration is added to the mix in that the missions are made difficult by the fact that they often must be completed in a specific manner or you'll be faced with abject failure. An early mission serves as an illustration of the problem that you'll face time and again. The goal is to locate a village near two ancient towers and complete their construction. The problem is that if you reveal the village too early it is far enough out of your reach that it will be utterly destroyed by wandering monsters before you can do anything about it. You have to be careful not to reveal the village while trying to seek out and destroy all of the surrounding monster generators. This mission's other objective is to destroy a minotaur pyramid, but once it is revealed you have a very short window in which to complete the objective. Once again you need to be careful to leave the shroud in place until you have things under enough control to have plenty of idle heroes looking to make a buck by bringing it down. A player shouldn't be forced to replay a mission three, four, or more times simply to reveal the required approach imposed by the mission designers.
Majesty 2's charms will wear off a few missions into the campaign, and then once the feelings of repetition and frustration set in you'll have little motivation to keep going. Track down the demo and give it a play or two and you'll probably have your fill of the game.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 66%. Majesty 2 lets you take your turn as the Royal Cat Herder.